There’s no way to deny Chanel, one of the biggest legacy brands inside and outside its category, has had a tremendous year. From record busting revenues topping out at over $9 billion, strategic acquisitions in menswear (Orlear Brown) and making a strategic move to London as the epicenter of its expanding conglomerate, it’s been a big year for the brand Coco started over 107 years ago.
Beyond the glittering glam and golden chic of Karl Lagerfeld’s annunal Metiers d’Art, being an ode to ancient Egypt and taking place at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art (select images below), Chanel continued its headline extravaganza with an even bolder announcement. The brand announced it too would be joining the likes of other legacy powerhouses Gucci and Burberry to ban fur in its production, but doubled down one step further saying it would also cease using forms of animal leather and crocodile skins; including stopping production and shutting brand owned farms it once acquired to exclusively produce such fabrics.
All of comes at the tail end of a year where the brand itself has made several, significant organization shifts to align and prepare its journey into the future, and reach an entire new generation of luxury customers. While the brand has cleverly and continuously rode a streak of global cultural relevance and desire most brands could only dream of attaining, Chanel has had the rare fortune of being effective luxury player by leaning in fully on being the definition of classic luxury. Often at times at the consequence of abstaining and being cold to digital innovation, as the ethos was it would compromise the glare and mystery of the brand.
Yet times have changed, and the real story might be the brand’s quiet, war drum of innovation via avant garde content and highly localized content. It’s a best-in-class standard and melnage of media targeting, content strategy, strategic partnerships and product and merchandising innovation. Many of those things have nothing at all to do with digital, and it boiled down to master initiatives behind the curtain, and realizing one size does not fit all for a market. Yet, the real brilliance is also realizing the other side of the coin is the brand’s global appeal and reputation which transcends geography, local consumer preferences and market shifts.
The real takeaway and significance from what Chanel have achieved in 2018 is that the brand is still the silent leader of its category in defining true luxury. Where Gucci and Burberry have relied heavily on bombastic, trend driven designs and in-store VMD and equally bombastic brand experiences and content (which Chanel also has wisely invested in), Chanel has used its position of prestige not chase trends from an image perspective, but target them at a hyperlocalised level while maintain a universal brand code and aesthetic. Furthermore, and most impactful, the brands shuttering of animal skin and leather farms is a bold move, given it was once the leader in proclaiming these textiles were in fact luxury.
Ultimately Chanel is proving its reputation and ethos to be true, especially in the contrast to many of its vivacious competitors with a louder, more ATL marketing arm. Chanel is proving you can innovate in equal parts organizationally and consumer facing, without compromising the standards you made yourself famous for. In an era when brands desperately (often to the point of paranoia) chase the hot young thing creative director, launch digital “experiences” at a whim just for the sake of being “digital” and overlook the actual product themselves, Chanel has mastered the art of doing what is best for its brand, thinking almost in a non-traditional western sense of not what is best in the short term but what will preserve you in the future.
While many factors of uncertainty still swirl around the brand’s future (will they ever launch e-commerce beyond fragrance and beauty? Is Phoebe Philo waiting in the wings to replace Karl Lagerfeld?), the brand’s future looks bright given they have conquered and continue to adhere to fashion’s golden but often forsaken rule: know thyself.