Chanel opts for absolute luxury in Tokyo store

1st December 2004, Comments 0 comments

TOKYO, Dec 1 (AFP) - With a 10-floor palace of glass at the ritziest of all Tokyo addresses, Chanel is launching its biggest boutique in the world, banking that Japan's famous appetite for luxury is alive and well.

TOKYO, Dec 1 (AFP) - With a 10-floor palace of glass at the ritziest of all Tokyo addresses, Chanel is launching its biggest boutique in the world, banking that Japan's famous appetite for luxury is alive and well.

The store opening Saturday in the Ginza district features a concert hall, a restaurant by celebrated French chef Alain Ducasse and 1,300 square metres (14,000 square feet) of shopping space with designer items sold nowhere else.

"We decided on absolute luxury. The future of luxury in Japan is a lot more luxury," said Richard Collasse, the head of the French company's Japan branch.

"We're betting on the high end, and that runs against what everyone is doing," Collasse told AFP.

Designed by American architect Peter Marino, the 56-metre (184-foot) high building set to dominate the elite Chuo-dori avenue has a massive curtain wall of glass that encapsulates a nest-shaped block of aluminium in Chanel handbags' signature tweed pattern.

The glass facade will light up Ginza each dusk to dawn with 700,000 embedded light-emitting diodes. In what is billed as a world first, the facade itself doubles as a television screen to broadcast to passers-by.

The boutique comes at a total investment of USD 240 million (EUR 180.4 million), a level of opulence Collasse believes is worth it to build what he hoped to be "the heart of luxury in Asia."

"While within boundaries that are still human, we don't want to be a luxury supermarket," he stressed.

Chanel generates as much revenue in Japan as in the entire European market. It is joining the ranks of Hermes, Louis Vuitton and Dior in buying a major chunk of real estate in Ginza for Japanese consumers.

But some doubt the strategy of investing so heavily in Japan, seeing the surging growth and passion for luxury products in neighbouring China, where Nanjing Road in Shanghai is beginning to become a new Ginza filled with Western designers' boutiques.

"A generation from now, China will have overtaken Japan if growth continues at this rate," Bernard Arnault, president of Christian Dior S.A and LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton, said recently.

But he assured that for now, Dior also "continues to believe firmly in the Japanese market."

Some brands count on Japan for a third of their global sales. Japan's industry in designer clothing, handbags and other luxury products makes up USD 11.6 billion (EUR 8.7 billion) each year, according to the Yano economic research institute.

But the era of wild luxury spending has gone the way of the "bubble" of Japan's economy, which crash-landed in the early 1990s. Yano said luxury sales in Japan have shrunk 16 percent since 1994.

"The luxury boom in Japan had its peak in 1997 and it's over," said Mineaki Saito, the president of Hermes Japan.

"Customers today are more selective. They're more of connoisseurs," he added.

Chanel is counting on those connoisseurs with the new boutique, which wears its label proudly.

The Ducasse restaurant of 100 place settings is called Beige, the favourite colour of the late Coco Chanel, and everything from the pianos to the roast spits are imported from France.

Ducasse said the restaurant will give "a contemporary vision of French cuisine, free from the overly formal and overly classic cliches."

Japanese exclusive shoppers who want to be seen in the full Chanel experience can have a coffee on the roof terrace at "Le Jardin de Tweed," or Tweed Garden.

"Since last year the luxury market has been running at two speeds, between major labels able to renew themselves while maintaining their image and others fixed on marketing but failing to create," Collasse told AFP.

Chanel, which began to sell products in Japan 25 years ago, already has three other stores in Tokyo and one in Osaka.

Other features to draw shoppers to the Ginza flagship will include contemporary art, among them a work by pop artist Arman, and, in what is believed to be a first for Tokyo, reserved customer parking spots built inside the shop itself.

The boutique is also built to meet local specifications: the store front is designed to sway 10 centimetres (two and a half inches) in case of Japan's frequent earthquakes.


Subject: French News

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