Written by By Nina Fontana, CNN
As one of the world’s most iconic luxury brands, Chanel has changed the handbag business forever. But after 72 years, it’s looking to the future in a bid to stay relevant. And one of the way it’s tackling this challenge is through education.
On July 20, the company announced that 11 of its extraordinary ateliers across the world — known for creating its famous totes — have received new headquarters. All but two were opened up to the public in August.
“Chanel is known for its craftsmanship and designing craftsmanship, which make up a key part of the brand,” says Thomas Bromme, Chanel’s Director of Public Relations. “We are in a position to communicate the importance of the creativity within us.”
Chanel’s Museum in Lausanne, Switzerland. Credit: Courtesy Chanel
In Switzerland, Chanel opened the doors of its Centre d’art Amisian , in the picturesque Lausanne suburb of Lausanne. Designed by the design firm dRMM, the museum is home to the Chanel atelier of schoolboy poet Etienne Domergue, whose 1961 poem inspired the Chanel Oyster Duffle.
In India, Chanel’s Chinti and Nargis Art atelier was re-designed by Dutch architecture firm Studio Andersen Bürgenberger, taking inspiration from the Chinti Dasika chitlars used in the original design of the house. The renovated workshop, filled with hand-crafted works, shows the influence Chanel has had on Indian art.
“Our presence in India is significant because it reflects the so-called ‘balancing hand’ of Indian art and crafts,” says Hiranandani Mahila Foundation chairman and chief executive M.G. Patel. “We have seen how other world famous brands, such as Burberry, Nike and Bottega Veneta, have profited from the cultural importance of the Indian handicraft and art. We are delighted to see Chanel choose to be a part of the future of our country.”
In China, the Chanel atelier of train master master-collarmaker Deng Liqin was renovated. Although Deng trained at the state-owned China Railway Academy in 1964, he later went to work for his family in the field of schoolgirl makeup, which makes up a strong part of his repertoire.
Chanel’s Museum in Italy. Credit: Courtesy Chanel
In Antwerp, Belgium, the Chanel atelier of shoemaker and workshop master Elbe Vanlaces was redone by the famed Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas’ OMA team. The concept of the Chanel Museum of ‘Craft was also reiterated, drawing upon original design and construction details by Koolhaas as well as French sculptor Henri Bataille.
“The 19th century French couturier Gabrielle Chanel was well aware of the importance of craftsmanship,” says Bromme. “And that’s really why we have worked on these workshops in order to put up a very strong design and craftsmanship presence.”