Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel is arguably the most famous fashion designer who ever lived. Starting with her first boutique, opened in her Paris apartment in 1910, the groundbreaking looks Chanel created—trench coats, jerseys, tweed and knits, all borrowed from menswear—liberated turn-of-the-century women from corsets and bustles with designs that remain relevant today.
Coco introduced the woman’s power suit—in tweed—a uniform she adopted for herself, feminizing it with lanky strands of pearls and camellia pins. She invented the Little Black Dress, took away the waistline, de-accentuated breasts, and utterly shook up conventional gender norms. And she did it all with a graphic palette of black and white.
The style of the apartment where she opened that groundbreaking first boutique is just as iconic. So much so, the brand has kept it intact since her death in 1971: its wall of mirrors, cream carpeted staircase, quilted suede couch, famed coromandel (fine grained wood from Sri Lanka) screens. Fashion faithful pay homage with frequent pilgrimages to make contact with Mademoiselle’s aesthetic; Karl Lagerfeld, Chanel’s creative director from 1983 until his death in 2019, stopped by often to absorb her essence.
Now you can catch a whiff yourself—without leaving L.A.
Chanel’s glistening new white, modern flagship at 400 N. Rodeo Drive channels its founder’s minimalist tastes, as in “elegance is refusal,” one of CC’s mission-defining aphorisms. The original BH store was razed three (pandemic) years ago, along with the empty Lladró store adjacent, and reconfigured by Chanel’s longtime architect Peter Marino into a double-wide megastore made up of four extended floors, with museum-style rooms on each.
This past weekend, the store’s first since it opened May 5, lines formed around the entrance as Chanel-attired gentlemen with clipboards informed the faithful that entrance was by appointment only.
The building is a bit—intimidating? At 30,000 square feet, it’s shaped like a glossy polished cube beaming out of one of the most expensive corners in the world. The colors and fabrications over four floors are tweed, suede, wood, resin, all in varied shades of Chanel black, white and gold, some rooms with a touch of pastel. There’s even a low glass table on the second floor hand-painted in Chanel nail varnish.
When you enter the store, an opalescent gleam bounces off the white walls as if they were painted in ground pearls, as the ancient Egyptians used in face makeup. (If this were a film set, it would be lit by Roger Deakins.) While there’s sunlight from windows on every level out to a large sculpture garden, it’s hard to tell exactly where all the gleam is emanating from: the glass cases of delicate jewelry, some exclusive to Beverly Hills; the rock crystal chandeliers by Goossens Paris, or the winding four story pearl sculpture by artist Jean-Michel Othoniel piercing the atrium like a suspended, flapper-long necklace. Chairs are rounded, covered in tweed as if Coco’s famous jackets were draped on top of them. Marino’s dark burgundy walls are modelled on those famed coromandel screens from the original Chez Chanel.
The first floor is divided into unique but complementary areas: handbags and accessories to right of the atrium (Chanel’s Double Flap CC chain link bags, in summer whites and peachy pale pink, are arranged like sculptures in an art gallery); a dedicated watch and fine jewelry gleams from the left. Behind the watches and fine jewelry there’s a well-stocked dedicated fragrance and beauty section. How much chicer to buy lipstick in the Chanel boutique than at The Grove?
Reached by a dramatic winding staircase, the second level houses shoes and ready to wear laid out like every item is made from precious metal (they might be). The spring/summer Chanel collection housed there now is heavy on white and pale peach, designed by creative director Virginie Viard (Lagerfeld’s handpicked successor) and inspired by surrealist director Alain Resnais’s 1961 masterpiece, Last Year at Marienbad, for which Chanel designed most of the costumes.
You won’t be able to enter the third or fourth floors without an appointment; Three is for VICs (very important customers); Four is for celebrity fittings, with a large outdoor patio adjacent with amazing views; this will house private parties and dinners. I couldn’t get a peak of Four as there was a celebrity fitting in progress. Margot Robbie, perhaps? She will definitely be at the L.A. Chanel cruise collection showing Tuesday night May 9, as will Chanel faces Marion Cotillard and Margaret Qualley.
In the meantime, venerable Rodeo Drive, whose bona fides as a world-class, first-class address have been in need of a bit of a boost, just got a massive one with Chanel’s over-the-top revamp. There are about to be a lot more tourists pounding Rodeo’s pavement—in two-tone Chanel heels.