China's Luxury Education

‘Culture Chanel’ is a new exhibition that just opened at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Shanghai. You may not realise this but I tend to be a pessimistic cunt from time to time and this whole exhibition is just gussied up marketing. Gussied I say!

According to WWD the exhibition features 400 items tracing the life of the fashion icon. There are manuscripts, drawings, photographs, rare documents and jewelry on display. The exhibition effectively transports her spirit to China, a country that clearly fascinated and influenced the fashion legend in her life and in her designs. It also showcases China’s numerous ties to the modern-day fashion house, under the creative direction of Karl Lagerfeld. The exhibition begins with Coco’s childhood at a French orphanage through to her encounters and friendships with artists, writers and composers.

One section of the exhibition features photographs of Coco in front of her vast collection of ancient Chinese screens. In 1996, Karl Lagerfeld would use the screens as inspiration for three intricately embroidered jackets, each requiring at least 900 hours of embroidery to complete. Those jackets are also on display.

She’s photographed with 3 Chinese screens in her home and suddenly there’s an intrinsic link between a Parisian fashion designer and Chinese culture? Bullshit. Marketing execs are no doubt patting each other on the back and smoking cigars over what I’m sure they deem as a masterstroke in marketing genius and it kills me knowing that they’re right but FUUUUUUUUUUUUU just stop passing off what you do as art to make money. I really don’t know if I want to discuss the whole is fashion art thing because it’s a can of fucking worms but in short, in my ever so judgemental opinion I think some fashion is art. Yeah I’m being completely biased. Comme Des Garçons’ Spring Summer 1997 collection for me was art. A Coco Cocoon is not.

Chanel are ensuring their future in what will become the largest luxury consuming country in the world (om nom nom) but holding an art exhibition to sell bags and perfume is just shady. Vincent Shaw, Chanel’s president for Asia, stressed how important it is for brands to deepen connections with Chinese consumers.
“The Chinese consumer is very hungry for information,” Shaw said. “They have exposure. They travel to Europe. They want to know more, and they want to know about the brands as well as why we are important, why the houses of luxury are important and that is one of the important positioning strategies of Chanel. We must work with our customers to engage with them and showcase the history and heritage of Chanel.”

This all makes sense and I see why they’re doing it. The thinking is if you have the knowledge and history of a brand then this should lead you to cultivate an appreciation for it which would hopefully lead you to the Chanel boutique. It’s a fancy trail of breadcrumbs.

Will it work? I don’t know. I think of other countries such as Australia for example that don’t have a strong tradition of luxury. Chanel has a strong presence in Australia and even without an education or knowledge of the brand people still recognise the interlocking double C logo as a symbol of wealth and good taste. Others see it as a symbol of stupidity. Some might ask why buy a bag for $3000 when you can go to Strand Bags and get something similar for a fraction of the price? But that’s like comparing diamonds to coal right?

This isn’t a marketing first though. Louis Vuitton held A Passion For Creation in 2009 at the Hong Kong Museum of Art and Gucci held a Bamboo Retrospective (wtf?) at the Marina Bay Sands in Singapore.

Here were some of my favourite zingers from the WWD article-

“Bringing this exhibit here was to give honor to the Chinese dreams she lived with,” - Jean-Louis Froment, exhibition curator.

“People have to be aware of Chanel. They have to feel Chanel before we put the brand there”- I can’t remember who said this. Deepak Chopra perhaps?

"I don’t think you can say that China is the last frontier. We will continue to seduce women around the world.”-Again I forgot who said this but I’m guessing it was sexually ambiguous art thief Carmen Sandiego.


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