Backstage at PFW with Bruno Pavlovsky, Chanel’s President of Fashion

Creation and Innovation


By Cai Mei Khoo

Backstage at PFW with Bruno Pavlovsky, Chanel’s President of Fashion

It’s such a beautiful day today in Paris. How are you this morning, Bruno?

Bruno Pavlovsky: Yes, the sun is out—the show will be so special. I am not bad; I will be perfect in one hour. *laughs*

We’re at the Grand Palais, which is such an iconic building for Paris, and Chanel is the exclusive sponsor for the next renovation project. Can you please tell us more about the brand’s involvement?

Chanel, and Karl Lagerfeld, love the Grand Palais. You’re right, the Grand Palais is iconic and there’s nothing else like it. We started to use the Grand Palais after the first renovation works in 2005. The previous renovation took place in 2003 and it took two years to complete. There is a strong history for Chanel and the Grand Palais, as you can see from all the different shows that we have done here. I think Mr Lagerfeld is the best person to use the Grand Palais. It’s such a unique building, not just in Paris but in the world. There’s no equivalent. At Chanel, we believe that it’s part of our job to contribute to making sure that this building will be here forever. Don’t forget, this building was built in the beginning of the previous century for the Universal Exposition in 1900. It’s important for us to go one step further to contribute, and be able to support that and ensure this building continues to be iconic.


Chanel is so involved in arts and culture, and you’re currently working on permanent rooms at the Palais Galliera. Can you please tell us more about that?

It’s part of our strategy. Chanel is about creation and for us, Paris is the best city in the world for creation, and for fashion. Chanel has to be strong in Paris, and Paris in return has to be strong to support Chanel. One of the ways for us to do that is to continue supporting the creative process. Galliera is the number one fashion museum in the world. It has the best fashion archives, not just the Chanel ones, for other brands too. It’s important for Chanel, for Mademoiselle Chanel, and for Karl to be part of the next step. To be able to invest in the archives, is a way for us to invest in the creative process of tomorrow. We’re doing that internally at Chanel through our conservatoire but we also believe in doing that at a higher level, and to do that at the best fashion museum in the world. We want to support le creation in Paris for now, and for the next twenty years.

“It’s important for Chanel, for Mademoiselle Chanel, and for Karl to be part of the next step. To be able to invest in the archives, is a way for us to invest in the creative process of tomorrow.” – Bruno Pavlovsky

And also, as part of supporting the creative process, you’re housing your specialty ateliers together at a new site.

Yes, at the Porte d’Aubervilliers. It’s a new building that spans 25,000 square metres. We are investing in this new building because we believe that these artisan d’arts, the metiers d’art, should benefit from such visibility. We’re working with the architect Rudy Ricciotti on this project. We believe we have something that will make a strong impact and that will give this metier d’arts a strong visibility in Paris. It’s part of our investment in the creative process. What you have to see behind all this investment, as we’re doing at the Grand Palais six times a year, is our way of supporting the creative process and to ensure that it will always be impactful for Chanel.


Six spectacular Chanel show sets at the Grand Palais:

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Chanel has always been a brand that’s pushing boundaries. One of the more recent announcements from the house that’s really exciting to me is your multi-year innovation partnership deal with Farfetch. Can you please tell us how that came about?

It’s a long process. We know the Farfetch people well, and respect what Jose Neves and his team has done. This innovation process will help us understand what will happen tomorrow—the transformation at boutique level. We know our customers well; Farfetch with their marketplace, are doing the same but on a digital platform. We believe that if we worked together with Farfetch, we’ll be able to better understand how to enhance the customer experience, which will integrate digital with our boutiques. Farfetch’s experience will help us accelerate this development.


That’s really exciting, and I’m looking forward to this augmented retail experience. Do you think this is the future of luxury retail?

We consider this part of our innovation plan. The principle of innovation is that you believe in something, but you don’t know whether you are right or wrong. What we are doing with Farfetch is to try to define what will be right for tomorrow with this augmented retail, or not—the people who will make the decision at the end of the day will be our customers. It’s very exciting for the team because we’re in this transformation programme, but we don’t know exactly where we are headed. We are here to learn something with the experts, to find the best outcome for Chanel.


You mentioned that Farfetch is the expert for e-commerce. Does this mean that in the near future Chanel will be selling bags and clothes online?

No, absolutely not. *laughs* When I had a presentation with Jose Neves, my first thoughts were not what we would do together, it was what we would not do together, and that was to sell our products online. We were very clear. But we want to benefit from their experience of selling online, which is very interesting for us. What we want to develop for Chanel is what we call e-services for our new and existing customers. When I think about that, I think about the new generation, the people who will become our customers, people between the ages of 15-20, who are not even using this tool yet. The best way to connect to them might not necessarily be selling online.


What’s the reason for not going into e-commerce?

Our service is more than just a click. You can buy many things with a click, but at Chanel we believe that it’s important to go into a boutique to touch the product, see what you like or don’t like, there are always surprises. The luxury shopping experience is all about that, not just about efficiency. E-commerce is great for food; it’s efficient, it’s about being fast. A luxury experience is a bit more difficult than that. Chanel is about entering into a fashion world, where everything is about creativity, the best materials, the best know-how, and that is more than just buying on the net. We want to continue to propose to our customer, and a new generation, a unique experience in the boutique where they are connected to fashion advisors who understand the collection, the creative work that goes into the collection, and that is difficult to view on Chanel.com, or whatever website. I cannot say no forever, but we have to do something that brings a lot of value to our customers.


Is there anything else about the Farfetch deal you can share with us?

It’s a 3-5 year plan. We know what we want to study, we know what we want to investigate, we don’t know what the results of that will be. The only ones who know what the results are will be our customers. We will be piloting and testing a lot of things and the customer will be the one who will say what they like or don’t like. You can have the best ideas in the world but if the customer doesn’t want that, then it’s not efficient or useful.

Karl Lagerfeld at Chanel AW18

Back in Malaysia, the Chanel boutique at Suria KLCC will be closing for renovation and we will have our first ever ephemeral store. What can we look forward to?

This is a huge opportunity for us to test different things. The new boutique will be the best one, I can tell you that. In the meantime, we need to take advantage of the situation to give our Malaysian customer a different understanding of the brand, and the ephemeral store is the right platform for that. It’s important for us to create new angles for our customers to see the brand, and the store. With an ephemeral store, you can take risks because this isn’t a permanent store. It’s an opportunity for us to seduce our local customers.


What else we can look forward to from Chanel in 2018?

We have a huge agenda for the year, as always. We are trying to bring the energy of the brand to many different countries, to connect our local customers. We will be in Russia, probably in the United States, probably somewhere in Asia—when I say probably, it’s for sure *laughs*. We have quite a heavy, and interesting plan for 2018. Every time we take the brand or the shows to a new location, it’s another way for us to show the creativity of the brand, and of Mr Lagerfeld.


The Chanel Ephemeral Boutique opens 17 May 2018, and is located at Ground Floor, G18 & G19, Suria KLCC.

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