“Shenzhen is the next city of the world, a miracle city,” said Bruno Pavlovsky, president of fashion and president of Chanel SAS. “Virginie [Viard] could have had the same inspiration for the collection thinking of Shenzhen,” enthused Pavlovsky of the subtropical hub, which is currently the third richest city in China, according to the Hurun Research Institute.
On Thursday night, VIP clients, celebrities, editors, as well as a band of Chanel executives, attended the replica show, which was presented twice to accommodate the 2,300-strong crowd at the city’s “Spring Cocoon” Stadium.
For Cotillard, the “modern spirit” of Shenzhen struck a chord. “I loved the architecture. I loved the mixture of different energies,” said Cottilard, who visited the city’s Museum of Contemporary Art and Planning Exhibition and got a taste of Chinese medicine treatment during her short visit.
For Chinese actress Zhou Xun, the runway show also revealed a fantasy side of the city. “The full set was nostalgic but also rooted in reality. I almost couldn’t figure out where I was.”
Chinese actor Jing Boran shared Zhou’s sentiment. “Growing up in the ‘90s, I saw fragments of my childhood at the show, especially the rollerblading and the gymnastic elements,” said Jing.
“The show proves how nicely Virginie picked out urban elements through the fashion eye,” said Chinese model Liu Wen. “Lifestyles in Shenzhen and Los Angeles are both full of juxtapositions. You are in workout gear one minute, then at a fancy event the next.”
After the show, the runway was transformed into a night market where guests nibbled on local dishes, such as dim sum, stir-fried noodles and gua bao, while enjoying a high-energy performance by Nile Rodgers and Chic.
According to Pavlovsky, a “big and powerful” event like this is not only an effective way to engage with the local customer base but also a chance to create a 360 experience around the brand.
Just as captivating as the mise-en-scene on the runway, Chanel launched a three-day short film screening and talks at Shenzhen Bay MixC’s cinema, which was coproduced with Nowness China.
Titled “China Wave,” the showcase opened on Wednesday with “All Tomorrow’s Parties,” a short that echoed the runway presentation’s nostalgic bent and featured Chanel brand ambassadors Zhou Xun and Wang Yibo. Directed by emerging auteur Zhang Dalei, the film was shortlisted for the 2023 Berlinale Shorts.
“Cinema is a good way to illustrate the creation at Chanel, which has a strong universality,” said Pavlovsky. “But it could be more than cinema. It could be about dance, music, and ultimately about creation.”
Sharing insights on Chanel’s VIP-focused strategy, Pavlovsky said the plan is to offer “an exclusive and private experience where customers can better discover the total silhouette of the ready-to-wear collections.”
This year, the brand quickly rolled out three Chanel Les Salons Privés, or private salons, in key China markets, one of which bowed at the brand’s Shenzhen Bay MixC shopping mall last month. By nurturing the local VIP client market, Chanel was able to record double-digit gains in the mainland China market in 2022.
“But it’s not only for VIPs. It can be any customer of the boutique,” clarified Pavlovsky of the appointment-only retail format.
“Quite often, the Salon Privés are not connected to our boutiques, but it is an expansion of the boutique,” Pavlovsky added.
For Pavlovsky, the relationship between stores and customers can run the gamut from “kind of intimate” to “very quick.” “If I need a pair of shoes, I don’t need to go to Salons Privés for that,” Pavlovsky explained. “So how we manage and monitor this dynamic relationship, I think it’s quite important.”
When asked about the controversial topic of whether Shenzhen will overtake Hong Kong’s place as the next Hong Kong, Pavlovsky’s personal view is that “to be in Shenzhen, Macao, Hong Kong, the experience is the same, the Great Bay Area is very dynamic.”
With a boutique slated to be open in the second-tier city of Zhengzhou later this year, Pavlovsky explained that the location choice reflects the company’s unwavering and steady approach to retail. “We will expand, but at our pace, which means not too fast,” said Pavlovsky.
Commenting on the overall economic climate, which indicates a gloomy future ahead, Pavlovsky said Chanel will have to “play with the economic situation.”
“If we ensure that we have the best for our customers, I don’t see any reason why Chanel could not continue the growth. Perhaps lower growth in the near future, but I’m happy with that,” said Pavlovsky.