If ever there was a day for a pick-me-up, today would be it. The source of my ire and misery? A fallen through house purchase, the Game of Thrones-esque mind tricks of estate agents and solicitors and worse of all, having to go back to the beginning and start this joyful process all over again. That's already a needless digression. We're here to talk about the pick-me-up that is Chanel. I mean 12,600 square-feet of Chanel on New Bond Street, where previously there was teensy tiny whisper of a boutique down the road on Old Bond Street. If A/W13-4's Chanel show set at the Grand Palais with a giant globe spinning around slowly, lit up by double C's dotted all over the planet, was a statement of fashion behemoth power, then this store conceived by the legendary Peter Marino is a far more appropriate representation of what the brand represents, at least in physical size anyway.
In truth though, what Marino has cleverly done, is to carve up the vast three-floor space, glazing every surface with a wide variety of materials, inviting customers in to touch, feel and inhale Chanel (quite literally so in the fragrance area). Inspired by Coco Chanel's apartment, fifty shades of gold, bronze and mahogony shades seek to warm up this intimate amazon of a store. Catch your reflection in the intricate cut mirror-glass walls, numerous types of lacquer, marble and coromandel walls. I found myself attempting to count up all the different surfaces that could be found in the store, wondering how the collective glow of those surfaces' golden sheen felt inviting and comforting rather than blinged-out and stuffy. Come have a seat on the Linton tweed upholstered armchairs and generously proportioned sofas. Feel your feet sink into the tweed-patterned carpets. Then take in the twenty-three pieces of contemporary art, more often than not seamlessly blended in with the sheen and shine of the surfaces such as Robert Greene's dabs of monochrome paint or Olaf Holzapfel's almost-invisible gridlines. Others immediately catch your eye, such as Y.Z. Kami's iris paper portrait of Coco Chanel or Andrei Molodkin's crude oil sculpture spelling out "Chic". Art for art's sake this isn't, as Marino commissioned all the pieces to fit into his sprawling puzzle of a design for the store.
Once you've finished up counting shades of gold, there's the actual product to clap your eyes on and with 12,600 square-feet to play around with – there's definitely a lot of product. The Paris-Edimbourg collection has flooded the store and it's a joy to see it in all its physical glory, in a properly-lit up store setting, as opposed to the dim fire-backdropped catwalk images taken at Linlithgow Castle. I'm not going to lie. The inner wannabe Scottish child in me (did I tell you I used to spend every childhood summer in Edinburgh where my grandparents live?) is hankering to don the whole shebang – the plaid-lined boots, the tartan camelia-adorned leather biker gloves, a quilted sporran, the logo-ed up Tam o'Shanter cap, the giant pussy bow white shirt AND of course all that glorious knitwear which I witnessed being made up in lovely Barrie - for me, there hasn't been a theme so enticingly or well-articulated as this Scottish one. The layered up ensembles on the catwalk have now been dissected into individual garments and the surprising parts of the collection were pieces like a chunky cable knit cream jumper with fleecy-like sleeves or an absolutely stunning Chantilly lace-edged pale pink pleated gown with kilt buckle detailing to the side. A school badge Chanel insignia jumper is a more likely bet at a guess of it being at the lower end of the megabucks pricing chez Chanel (customers are led to a quiet and padded separate chamber to pay for their goods – perfect for calming down the spirits before they hand over their credit card one presumes). The ground floor is dedicated to the all-important accessories with a luxurious handbag bar (ah…to buy a quilted Chanel bag like you would a pint of beer at a pub…) and two separate rooms for yet more bags, soft leather goods, jewellery and other Chanel knick-knacks, adjoining the other important component – the beauty and fragrance section.
Whilst I can't pretend to be a Bond Street connoisseur, it seems to me that the Supersize Me treatment of luxury stores – Louis Vuitton, Miu Miu and now Chanel – generally speaking has a positive effect on the browser customer like myself, who would far prefer to get lost in a glossy and department-store esque layout of vast cornucopia of chamber and ante-chambers with room to explore and lifts and staircases to escape up and down, rather than be stared at by a po-faced store assistant in a teensy tiny bijoux store where they're subliminally telling you to get out because you don't have an American Express Platinum Card. Trust me when I say I'm more than familiar with this type of utter morfication in stores. Escada Store. Bond Street. 2003. Remember it with a chill running down my spine. Chanel just upped its retail presence in London big time and has made having a cheeky browse at their store all the easier, especially for days like today.