How Chanel stood the test of time:a focus on consumption and identity. Emily Pearce.
Passion for fashion.According to the Oxford English dictionary:“Fashion” is „the style and custom prevalent at a given time.It will change more rapidly than the culture as a whole‟The crucial statement here is that „it changes more rapidlythan culture as a whole‟ inferring an undying, insatiable needfor the consumption of new, innovative items of clothing.Yet Chanel has remained as LEADER of fashion houses across theworld (according to the BBC it attains over 10% of the market share)with their signature designs such as the classic quilted bags beingdeemed timeless, classic fashion staples.This presentation will explore why….
Going for gold.Chanel is stereotypically synonymous with that of the elite,and according to The Financial Times is one of the top 10most expensive clothing brandsResulting in the earning approval from the rich and famous(Keira Knightly and Victoria Beckham are avid supporters of thebrand); the famous tweed suits of Coco Chanel are a fashionindustry must-have.
Something for everyone. As one among the top elegant fashion houses, Chanel hasrevolutionised how women wear products related toclothing; the younger and trendier crowds are lured in by thisdesigner clothing brand’s use of classic pieces and those moreambitious.It has an enviable mass appeal , as well as having remainedthe status symbol of the elite crowd; which evidently affects itsconsumption as a cultural product.
“Fashion” said Gabrielle Coco’Chanel,"is about moving forward, not looking least one Chanel is back."As early as 1915, Harpers Bazaar raved over Chanel’sdesigns: “The woman who hasn‟t athopelessly out of fashion…This season the name Chanel is onthe lips of every buyer.” - Echoic of Chanel’s storming successthroughout the brand’s lifetime, their brand’s progressionseems to have kept fashionistas enthralled since itsconception.Evidence from all around us merely illustrates that peopledesire progression; the formation of new meta-narratives.Fashion provides a getaway for this, allowing for the breakingdown of barriers in regards to our self-representation: (thinkLady Gaga’s meat dress!)
Chanel the innovator. She stole the masculine concepts of shirts,pyjamas, hats and trousers, and reinvented them forher sex.Breaking down the barriers and meta-narrativesin regards to fashion in a post-modernistic way in anattempt to refute the male gaze, and makefashion appealing to women.
On the lust list.A measure of how popular Chanel items can be would bethe earrings, which quickly sell out in stores.Some women even travel to the Chanel boutiques indifferent countries in search of these fashion accessorieswhen the store in their own country do not receive any stock.They are willing to pay the additional cost of travel andcurrency exchanges that inflate the cost of the earrings, simplybecause owning and wearing a pair of Chanel earrings in theireyes automatically signals to the whole world that you havegreat fashion sense and high taste.
Sweet smells of success.Not only have Chanel fashion products become aglobal icon, even the perfumes produced by thefashion line have established their own place inpopularity stakes.Chanel No. 5 has been a top selling perfume since itwas first produced and set free on the unsuspectingpublic. It has remained the top choice for womenworldwide despite constant new competition fromother brands.Figures suggest that a bottle is sold every thirty seconds.
Girl power!Chanel is also known for liberating many women,freeing them of constraints held over them by men interms of their appearance (the male gaze).Trousers, blazers and ‘the power suit’ all gave womenstrength and freedom in terms of the connotations oftheir dress- in essence empowering them throughconsumption.Coco Chanel revolutionised haute couture fashion byreplacing the traditional corseted silhouette with thecomfort of simple suits and long, slender dresses.frequently incorporating ideas from male fashion intoher designs.
Chanel: the idyllic lifestyle.According to Contemporary Fashion "Shedressed the modern woman in clothesfor a lifestyle." which indicates other things aboutconsumption of Chanel as a brand identity- they areselling a lifestyle. Aiming to appeal to their target marketby using their products and advertising to depict theperfect life.Their influence in the fashion industry has always beengreat; Coco is credited for making jersey a popularfashion fabric, using it to make dresses cut to flatter thefigure rather than to emphasise and distort the naturalbody shape. Again, aiming to liberate women.
But how did Chanel attain the power to hold such a strong influence over the fashion industry and its consumers?
Strategic pricing:Extortionate pricing in order to create a dividebetween upper class elite (bourgeoisie) and lowerclass (proletariat), which in turn encodes moredesirable messages( i.e. Im rich) suggesting thatone is better than the other; it creates exclusivity. exclusivity =desire
Use of celebrities in adverts:In todays society much of our interest is based aroundcelebrity culture. Everyone idolises one, or wants to be one.So celebrity endorsement should ensue desire for the product.One may say that celebrities represent the ideal self, so bypurchasing a product that they endorse it is a step closer tobeing like them.
The models expression:Paul Messaris examined facial expression in highfashion models.High-fashion models are generally unsmiling andsometimes openly contemptuous. The superciliousexpressions on the models‟ faces serve to increase thedesirability of what they‟re selling by evoking statusanxiety in the viewer. This status anxiety occursthrough a pseudo looking glass (Cooley) by which theviewer feels they are receiving negative feedback onthemselves, thus evoking anxiety.
self esteem in advertising tactics.The status anxiety decreases the viewer‟s self esteeminfluencing the consumer to buy designer products to re-affirm themselves; suggesting that it is those who dictate thehigh fashion brands (bourgeoisie) also (in an indirect manner)dictate our own representation and definition throughcultural items.
The target market.Note the difference between the clothing advert (reservedfor the elite)and the perfume advert (more accessible).In the clothing advert the models were aptly covered and inno way sexual, so in terms of the gaze it presents those whowear chanel as fetishistic ‘maddonnas’ due their distancingfrom others, creating an attraction due to theirunattainability.However, the perfume advert shows the girl nude, inferringa voyeuristic stance on the gaze. Which could potentially bedecoded as a more accurate representation of the lowerclasss desires- immediate gratification rather than long termgain.
extreme hegemony in the creation of a brand...A mistake of the press in times of commercial launchof the Classic Chanel handbag is still stuck to themost popular handbag of Chanel today. Misleadinglythe bag was published as the 2.55 handbag althoughits real name was TimelessCC.Emphasising the huge influence of the press, stickingon items for their whole product life cycle.
Perpetuation of the dominant ideology.Our media saturated society as pointed out by Strinatiseverely influences our views; we feel pressure to fit in as weare told who we should be and what we should value dictatedthrough the dominant ideology-suggesting that we are subjectto manipulation by those in power who control the media,consequently those who dictate the fashion through such amedium.
One hundred and two years since its conception Chanelis still going strong today, bringing out new lines every season the brand is constantly reinventing fashion. It is a household name both for owners of their items, and those who desire them. A fashionbrand that has