We are all aware of the infamous luxury fashion brand, Chanel. Originally founded by the women’s wear French designer Gabriella Bonheur Chanel in the early 20th Century. Her name continues to be a fashion powerhouse all over the globe. Her famous apartment in the heart of Paris on Rue Cambon has housed many famous guests, private runways and served as her personal space of inspiration.
While studying abroad in France, I got the rare opportunity to visit the apartment with my class as we specialised in Fashion Business Management. Let’s take a look into the life of this famous madam and her brand.
A Student in Paris
I’ve always been a fan of the brand, the clothes and its style philosophy on fashion for the modern woman.
As a part of our luxury fashion course we got to visit Coco Chanel’s apartment and take a look at her space she personally decorated to inspire her creations. Karl Lagerfeld himself also took inspiration form this apartment to help take the brand into the 21st Century without compromising its original aesthetic.
The purpose of my class visiting this apartment was to show how to help build and re-build a brand to help develop it so it can maintain its presence over the years. By creating a strong look, feel and positioning in the market you can create a strong presence that stays relevant with an ever-changing market.
The First Floor
The place is tightly secured with many bodyguards. We were welcomed by our warm and friendly guide who would be showing us around the place.
On entering the bottom floor you are overwhelmed by the infamous mirrored staircase which has reflected numerous classic and modern Chanel shows over the decades. There is still an area in which an audience can sit to view runways, and further in across the hall is the atelier. The room also serves as a meeting place for events and exhibitions. There were still some of the giant ‘paper forest’ pieces from the previous f/w 2015 ready-to-wear show in the hallway.
Up the mirrored stairs…
On the second floor, behind big mahogany doors, lied Chanel’s infamous apartment. Many still draw inspiration from the interior’s design and deco which was all done by the Madame herself.
She was still an old lady, so naturally it’s filled with a plethora of collected items and bric-a-brac that have now become antiques.
Inside Coco Chanel’s Apartment
She loved collecting lacquered furniture and ornaments from the Far East, and can be seen in every room which contrasts with Roman/Grecian antique items and classic art works.
There’s also the amazing gifts she received from her former lovers, and many interesting stories of all the famous guests who have visited that very apartment, including the surrealist artist, Dali. Each item had a story to tell, as the guide said, Chanel was highly superstitious and believed a lot in symbology. As a result, she loved to decorate her surroundings in relation to those beliefs.
There is one thing unique about this apartment, and it is that there is no bedroom to sleep in. Coco Chanel never slept in this apartment. It was her personal space to work, receive guests and live in by day while she worked on her collections and prepared runways shows downstairs.
The mirrored stairs was her design and idea, as the wanted guests to be able to view every aspect and side of the clothes. It also served as a great way for her to sit on the stairs and spy on the guests and see their reactions to her work!
Where did she sleep?
Madame Chanel had a private room at the Ritz Hotel down the road. It was said she didn’t want to feel alone and preferred to be among the company of others.
She stayed here until she retired at her private chateau in the countryside.
Sadly, I didn’t get a glimpse of The Karl himself coming down for a coffee break. However, I was more than happy for this experience alone.
A visit to the apartment gave me lots of insight, especially into what it takes to define and develop your brand so that it stays relevant over the decades. It was a very special experience and one that I’ll never forget, especially when it comes to building luxury brands with a deep history.
That mirrored staircase is something though….