Chanel 5 Euro Coin issued 2008 held by Karl Lagerfeld
The solid gold version was ltd ed and priced 5900
Is it a new world order or is Chanel simply trying to cut out the 'middle men' known more commonly 'resellers' that buy in Europe and resell in Asia with a profit to them in between? I am not going to try to explain Chanel's decision (although many commentators have tried) I promise I won't do my usual history lesson of the development and cultural analysis of these iconic pieces because that would fill a book, and I'm certainly not going to rant about the unfairness of it all (not exactly talking the need to access fresh water here). I will give you quick run through of how the rare and almost sanctified classic Chanel bag began to look ubiquitous on the streets of Asia and beyond, even in schools.
There was a time that a select few exceedingly discerning ladies of a certain age would take the plunge and 'invest' in a once in a lifetime purchase at a Chanel boutique. Then came a select collective of hip and happening young ladies, rediscovering their mothers', even grandmothers' bags would toss them over jeans, shorts or minis in a cool nonchalant way. The irreverence of treating such a formal artefact so casually part of the charm (and I'm sure very much in the spirit of a young Coco Chanel too). An army of slightly less creative types picked up this trend with (quelle horreur!) brand new bags in ever increasing (and even younger) numbers. Then the fakes. Then the super fakes. Then the on-line swapsies (selling one to buy another). Then the designer quilted looky-likey bags. Then the high-street copies. Then the realisation that nearly every little 8 year old has a bubble-gum pink, fake, quilted Hello Kitty bag with a shoulder chain.
There are obviously quite a few factors that are rubbing, one against another. In previous years Chanel have put up its prices, ostensibly for a way of maintaining these bags' exclusivity. From 2008 many of these pieces have approximately doubled at retail, classic perennials such as Classic Flaps, Reissue quilted shoulder bags and the newer but equally popular Boy bags are now priced out of reach of even most the middle-class, professional lunching ladies, the very market that had bought Chanel's cherished prizes when they were considered too bourgeois and old fashioned for the fashion crowd. Conversely, the company has slashed the traditionally comparatively much higher Asian market prices to tackle the profiteers.
Strange to think that Chanel that talks of valuing exclusivity so highly, hiking European prices by as much as 20% recently on top of the eye-watering increases year upon year. Though the caché of the 'Frenchness' of the brand (though many leather goods are made in Italy too) is most appealing to the Asian and American market, it will be a very loyal or mega-rich European customer than will consider a Chanel classic bag purchase in the future, whist still no bargain, with tax rebates and a holiday thrown in a non-European can enjoy a little sweetener buying in Europe.