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Chanel shows utilitarian nature of apparel with grocery store runway show

March 5, 2014


French fashion house Chanel designed an unusual set for its fall/winter 2014-15 runway show, making the venue look like a supermarket.

Models walked down the aisles or in between the checkout lanes, pushing shopping carts or toting wire baskets. By using such a plebeian setting for a fashion show, the brand took away some of the fantasy, while adding a layer of fun to its presentation.

"Chanel is always surprising and setting trends, from their products to their fashion shows, over-the-top presentations are a part of Chanel’s DNA," said Rony Zeidan, president and creative director of RO New York.

"A fashion show staged in a supermarket gives the brand a realistic, everyday twist," he said. "Every person has to go shopping for groceries, why not do so in Chanel?

"After all, Cate Blanchett did exactly that in 'Blue Jasmine.'"

Mr. Zeidan is not affiliated with Chanel, but agreed to comment as an industry expert.

Chanel did not respond by press deadline.

Supermarket sweep

Chanel hinted at its runway theme on social media, posting an image of an “invitation” to the show to Facebook and Twitter. This was a red, yellow and blue icon that read “Chanel shopping center.”

Tweet from Chanel

On the day of the runway show, the set was revealed, with a Big Box-style retail space complete with produce and packaged goods bearing labels that referenced the brand. The New York Times reports that a wrapped Camembert cheese said “Cambonay,” a reference to the atelier’s former workshop on Rue Cambon.

Chanel fall/ winter 2014 runway set

Keeping with the grocery store theme, the blocking had models picking out grocery items from displays and toting them around in their arms or in a shopping cart. Some models toted wire baskets down the runway instead of handbags.

Finale at Chanel fall/ winter 2014 runway show

Chanel’s runway was fodder for social media for attendees, with everyone snapping photos of the unique set and commenting on the show itself. Attendees posted images of the show and then took photos of themselves interacting with the set after the finale.

Instagram post from Cara Delevingne

Chanel creative director Karl Lagerfeld told Vogue that the inspiration was pop art, like Andy Warhol’s soup can paintings. He also added that “a little humor is needed.”

The fashion show got mixed reviews from Chanel’s social media followers, with some saying they loved the ingenuity, while others thought it was straying too far from the house’s image.

Elevating the ordinary

This is not the first mass market runway setting for a Chanel show.

Chanel screened its 30-minute documentary in Dallas’ Fair Park prior to its Métiers d’Art collection called “Paris-Dallas” to remind consumers of the connection between the fashion house and the United States.

The set for the runway show resembled the cross between a rodeo and a drive-in movie theater, celebrating Americana for the brand’s visit to the U.S. (see story).

With so many runway shows happening during fashion week, staging an out-of-the-box presentation can be a way for brands to stay on consumers’ minds.

For instance, French ski wear label Moncler opted out of the typical runway show again for its Grenoble fall 2014 presentation, choosing to place a 60-piece chorus in lit boxes on stage at the concert hall Hammerstein Ballroom in New York.

For Moncler’s previous shows in New York, the brand has staged a flash mob at Grand Central Terminal with 200 models and had models skate choreographed steps across Wollmann Rink in Central Park. While the spectacle of this performance kept viewers’ attention both in-person and online, the fashion may have gotten lost in the process (see story).

This runway show proves that Chanel is a brand that likes to push the envelope and be a part of setting trends, while not taking itself too seriously.

"The twist of humor in fashion is essential and needs to be celebrated with open arms," Mr. Zeidan said. "After all, Jeremy Scott shared his new vision of Moschino with McDonald’s logos.

"Silly is the new trend," he said. "It goes without saying that Chanel is one of, if not the most, forward-thinking fashion houses when it comes to breaking the mold, and they continue to create and re-create their own aesthetic.

"Chanel is one of the very few brands that can break the rules and dictate the next trends. Let’s see how many copycats will follow."

Final Take
Sarah Jones, editorial assistant on Luxury Daily, New York