The storefront at 57th Street is the brand’s first shop in the U.S. devoted to fine jewelry and timepieces. Its flagship store remains nearby at 15 W. 57th St.
The long-prized stretch of Fifth Avenue just below Central Park has been at the center of a real estate bonanza lately, even amid softening sales globally. Above the new Chanel boutique stands the Aman New York, which ranks among the nation’s most expensive hotels. Across the street, on the ground floor of Trump Tower at 725 Fifth Ave., is Gucci, the star in the portfolio of luxury conglomerate Kering. At 1 E. 57th St. is Louis Vuitton, which plays the same role for LVMH. Next door to that is Prada at 724 Fifth Ave. And Tiffany, also owned by LVMH, reopened last year after an extensive three-year remodeling of its flagship store at 727 Fifth Ave.
“From a luxury retail point of view, the perimeter is quite small,” Grangié said. “It’s really 58th to 53rd — and one side [the west, where Chanel sits] is better than the other. So that leaves very few options, especially with watches and jewelry. It’s really two blocks.”
Once Chanel secured the location, it worked with its longtime collaborator, architect and interior designer Peter Marino, to create an atmosphere that would play into the house’s history. Marino took inspiration from founder Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel’s apartment at 31 Rue Cambon in Paris and at 18 Place Vendôme, the base for Chanel’s high jewelry operations in Paris. (High jewelry constitutes a rarefied category above fine jewelry.)
While retail shops tend to be white, airy and open, Chanel has countered with one that’s mysterious and evocative. The grand windows of the beaux-arts façade feature oversized golden shutters that suggest folding screens, a motif dear to Chanel. Inside, black lacquer and gold dominate, from textured walls and patterned rugs to the tables supporting display cases.
The 3,200-square-foot retail space includes a ground floor with two double-height salons dedicated to fine jewelry and a further chamber for timepieces. A flight of stairs lined by a balustrade of 24-karat gold and rock crystal leads to discrete rooms for private appointments. The decor presents a mix of Marino-designed furniture and various art and antiques highlighted by sculptures from André Dubreuil and Louise Nevelson.
On display in cases are the brand’s collections and hallmarks: stars, lion’s heads — Coco Chanel was a Leo — and camellias, the founder’s favorite flower. The numeral 5, her favorite, is prominently featured, too. The youth-focused Coco Crush line of fine jewelry, featuring delicate rings and bracelets ($8,250) with a quilted pattern, are also available; custom ring engraving, a service exclusive to the U.S., is, too.
Watches on display include the Première Edition Originale ($5,950) with its black dial and chain strap (think of those signature bags) and the J12, a chunkier model made from ceramic. During the interview, Grangié took off his own watch, the Monsieur Tourbillon Meteorite, and flips it over to reveal the machinations through its transparent back.
“If you want to be taken seriously, you have to have the same standards as pure players,” he said, referring to the specialist watchmakers. “This is the highest standard of watchmaking.”
Of two showstopping jewelry pieces, one is a cascading necklace called the 55.55, centered around a flawless 55.55-carat diamond set among others in the shape of the Chanel No.5 bottle. The piece, designed in 2021 to celebrate the perfume’s 100th birthday and not for sale, will leave the U.S. after three months.
Upstairs, Grangié showed off the second, a necklace with a 20-carat D-quality white diamond center stone that can be swapped into the setting of a companion ring. Price: $5.2 million.
Chanel, privately owned by the billionaire brothers Alain and Gerard Wertheimer, has been headquartered in London since 2018. It reports financial performance once annually in late spring: Revenue rose 17%, to $17.2 billion in 2022 compared with the previous year.
Retail outlets like this one are vital to a brand that spurns e-commerce. “I’ve had conversations with young people I meet when I travel, and I always think they will say, ‘Why don’t you sell online?’ But they usually say, ‘That’s so cool,’ ” said Grangié. “I think if you stand on integrity, people will understand it. Then they will dream of coming to the store and experiencing it for themselves.”