Santa has been very good to Chanel fans. Just in time for Christmas, the famed French fashion house has opened its revamped Houston boutique — and shoppers used to the old digs won't recognize it.
Under the direction of famed architect Peter Marino, the 5,000-square-foot Gallera store is inspired by Coco Chanel's legendary Paris apartment, with intimate rooms leading into other rooms, unique chandeliers with dangling crystals, dazzling artwork, comfy sofas in tufted fabric and even an antique fireplace flanked by bronze Christophe Côme screens that give the luxurious store a more cozy, yet modern, feel.
"We love Houston. We've been here since 1998. We wanted a new home. To be honest, there are a lot of interesting developments going on in Houston. We looked at all of them. We decided to stay here and asked Peter to create a new home for Chanel with a modern vocabulary," said Barbara Cirkva, who presides over the brand's fashion, fine jewelry and watch collections in the U.S.
Although the Galleria store uses the same footprint as the previous space, it seems marketedly bigger, with dramatic lighting, luxe wall finishings and rooms that showcase the full range of Chanel offerings, including accessories, watches, shoes, jewelry, handbags and ready-to-wear collections.
"Now the shoe collection warrants a whole room. There were things that didn't exist then that exist now. And that's really what makes it unique."
"In the 80s, the idea of having one big open room was more in vogue," Cirkva said. "Peter's concept for Chanel has always been based on Coco Chanel's apartment and creating individual rooms for different experiences, mixing more product categories together so it's more about the experience of the room than about the product."
The exterior, with a white stone facade and large picture windows, leads into a handbag and accessories area with a white graphite wall where sunglasses and costume jewelry are displayed. A second accessories area bathed in gold showcases handbags and a selection of watches, including the limited edition and very rare Mademoiselle Privé collection.
"It's not bigger, it's just a more brilliant use of the space," Cirkva said. "When this store was designed in 1998, we didn't have a shoe collection. We had a few shoes. But now the shoe collection warrants a whole room. There were things that didn't exist then that exist now. And that's really what makes it unique."
The shoe salon is a focal point, with a chandelier by Maison d'art Goossens, the atelier that Chanel worked with in the 1950s to create jewelry. "It's part of the Chanel fabric today, making things specifically for us," Cirkva said.
Dubai to Houston
"I don't think it was planned this way, but the decor really picks up the elements of the equisite craftsmanship of the Dubai collection. This collection is awash with prints and embriorideres and pearls. It's really luxury at the highest level and I think that's what Peter has been able to duplicate in the store," Cirkva said.
She believes the Chanel legacy is what differentiates the brand from others.
"It's great history and heritage, but it's about a person. There are a lot of brands with great history and heritage that have been around for a long time, but the fact that it's grounded in a woman, Coco Chanel, who was an extraordinary woman is I think something that transcends time. And it's something that no one else, frankly, can really do," she said.
"And Karl is constantly reinvenitng the ideas of Coco. That's what he can do that nobody else can do."