Chanel - Growth Journey of The Centenarian Luxury Fashion Brand

Bharath Bharath
Jun 12, 2022 8 min read
Chanel - Growth Journey of The Centenarian Luxury Fashion Brand

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The growing appetite for the fashion industry has never settled since the late 1800s. Reports claim that it was the time when the seeds for fashion shows and other fashion events were sowed. Despite all the hardships that unfolded during the early and mid-1900s, the fashion industry continued its uphill path. The industry today is valued at $3 trillion and accounts for 2% of global GDP.

Chanel is one such luxury fashion company that was established over 100 years ago. Started as a small millinery shop by a fashion designer in 1909, Chanel today has expanded its operation worldwide and has over 20,000 employees. This article covers the success story of Chanel, its founders, competitors and every aspect of this establishment.

Chanel - Company Highlights

Company Name Chanel
Headquarters London, United Kingdom
Industry Fashion
Founder Coco Chanel
Founded 1910
CEO Leena Nair (Global)
Website chanel.com

Chanel - About
Chanel - Founders and Team
Chanel - Startup Story
Chanel - Mission and Vision
Chanel - Name and Logo
Chanel - Challenges Faced
Chanel - Acquisitions & Investments
Chanel - Growth
Chanel - Competitors
Chanel - Future Plans

Chanel Success Story

Chanel - About

Chanel is a luxury fashion brand that was founded by Coco Chanel in 1910. The company was based in France, whereinafter 110 years, the board has decided to shift their global headquarters to London. Chanel deals with luxury clothes, jewelry, perfumes and other fashion goods. This luxury brand mostly focuses on women’s outfits and accessories.

Chanel serves as a trend-setter in the fashion industry. Coco Chanel, as a fashion designer and a businesswoman, made sure that the elegance of her brand never fades despite world wars and geographical and environmental barriers. Besides the outfits, Chanel is known for its wine, watches, perfumes and skincare products too. The company today operates over 310 boutiques worldwide that are located in opulent communities like airports, extravagant stores, high streets, etc.

Chanel - Founders and Team

Founder of Chanel - Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel

Chanel remains a privately held company owned by the grandsons of Pierre Wertheimer, who was a business partner with Coco Chanel. Here are the founder and other key people associated with Chanel:

Gabrielle Chanel (Coco Chanel)

Gabrielle Chanel was the founder of the luxury brand ‘Chanel’. ‘Coco’ was a nickname given to her during her time as a songstress. She was orphaned at a young age. Facing the world on her own since childhood gave her confidence and strength. Coco Chanel’s qualifications as a fashion designer and daring nature aspired her as a successful businesswoman.

Pierre Wertheimer

In 1924, Pierre Wertheimer joined hands with Coco Chanel as a business partner for 70% shares in the company. The agreement was that Wertheimer should finance the production and distribution of Chanel’s perfumes. Another person named Theophile Bader was given 20% shares for marketing the same in his departmental stores. Later, Coco Chanel had some disagreements with them and happened to file a lawsuit against Wertheimer. She lost complete control of the company to Wertheimers in 1954.

Alain Wertheimer and Gerard Wertheimer

Alain and Gerard are currently the co-owners of Chanel. Alain serves as the chairman of Chanel and Gerard heads the division of Watch. They are the grandsons of Pierre Wertheimer.

Leena Nair

Leena Nair is the Global CEO of the brand Chanel. She was appointed to this new role in January 2022. Leena Nair has earlier been a part of Unilever as its Chief Human Resource Officer. She is an Indian and was born and brought up in Kolhapur, Maharashtra.


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Chanel - Startup Story

The story of Chanel began in 1910 when its founder Coco Chanel opened a hat store named ‘Chanel Modes’ in a flat in Paris. Etienne Balsan, who was a friend of Coco, helped her with his bachelor's apartment. Arthur “Boy” Capel, the lover of Coco Chanel, funded her early business. He helped Coco to set up her own stores in Paris. This also helped her to expand the business from only hats to sportswear and other outfits for women. As the business started to grow Coco Chanel kept increasing the outlets and widened her focus on other products like perfumes and jewelry. Her love affairs and loyal friendships helped her succeed in her early stages of Chanel.

Chanel - Mission and Vision

Chanel has a mission “To be the Ultimate House of Luxury, defining style and creating desire, now and forever”. The company stood to its mission right from its inception. It created new styles and never compromised with its grandeur and opulence.

The vision of Chanel is to give worldly experience to the customers through its products that remain timeless. The wearer should enjoy a quality product with utmost comfort is the primary vision of the company.

Chanel logo
Chanel logo

The name of the elegant brand ‘Chanel’ is derived from the founder’s name Coco Chanel. The logo of the company consists of two ‘C’s interlocking each other. This logo was designed by Coco Chanel herself in 1925. There are a couple of reasons being circulated for those two Cs. One reason unfolds is that the Cs stand for the name of its creator Coco Chanel. Another claims that one C represents Coco Chanel and the other stands for Capel (Arthur “Boy” Capel).

Chanel - Challenges Faced

As a century-old company, Chanel has faced numerous challenges throughout its journey. Within just four years of seeding the company and one year since it started sprouting, the First World War started. WW1 caused a huge difference in fashion, demand for clothes and scarcity of fabrics and employees. Even the manufacturing units were struck in warzones. This was the major setback faced initially by the company.

The next challenge arose during the Second World War. Chanel happened to close the doors of its outlets in 1939 following the war outbreak. The doors of Chanel remained closed for years. When she came back into the business in 1954, Coco Chanel and the company had lost their reputation due to her rumoured involvement in the war with Nazis. Also, it was challenging to cope with new generation designers which she eventually did in her 70s.

The death of Karl Lagerfeld, who was the creative director at Chanel since 1983, created a huge gap in the company’s creative department. His contribution to Chanel was priceless.

The Covid outbreak stumbled Chanel’s business to a great extent in 2020. The CFO of the company said that the Covid impact on the luxury fashion sector could last up to 2 years and the recovery might take some time.

Chanel - Acquisitions & Investments

Chanel has made several investments and acquisitions over the years. Here is the list of those companies that Chanel has invested in:

Company Name Date of Acquisition/Investment Investment Round Amount
Arcaea Oct 27, 2021 Series A $78 Million
P2 Science Jan 29, 202 Series C $12 Million
Sulapac Dec 11, 2019 Venture Round €15 Million
Evolved By Nature Jun 12, 2019 Corporate Round -
Sulapac Dec 7, 2018 Funding Round -
Samanta Jul 11, 2019 Acquisition -
Orlebar Brown Sep 30, 2018 Acquisition -
Colomer Leather Group Aug 31, 2018 Acquisition -

Other than the above companies Chanel has acquired a 40% stake in Renato Corti and Mabi. Mabi is a high-end handbag manufacturer and Renato Corti is involved in the leather business. A 34% stake was procured in the lingerie and swimwear manufacturer Grandis. The overall investment had cost $169 Million for Chanel. The company also took over the majority stake in the Italian knitwear company Paima for an undisclosed amount.

Chanel - Growth

The growth of Chanel has been consistent and extraordinary. Despite all the hardships, like World Wars, the loss of its founder, the death of the creative director and many more, Chanel kept marching forward by enhancing its existing division and introducing new ones.

Starting an outlet in an apartment with the help of a friend in 1910, Coco Chanel opened an independent store in 1913. The hat business was extended to sportswear. The number of stores increased along with their product varieties. In 1920, Chanel started the stylish haute couture style of dressmaking. The year 1924 saw the introduction of Chanel’s costume jewelry and signature cardigan jackets followed by the popular Little Black Dress in 1926.

After a setback during WW2, Chanel came back strong with the introduction of gemstone jewelry and iconic handbags in 1954 and 1955 respectively. After Coco Chanel died in 1971, the company lacked a potential creator and designer. But in 1983, with the addition of Karl Lagerfeld, the Godfather of Fashion, Chanel’s innovation and growth were on an uphill phase. By 1990, Chanel became a popular global luxury fashion brand and still continues to be.


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Chanel - Competitors

The following are some of the competitors of Chanel:

Gucci

Gucci is an Italian luxury fashion brand founded by Guccio Gucci in 1921. It is one of the top competitors of Chanel. Gucci’s products and services have excellent quality and finish that has a great reception among customers. Though Gucci is 11 years younger than Chanel, they both almost stand beside each other in the competition.

Louis Vuitton

Louis Vuitton, popularly known as LVMH, is another French luxury brand similar to Chanel. It was established in 1854 and is one of the leading fashion brands in the world. Louis Vuitton manufactures products for both men and women. The company has set benchmarks for the design and quality in the industry.

Prada

Prada was established in 1913 and is known for its leather products and travel and fashion accessories. The company markets its products through its 618 outlets spread across the world and also online. Prada is known for its quality, color and fabrics.

L’Oreal

L’Oreal is just a year older than Chanel and was incorporated in France. It is one of the largest cosmetics companies in the world. L’Oreal competes with Chanel through its perfumes and skincare products.

Chanel - Future Plans

Chanel is working towards giving its share of contribution against climate change. The chairman of the company. Alain Wertheimer said that the company is shifting plans to go green and use 100% renewable resources in their production by 2025. They have a strategy planned for this and named it Mission 1.5°.

Chanel has launched a program named ‘Chanel Culture Fund’ to encourage and support creators and artists across the world. This fund is supposed to help organizations and partnerships to conduct programs that promote culture and society. Chanel believes that this program will help them develop international partnerships, which in turn benefits their business.

FAQs

Who is the founder of Chanel?

Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel is the founder of Chanel.

What business is Chanel involved in?

Chanel is a luxury fashion company that produces and sells ready-to-wear women's clothes, perfumes, watches and skincare products.

Who is the CEO of Chanel?

Leena Nair has been appointed as the global CEO of Chanel in January 2022.

Who are the competitors of Chanel?

Some of the top competitors of Chanel are:

  • Gucci
  • L’Oreal
  • Louis Vuitton
  • Prada

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