DEBATE: Was it inappropriate for Chanel to splash the couture cash?

25 January 2012

Models walk the runway during the Chanel Haute-Couture Spring / Summer 2012 Show as part of Paris Fashion Week at Grand Palais on January 24, 2012 in Paris, France.

Oh, the Puritans were out in force this morning as we made our way across the gravel path to the entrance of the Chanel Couture show in the Grand Palais. There were two shows: one at 10am and ours, which was at 12. As we arrived, word was out that Chanel had built the fuselage of a luxury jumbo jet inside the cavernous space (quite appropriate really given that the huge space was originally built as a show space for France’s aeronautical industry). ‘Tsk tsk’, they said. ‘Spending all this money in this economy. It’s disGUSTting!'

Le tout Paree is divided on the issue.  When the European and American economy teeters on the brink of meltdown, some think it is downright unseemly for anyone to be splashing the cash around. I happen to take the view that if you have the cash it’s unseemly NOT to splash it around.

Increases of luxury goods sales increases are spiking with many companies reporting ‘outstanding’ figures last year. Chanel is a private company and so doesn’t have to report sales figures, but by all accounts are leading the luxury pack into booming new markets of China, India and Brazil. Why should the rest of the world get a season of sackcloth and ashes just because we are having a tough time? We shouldn’t take the ball away just because we can’t afford to play at the moment.

Many new markets are for the first time experiencing the inexplicable thrill of a new Chanel nail colour (let alone the gilded few who get to buy couture each season) and they relish the razzamatazz. Take it from me, my Twitter feedback suggests that many at home in rainy grey Britain relish the razzamatazz too: no one has been begging for less. All are asking for more. And as for those visiting editors and buyers from the all important new markets: I reckon no one comes half way around the world in search of  understatement at the Paris couture.

I admit I know nothing about economics. But surely a company that re-invests their increased profits; boosts domestic and foreign sales; makes dynamic eye catching statements; secures the employment of thousands of people around the world; protects and supports dying crafts; increases European exports; attracts tourism; burnishes the European image abroad, by showing  that there are things at which we can’t be bettered, and gives us something to smile about, is doing a good thing.

Calvinists, go back to your cave and sit on your bed of nails.  Back in the depressed 1930’s, people found escapism in Busby Berkeley movies. For 21th century depression, I prescribe regular doses of pure gorgeousness at Chanel and the Paris couture.  Does the trick for me.

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