Shop-floor chic

Peter Marino may call him­self a di­nosaur, but his Chanel store trans­for­ma­tions are vi­sion­ary. Jes­sica Doyle ex­plores the new Lon­don bou­tique. Pho­to­graphs by Taran Wilkhu

The Daily Telegraph - Telegraph Magazine - - Contents -

De­signer Peter Marino’s Chanel vi­sion

FOR A FASH­ION LA­BEL so as­so­ci­ated with tai­lor­ing, it is fit­ting that ev­ery Chanel store is de­signed with its own, highly de­tailed, be­spoke in­te­rior. Three have opened in the past few weeks – ma­jor ren­o­va­tions of its flag­ship stores on Paris’s Rue Cam­bon and New York’s 57th Street, and a new bou­tique on Wal­ton Street in Lon­don’s Bromp­ton Cross dis­trict – all cre­ated by Peter Marino, the Amer­i­can ar­chi­tect so in­te­gral to the com­pany’s im­age that he has him­self be­come a face of the brand.

Marino’s re­la­tion­ship with Chanel be­gan, he says, ‘when bron­tosauruses roamed the earth’ – or specif­i­cally, in 1982 when, as a young ar­chi­tect in his early 30s, he worked on pri­vate homes for the Wertheimer fam­ily (the com­pany’s own­ers). As well as the Paris, Lon­don and New York stores, there are oth­ers about to open in Chicago and Seoul, all adding to a grand to­tal of 198 world­wide. ‘It’s a real wave,’ he says. ‘A whole lot of waves of Chanel at once.’

Th­ese days, his work is fairly evenly split be­tween com­mis­sions for pri­vate homes, ho­tels and high-end re­tail, and, un­usu­ally for an ar­chi­tect with such a strong con­nec­tion to a par­tic­u­lar fash­ion la­bel, he has de­signed stores

for oth­ers too, in­clud­ing Dior, Fendi and Louis Vuit­ton.

What sets Marino apart is, to an ex­tent, his own per­sonal brand – he cuts a strik­ing fig­ure, rarely seen with­out his ar­mour of custom-made leathers, cap, sun­glasses and thick mous­tache (his ‘tat­tooed biker look’, as he has re­ferred to it) – but also his in­nate un­der­stand­ing of what el­e­vates a shop­ping ex­pe­ri­ence into some­thing mean­ing­ful. His re­sponse to the rise of on­line pur­chas­ing is to cre­ate an at­mos­phere and sense of oc­ca­sion that can­not be ex­pe­ri­enced vir­tu­ally. ‘Peo­ple say, “Why would I go to a store when I can buy it on­line?”’ he says. ‘When peo­ple have this at­ti­tude, I tell them there’s an in­ter­est­ing statis­tic: only one out of ev­ery four peo­ple who walk into a lux­ury bou­tique pur­chases some­thing. What is im­por­tant is that all four of the peo­ple who went into that bou­tique, in­clud­ing the peo­ple who didn’t buy any­thing, leave with a pos­i­tive im­pres­sion of the brand. You can’t do that on the in­ter­net – ev­ery brand looks the same. A hand­bag’s a hand­bag’s a hand­bag… one is £169, one is £1,690. On­line, you can’t really see the dif­fer­ence. My job is to en­hance the ex­pe­ri­ence.’

A Chanel cus­tomer walk­ing into a store will in­stantly feel at home, thanks

to cer­tain de­sign codes that are wo­ven into the com­pany’s DNA: a pal­ette of black, white and beige; tweed and bouclé – whether used as fab­rics and car­pets, or within art­works and fin­ishes; and what Marino calls ‘touches of the baroque’. In the case of the Lon­don bou­tique, this comes in the form of a pair of Louis X V arm­chairs, a ref­er­ence to Coco Chanel’s Rue Cam­bon apart­ment.

Yet each space has to be unique, and re­flect its sur­round­ings. The Wal­ton Street store has the homely feel of a town house – al­beit an ex­tremely el­e­gant one – rather than the grandiose drama of the larger flag­ships. ‘We wanted it to feel friend­lier, more in keep­ing with the neigh­bour­hood,’ says Marino.

Cosy sit­ting ar­eas and hand­made win­dow pan­els by em­broi­der­ers Lesage re­in­force the res­i­den­tial feel, as does the scale of the art­works. For Marino, a se­ri­ous col­lec­tor and pa­tron (he orig­i­nally wanted to study art be­fore tak­ing a de­gree in ar­chi­tec­ture at Cor­nell Univer­sity, and has pro­duced his own works in bronze and glass), art is an es­sen­tial tool to root a store within its sur­round­ings. For Chanel, he will al­ways in­clude a piece by a fe­male artist (here, a tweed-in­spired pho­to­graphic work by Michal Rovner), one by a French artist (Jean-michel Othoniel’s Mu­rano-glass sculp­ture, which hangs in the stair­well), and one by some­body lo­cal to the store’s set­ting (the Bri­tish pain­ter Ja­son Martin, who pro­duced the ‘beau­ti­ful lit­tle black square’ that hangs in a dressing room).

Con­tem­po­rary art is also a way to re­flect the cur­rent cul­tural mood; some­thing key, for Marino, to the shop­ping ex­pe­ri­ence: his stores are up­dated ev­ery three years, to en­sure they feel rel­e­vant and fresh to cus­tomers. ‘Fash­ion is one of the quick­est re­ac­tors to the so­ci­o­log­i­cal and eco­nomic times in which we live,’ he says. ‘Not quite as quick as a paint­ing, but it’s right up there. Keep­ing up with it is fun; I have to keep my ear to the ground so I don’t get stale, even though I’m 150 years old. It keeps you on your toes.’

‘Fash­ion is one of the quick­est re­ac­tors to the so­ci­o­log­i­cal and eco­nomic times in which we live’

Far right The decor is kept to a pal­ette of black, white and beige, with tex­ture in­tro­duced by tweed and bouclé. The coro­man­del-lac­quered wall is by Nancy Lorenz

Pre­vi­ous page The Lon­don bou­tique’s or­nate Louis XV arm­chairs con­jure up Coco Chanel’s Rue Cam­bon apart­ment in Paris.Right Jean-michel Othoniel’s Mu­rano-glass sculp­ture in the stair­well

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