Chanel’s Bruno Pavlovsky speaks

Few executives have had a busier week that Bruno Pavlovsky, President of Fashion and Accessories at Chanel, which staged two rooftop cruise shows in Marseille on Thursday.

Two nights before, Pavlovsky and Marseille mayor Benoît Payan jointly opened La Galerie du 19M, an exhibition of fine artists encountering Chanel’s special stable of artisans.

The runway show marked the second Chanel collection in a row by the house’s creative director Virginie Viard presented in a city that doesn’t have a Chanel boutique. Following on from Chanel’s New Wave Regina Métiers d’Art collection in Manchester in December.

This latest cruise collection was in part a homage to its location, the legendary Cité Radieuse apartment building by architectural legend Le Corbusier. A show buffeted by a day of wild squalls and heavy rain, a tad like the house. It comes after a flurry of media reports — initially by website Miss Tweed — that Hedi Slimane is at loggerheads with LVMH executives at Celine. And that his next stop is taking over artistic control at Chanel. Which is something that Pavlovsky is keen to deny.

“Perhaps she knows more than me!”  he snorts over coffee before the show.

“Virginie is doing extremely well. She is in full form and inspired by Marseille in this collection. You know, ever since she succeeded Karl Lagerfeld, certain people have chattered about other designers at Chanel. But I want to be clear. Chanel is not looking for a new artistic director. And you can print that!” he underlines.

Pavlovsky sees the choice of Marseille as “a question of exchange of and dialogue. Marseille is not the easiest city. But it’s a city with great energy, culture, joie de vivre and a unique position on the Mediterranean.”

“There is no historical link between Marseille and Chanel, or this city and Mademoiselle Coco Chanel. But connecting to the city has been very inspiring for Virginie Viard and our marque,” he insists.

“Virginie fell in love with the Cité Radieuse. While its rooftop provides a 360-degree view of Marseille and Mediterranean. The only weakness is that rooftop is not that big, so we had to stage two shows,” notes Pavlovsky. Ultimately, due to the rain, Chanel held the second show in a broad interior corridor.

Cruise remains a vital business for top-shelf brands like Chanel for several reasons. First, due to its timing, as it stays in stores longer than any collection. Arriving in boutiques in November and lasting until June.

“Plus, when cruise arrives in store in November it’s a somber month of the year with shorter dark days and the collection transforms the boutique. It has a big impact,” notes the executive.

Chanel clearly put a lot of effort into linking with local artists, many from Paris or further distant parts who have made Marseille their home in this second Galerie 19M. The first Galerie 19M was held last year in Dakar, and several of the artists from the opening exposition are included in Marseille, like Senegalese artist Cécile Ndiaye.

Pavlovsky has been the key driver behind Paraffection and 19M. The first is the unique collection of ateliers and suppliers like embroiderers Lesage and Montex; button specialist Desrues; shoemaker Massaro or jewelry maker. Goossens. Which all create the unique finishes and flourishes in couture and luxury ready-to-wear for Chanel and scores of Paris houses. While 19M is a giant center in Aubervilliers, just north of Paris’ 19th arrondissement, built to house many of these rare skills.

This Galerie du 19M was staged inside Fort Saint-Jean, a medieval village at the mouth of Marseille’s harbor, and Mucem – the Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilizations.

“This latest 19M Galerie since Dakar helps us to connect to Marseille. While these artists help liberate the spirit of Marseille with their ideas. When we invited artists from Dakar to come to 19M, some artists ended up working with five ateliers – fiber, metal, pearls, whatever. While some just created on their own, like Simone Pheulpin. A remarkable woman in the 80s who blends fabrics into some phenomenal structures,” enthuses Pavlovsky.

Both Mucem and 19M’s HQ in Aubervilliers were designed by Marseille architects Rudy Ricciotti. Chanel carefully called on an advisory board made up of leading creative figures from Marseille and experts in its creative scene: Olivier Amsellem, Emmanuelle Luciani, Charlotte Pelouse,  Karine Terlizzi, Caroline Perdrix and Mossi Traoré.  All the way to the after-party, where local Franco-German rapper Julien Schwarzer, aka SCH, performed a brief but brilliant set cheered on the rafters by local Marsellais fans.

“La Galerie du 19M Marseille is already fully booked for the whole month! It shows how these métiers have a real allure,” he says proudly.

Chanel traditionally releases its annual results at the end of May, which he predicts will show that the house has enjoyed “a third exceptional year in a row since the lifting of the pandemic.”

In 2022, Chanel scored a 17% increase in annual sales to €17.2 billion, and grew operating profit by 6% to €5.8 billion. In a word, when it comes to luxury fashion, Chanel is the most successful brand in the world, ever. Period.

That said, Pavlovsky is cautious about the near future, arguing that the luxury industry has just “ended a cycle and is about to enter a new period where there will be growth but in a far more complicated market.”

“We see that the economy is trickier. Since 2023 other brands have had problems. Luxury is losing a certain clientele — the comfortably off middle class — who come into boutiques occasionally to buy a bag. Now, they are more careful and maybe instead of a bag they take a vacation. Inflation also doesn’t help.  Purchasing power is still not great. Yes, Chanel today is very strong. So, it’s normal that things slow down,” he reasons.

Asked about social commentary on Chanel raising its prices, Pavlovsky is diplomatic. The house upped the price of its largest classic matelassé flap bag by some 6% to nearly €10,000. The latest of multiple price rises in the past half decade.

“It’s normal that people react. But the important point is when people talk about raising prices – it’s our bag. The rise in prices in Chanel fashion and accessories — and we create eight collections a year — is not that strong. And one must realize that our bags are some of the most complicated bags to produce in the world. That demands time and investment and highly skilled artisans to manufacture. So, that justifies the increases in price,” he concludes.

Via The Fashion Network by Godfrey Deeny

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