Chanel ambassadors Tilda Swinton, Pharrell Williams and more descend on Bangkok
The Thai capital, also called the Venice of the East, is Chanel’s new essential port of call.
Chanel showed a replica of its Cruise 2018-19 Collection in Bangkok along the famed Chao Phraya river last Wednesday. The show was first staged in Paris earlier in May.
Unlike the show in Paris, there was no sight of the massive La Pausa liner in the backdrop, yet the nautical theme was palpable all the same. Guests were ferried from the pier in traditional sail boats, taken on a cruise along the charming Chao Phraya river and dropped off at Pier No 5, where a once abandoned warehouse was transformed to resemble the deck of a cruise liner.
A jaunty pastel parade of cotton, silks and tweeds was presented to Thai elite such as director Apichatpong Weerasethakul, actresses-models Aokbab and Linn Mashannoud, actors Nittha Jirayungyurn and Anne Thongprasom, and HRH Princess Sirivannavari Nariratana, who sat on deck chairs across from Chanel ambassadors Tilda Swinton, Pharrell Williams, Lily-Rose Depp, Soo Joo Park and Caroline de Maigret.
The collection playfully flirted with Gabrielle Chanel's personal favourites such as the two-piece, layered costume jewellery and the old-school pairing of hosiery and Mary Janes, albeit with a forward-looking slant.
The occasion was as much a celebration of the destination of Bangkok as it was the cruise origins pioneered by Gabrielle Chanel. To be by the water, what more at an address as prestigious as the famed Chao Phraya river, made perfect sense.
The decision to stage the show in Bangkok involved a little more than that, though. “The Thai customer is among our top 10 nationalities in the world,” said Chanel’s president of global fashion Bruno Pavlovsky. A fashion forward set, affluent Thais naturally gravitate towards the brand like bees to honey.
Chanel opened its first boutique in Bangkok, an accessories-only store, in 1997. Business flourished organically; after all, the sought-after 2.55 and Boy bags needed little persuasion to fly off the shelves. Since then, three other full fledged stores have opened. Yet, sales are still predominately from the accessories category.
On the Thai retail scene, Pavlovsky said, “It is difficult to establish a real connection and to educate about the brand through accessories alone.” Every Chanel fan worth her interlocking Cs know that the starting point to every seasonal Chanel story comes from its ready-to-wear lineup. Understanding and identifying with the brand begins with forging a strong connection with ready-to-wear.
The cruise collection, for example, was centered around the theme of cruise ship travel. Creative honcho Karl Lagerfeld proffered a day-to-night wardrobe made up of cruiseliner-printed suits and smocked cotton dresses for day, tweed and terrycloth separates for lounging and Metiers d’Art-worthy numbers for night.
While accessories remain the primary business in Thailand, the annual cruise collection has consistently performed well in the Thai market, largely to due to the fact that the lightweight fabrics and fluid silhouettes are a godsend for the tropical climate.
With even the Thai princess giving a nod to Chanel’s strategic move of winning the Thai people over with ready-to-wear, it won’t be long before the French house’s signature tweed takes over as the national style costume of choice. Till then, Chanel can sabai sabai.
The show may be over but the message remains loud and clear – Bangkok is clearly an essential port of call for the juggernaut.