Known for classic couture like "the little black dress" and famed fragrance Chanel No. 5, Chanel has been a haute name in fashion and cosmetics for decades. The company also creates watches and jewelry and has a single license -- for eyewear with Luxottica. Founder Gabrielle "Coco" Chanel opened her first boutique in 1913, touting designs known for simplicity. After Coco died in 1971, Chanel's style stagnated for years until Karl Lagerfeld took over the designs and revived the label by tapping a younger market. The company boasts more than 100 boutiques worldwide. Controlled by chairman Alain Wertheimer's family, Chanel also owns lingerie and swimwear brand Eres and manages seven ateliers through Paraffection.
Chanel is headquartered in Neuilly-sur-Seine, in the Île-de-France region just outside of Paris. The company sells its products across Europe, North America, Central and South America, Asia, the Middle East, and Oceania.
Chanel SA's affiliate companies include Chanel Inc. (US), Chanel K.K. (Japan), Chanel Hong Kong, Eres, Paraffection, and others. Chanel enlists the help of eyewear behemoth Luxottica to make its name-brand sunglasses.
Sales and Marketing
Chanel sells its luxury goods worldwide through more than 100 boutiques. Besides boutiques, Chanel sells its beauty products through department stores and specialty stores, as well as online.
The label positions itself in the top end of the luxury segment. It's speculated that its perfume and cosmetics sales, particularly its No. 5 scent, represents about 55% of its revenue and is Chanel's biggest business.
Recognized for its elegant style and superior quality, Chanel has been ensuring the reputation of its noteworthy name through its Paraffection division. The artisans division consists of gold and silversmith Robert Goossens (which created Coco Chanel's popular Byzantine-style crosses), milliner A. Michel, button maker Desrues, fabric flower artisan Maison Guillet, ornamental feather designer Lemarie, embroiderer Lesage, and shoemaker Massaro. In addition to supplying Chanel, the artisans provide their design services and handmade goods to other design firms and wealthy individuals, which have included the late Elizabeth Taylor, the Kennedy family, and the Duchess of Windsor.
In recent years Chanel has worked to elevate its profile in the US, especially New York City. In The Empire State, the company unveiled three new shops at the Saks Fifth Avenue flagship, a new shop at Bergdorf Goodman, a revamped accessory and beauty space at Bloomingdale's, and a redesigned store in SoHo. In San Francisco it completed an overhaul of its boutique off Union Square.
Luxury brands like Chanel were believed to be insulated from the negative effects of the economy because of their established base of wealthy customers and growing popularity in China, Russia, and other emerging markets. Despite its commitment to quality, even the House of Chanel has felt the strain of the global economic downturn. To ride it out, the company in 2009 laid off about 200 of its fixed-term and temporary contract workers in Paris as demand for its luxury items declined.