From state of the art to uncreative snooze-fest, has Chanel entered its flop era?

By Jennifer Raymont

Updated May 25, 2023 at 11:18 AM

Reading time: 3 minutes

Chanel has always represented the classic, aspirational, and sophisticated French brand. To be a Chanel mademoiselle is to be subtle but sexy, classy but cute. Past Chanel muses have included Cara Delevingne, Lily-Rose Depp, and Margot Robbie. All women who, while known for oozing style and grace, also share three other common denominators: they’re white, skinny, and absolutely minted.

 

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According to Sotheby’s, despite the current cost of living crisis, Chanel has ramped up its prices by an extortionate amount in the last year. With increases of 16 per cent, the Classic Chanel flap bag (which a younger, more naive version of myself desperately would have sold her entire being for) now has a whopping $10,000 price tag.

This isn’t to say that Chanel doesn’t have value, rather it’s over-selling itself. Most luxury brands create the majority of their revenue through smaller leather goods. Compared to ready-to-wear clothing, handbags have greater longevity and, let’s face it, are easier to wear. So, are the prices justified? To put it simply, no.

With the Y2K trend dominating fashion, the vintage designer resale market has seen an influx in demand for 90s and early 00s Chanel. Sotheby’s sells vintage bags that, while initially retailing for $1,200 in the 90s, now go for well over $6,000. The threat of the resale market could hopefully prompt the luxury French label to confront its overpriced, snooze-fest collections and, who knows, perhaps even encourage it to produce something a bit more radical.

 

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The latest Chanel Cruise show was ripped to shreds on social media last week, and for good reason. Taking inspiration from Los Angeles and Hollywood film culture, the collection was a mismatch of 80s fitness video attire and skater-girl in crisis. Chaos ensued as 2014 Tumblr ombré and clashing galaxy prints went down the runway. Even Robbie’s front row look reconfirmed to absolutely everyone online that she needed to be immediately released from her shackled infamous Chanel contract. Overall, it was giving off the impression that Chanel was in the midst of a full mid-life crisis, and in desperate need of change.

 

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With the Met Gala dominating our feeds and FYPs earlier this month, all eyes were on Chanel. While a couple of looks stunned the iconic steps—Rihanna and A$AP Rocky, I’m looking at you—others were nothing short of boring. Was it their own fault or was their creativity held back by Chanel’s reluctance to move away from its classically minimal aesthetic?

 

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We get it, Chanel wants to honour the legacy of its past (albeit controversial) creative directors, Coco Chanel and Karl Lagerfeld. But there’s a difference in paying tribute and sending the same looks down the runway every single season. Case in point: the freaking Chanel tweed suit.

Initially, the fashion house founder’s suit design was game changing. Chanel herself once said: “I really care about women, and I wanted to dress them in clothes that make them feel at ease, clothes they can wear to drive a car, but that still emphasised femininity.” And so, in 1925, it was out with the corset, and in with the corporate girlie suit.

To our despair, we’re almost a century later and the suit still hasn’t seen much evolution. Yet Chanel continues to shove it down our throats. At its SS08 show in Paris, a giant model of a tweed jacket even took centre stage at the Grand Palais.

I’m not saying scrap the suit altogether, but it would be nice to see a 2023 version, one that better accurately reflects the needs and desires of modern day women. As Anne Hathaway took to the Met Gala steps in a Versace tweed gown this year, Donatella Versace proved that you can play with traditional Chanel motifs while keeping it current.

 

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Like the Chanel suit, Dior has its iconic New Look. The revolutionary silhouette emphasised and celebrated the female form, while also providing a template for all future designers. Now, Dior continues to employ the intention of the 1950s New Look but with a modern twist. Chanel, please take notes.

 

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The fashion house’s late designer, Lagerfeld was infamous for being fatphobic, racist, and misogynistic, and this infiltrated itself into the brand’s collections, campaigns and catwalks. Even now that the German designer is not around anymore, season after season, Chanel shows remain overwhelmingly white, and when they do include some diversity, it is so minimal that it comes across as tokenism.

Since Virginie Viard took over after Lagerfeld’s death in 2019, the brand has seen minimal change. Could it be that a new creative director is needed? Someone with a younger take? Duh. It would be sad to see such a pinnacle brand in fashion get lost in the abyss of exhausted designers. But as things stand, it’s unrealistic, not to mention selfish, to demand such obscene prices without providing us with innovation and diversity. Your move, Chanel.

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