So if you have been seeing a lot of 'Chanel' buzzing about the blogosphere, that isn't a just a happy coincidence. I'm sure a number of bloggers out there received an email from Chanel inviting them to Paris for a weekend, to discover the 'history and iconic places of Chanel'. I'm also sure that a lot of bloggers thought this was a complete hoax and that they had just been spammed. Well, working in digital marketing, I know spam when I see it and this appeared to be the real deal so in a rather overly-excited manner, I popped my details over to confirm that yes, I would be delighted to accept Chanel's invitation (sending a rejection back would be rather insane, non?) and come to Paris on the 7th and 8th of September.
The jaunt to Paris last weekend that I mentioned was therefore courtesy of Chanel. I'll be transparent and say that this is the first time any high fashion brand like this has reached out to bloggers/internet in this way and even as I'm typing this, it sounds like I'm a liar liar pants on fire. 15 bloggers were shortlisted from a list of 100's and they were selected for the quality of their posts, the blog's aesthetic as well as the usual traffic/comment stuff. This is an age old French brand who are moving forward with the times not just in their presence online (their websites, viral activity and multimedia footage) but by connecting with the people who start that dialogue online. The same open mindedness that Coco Chanel adopted, in liberating women with her then-outrageous jersey dresses, is applied to this 'Internet Event'. In all honesty, to be considered a 'significant voice' within the blogging community is a weird concept to me. I am ONE voice amongst many and far from being a voice of 'authority', I feel like I spout things off without any real consequence or influence...
It does go without saying that I am fascinated by Coco Chanel's life. It's not the things that she designed and created that amazed me but the circumstances in which she rose from being a courtesan to a celebrated designer. I seem to love absorbing her life whether through biographies or the pending films (apparently there are over 20 Coco Chanel-related film projects in various stages of production...).
So back to the blogs selected.... a true variety of the fashion/beauty/style blogosphere I think.... I was there waving my tattered Union Jack flag....
Jamie from Fabsugar/US (more a super gigantic site than a blog....)
Ann from Blogdorf Goodman/US (lovely and beautiful in person...)
Ami and Seth from Cool Hunting/US (the site does exactly what it says on the tin... excellent cool stuff...)
Jean from Notcot/US (the blog trumps all in terms of aesthetics)
Valeriya from Fashion Addict Diary/US (This girl just exudes coolness and model-like nochalence... her blog was one of the first I got hooked onto...)
The people who came from far far away..
Foo from The Clothes Project/Singapore (showing me a new side to Singapore Style)
Betsy from Fashion is Spinach (best blog name ever don't you think? Betsy is really fab in person too.)
The lone ranger....
Adrian from Fashion Verbatim/Canada (like me, he was waving the Canadian flag. Super cool guy who bears a striking resemblance to a young Yves Saint Laurent...I gabbed with him non-stop about what else but fashion..)
Geraldine from Cafe Mode/France (ack...what French fashion-obsessive doesn't read this blog? Always nice to see her...her Chanel report is already up!)
Deedee from Deedee Paris/France (the life of a Parisian is what her blog is about)
Brian from Blographic/France (another super site reporting all things cool... wise beyond his years as he's only 21!)
Julia from Eslux/Spain (a blog I hadn't encountered before that I have to check out and blogroll...)
Mary from Stil in Berlin/Germany (been a fan of Stil in Berlin for ages so it was lovely to meet Mary...)
Then finally me...Susie Bubble/UK... 'sticking' 'out' 'sore' 'thumb' much? Doesn't my name look funny on a CC badge (which had a very nice gummy bear texture...)
I must stress that there was no obligation to do blog reportage but for me along with most of the bloggers I think, it would have been criminal not to blog about the wonderful experiences we had. It started off with a visit to the Chanel perfume laboratories in Neuilly where we met legendary perfume Jacques Polge who has been the 'nose of Chanel' since 1978 and has created the Chanel greats such as 'Coco', 'Chance' and of course 'Coco Mademoiselle.'. Polge, along with Christopher Sheldrake, Polge's right hand man, guided us around the laboratory where I was knocked out by the scent of the root of an iris. I will let beauty bloggers like Blogdorf Goodman talk about the artistry of parfumerie seeing as I know nothing but it was fascinating to know that Chanel uses the biggest quantities of the jasmine flower in the world and that they have their own jasmine fields in Grasse... the different varities they showed us, probably because they were in a concentrated form, were very evocative.
Then came the slightly Blue Peter-esque portion of the visit. The process of 'baudruche' was demonstrated, which involves wrapping a rubber skin material (which I uncouthly pointed out felt like a condom... yes... see what I mean when I say sticking out like a sore thumb....) around the perfume flask to make an airtight stopper. Then they showed us how they imprinted the double CC logo onto a black wax seal on the bottle. My poor attempt at both procedures got the French Chanel ladies giggling... this is me concentrating super hard and basically being completely uncoordinated...
Afterwards we had lunch at the Ritz (as you do...). If you see where I'm coming from, I was enjoying myself in a somewhat 'This is so surreal...'state of mind. We then walked the route that Mlle. Chanel used to take from her rooms in the Ritz (where she stayed) to her shop on 31 rue Cambon. As it was very quiet, it might sound a little hokey and odd but as we were walking, the air was a little heavy as people spoke of the Chanel No.5 that used to be sprayed in that route before Mlle. Chanel did that walk.
(Shiny shiny Chanel girls from the New York office...)
What happened afterwards was the much-anticipated visit of the Rue Cambon premises and I know it was silly but gawp and gasp I did. It felt like an all-access pass as we descended that mirrored staircase.... and there I have to stop as unfortunately I can't reveal imagery/video footage of Coco Chanel's apartment until tomorrow....
So there will be a Part Deux.
It was onto the Chanel Jewellery store on Place Vendome where we looked at vintage lookbooks of Chanel's jewellery lines, sat on big grey couches watching the recent couture shows on a screen and Hortense Izoc very kindly talked us through Chanel's approach towards jewellery. Meanwhile, I was conscious that I was in physical contact with a gazillion diamonds on bracelets and necklaces, worth more than my year's salary and basically trying to not look like I was about to break it.
Please excuse all the gushing and the 'Wowee...that's super cool!' tone of this post but really what can I do but not be in awe of what was basically some kind of a fantasy school field trip. We were then whisked away to the Chanel headquarters in Neuilly where we were told we were about to meet Jacques Helleu.... and preview the new Coco Mademoiselle advert featuring Keira Knightley
Ok, there was definitely a mind warp going on. I was about to go into a room with the artistic director of Chanel? What? Why? How? Kaiser Karl may be the face you associate with Chanel but Helleu has devoted his whole life to Chanel, promoting Chanel from the age of 18, creating those ads, choosing those women - (Catherine Deneuve, Ines de Fressange, Kate Moss..and now Keira Knightley) and many Chanel employees haven't even seen him in the flesh...
No worries...sure let's just saunter in there, say hello and sit down. That is exactly what we did with 15 chairs, a black lacquer table with Mr Helleu sitting there wearing sunglasses with the blinds pulled down. We found a straight-talking no frills man who had he been speaking in his natural tongue of French, was probably hilarious too. We were then shown the 30, 45, 60 second versions of the advert, all directed by Joe Wright. I'll let you guys make up your minds when it is available to the public tomorrow but I found it quite a surprise and NOT what I was expecting at all. A slew of references to Coco's life in an ad that doesn't feel 'period-like' and without meaning to sound trite, they did make the absolute right choice with using Keira Knightley.
The day concluded with cocktails & canapes at Mini-Palais, a Paris restuarant hotspot located in a very imposing Grand Palais. Speaking to various Chanel people, I found them keen and excited about 'connecting with bloggers' and yes, still a little hesitant as to what it is we bloggers do but above all, willing to learn and see how their brand comes across when we write. Whilst I was there, I was feeling the surreal qualities of our itinerary too much but upon reflection, I can see what it is Chanel was trying to gain from such a novel event and appreciate that a bloggers' voice has some value to it. I'm hesitant to inflate what a blog does but it's perceptions from other people are changing.
Thank you Chanel for giving me the opportunity to be immersed in a designer's history that I've always been interested in but also thank you for being the first to recognise all those who produce blogs with 'dashed-off copy, blurry digital photos and zero knowledge' (H&M.... you should be ashamed of yourselves for printing such a thing in your magazine...).