Everyone possesses a favorite memory when it comes to Chanel, a testament to the strength of the iconography of the legendary French house. That idea was certainly true among the Hollywood stars who turned up on the evening of Feb. 7 for the debut of Chanel’s first U.S. boutique dedicated to fine jewelry and watches, located on New York’s Fifth Avenue in Midtown’s landmark 1921 Crown Building.
Carey Mulligan was among the actresses who did not hesitate when asked which signature element of the brand might be a favorite. “Chanel No. 5, because it’s been my mother’s fragrance for as long as I can remember,” she explained to The Hollywood Reporter on the red carpet. “Until this day, the smell of that scent is: that’s my mum going out to dinner, or that’s my mum going to work. Everything about it reminds me of her, in the best way.”
For Kerry Washington, who paired a strapless Chanel white cotton tweed dress with a statement necklace of pink gold and diamonds from the house’s Tweed de Chanel high-jewelry collection, another iconic jewel leaped to mind. “Pearls, I always think of pearls,” she told THR. “I love pearls, and I love that Chanel has always, generation after generation, found a way to make pearls cool. Also, every time I see a pearl, I’m reminded that it started with an irritant and became something beautiful, and that’s an important life lesson.”
With pearls, gold and diamonds in abundant display throughout the new two-story boutique, “jewel box” is a fitting description in a variety of ways. Conceptualized by architect and interior designer Peter Marino, the man behind many of Chanel’s luxe spaces, the 3,300-square-foot boutique reflects his desire to craft an opulent, tactile space in a palette primarily of gold and black.
“I’ve done a lot of jewelry stores in my life, and diamond dealers tend to like pale gray or silver, but for this store, I wanted the walls to be ultra-luxurious,” Marino noted to THR at the dinner in a nearby private event space, which followed a cocktail party in the boutique. “Everything is tactile and gold and special; even the carpets are three-dimensional, a mixture of silk and wool, while the stucco texture on walls was made with people’s hands — including my own, you’ll find that in the elevator.”
Other attendees included Rachel Brosnahan, Michelle Williams, America Ferrera and Seth Meyers and his wife, Alexi Ashe. Maestro co-star Mulligan was among those who marveled at the boutique’s design.
“It feels so timeless in a way, like a room you could’ve walked into in the 1940s or ’50s,” said Mulligan, adding that Chanel indeed designed one of the suits she wears in the Oscar-nominated film. “Felicia wore Chanel in her life, and they made the suit I wear in the scene in Central Park, so that’s a lovely tie-in.”
Marino said he was inspired by Chanel iconography, while also taking his cue from Coco Chanel’s famed apartment atop the house’s flagship Paris boutique at 31 rue Cambon. “Chanel had one of those amazing personalities that continues to resonate,” he said. “She grew up in a convent, and her aesthetic, with white walls and windows thinly framed in black, was so ahead of its time. Yet in her apartment, she collected ornate Venetian mirrors. She once noted, ‘Ultra-modern and ultra-baroque, with nothing in between,’ and that’s very me as well.”
A tour through the retail and VIP spaces echoed that idea, from the black and gold lacquer paneling at the entrance to the gilded walls in the gallery and the Coromandel screens, pieces Chanel was known for personally collecting, in the upstairs private-client salons. Marino also gathered artworks from five women and five men, including Chanel, Pictures of Diamonds, a 2004 commissioned work by the Brazilian artist and photographer Vik Muniz.
Marino said another priority was to reflect the handwork of Chanel’s maison d’arts, the craft-specific ateliers the house began purchasing in the 1980s to ensure their continuing health. That’s among the reasons the space features spectacular rock-crystal chandeliers and stairway balustrades crafted of rock crystal framed in 24-karat gold, both by Parisian goldsmith Goossens, which boasts a history of crafting Chanel costume jewels. Several fabric-covered walls, meanwhile, highlight hand embroideries by Lesage, which lends its intricate needlework to haute couture for Chanel and other houses. “One-hundred percent; it’s all about using your hands,” Marino said when asked about sourcing these details from the maison d’arts.
The choice of placing the boutique on Fifth Avenue is also no accident, indeed reflecting the house’s desire to pay homage to that all-important numeral in its history. The boutique is intended to not only showcase Chanel’s fine jewelry and timepieces, but high-jewelry designs as well, and on this opening night, there was no piece that drew more eager examination than the 55.55 masterpiece necklace (pictured below), crafted as part of a 2021 collection that honored the 100th anniversary of the scent. This showstopper of the No. 5 high-jewelry collection by Patrice Leguéreau, director of Chanel’s fine jewelry design studio, features at its center a D-flawless emerald-cut diamond — cut to mimic a Chanel No. 5 bottle stopper — that weighs 55.55 carats, surrounded by a cascade of 146 diamonds in different cuts.
“Elegance, just elegance,” pronounced Taylour Paige, who also noted that she had an affinity for the brand’s numeric symbol due to her birthday. “I was born on Oct. 5, so the number means a lot to me, and I feel like Chanel and me, we would have been tight.” (Asked about upcoming projects, Paige mentioned the highly anticipated summer release of Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F. “I made him laugh, so I’ll just leave it there,” she said regarding working with Eddie Murphy. “I made him laugh a lot.”)
Natasha Lyonne likewise joked that her connection to the number 5 felt like she was giving a numerology lecture on the red carpet. Instead, she also felt a certain kinship with the house’s founder and another influential woman of 1930s fashion. “I love Chanel, but I also love Elsa Schiaparelli,” said Lyonne, who has worn the latter house’s designs on recent red carpets. “These two ladies were so ahead of their time and just running around Paris as radical human beings. You have to respect that.”
Zazie Beetz agreed. “For the time that [Coco Chanel] came into this world, to be a businesswoman and in pursuit of her own creativity and ideas, that was just so powerful and trailblazing and continues to be so iconic,” she told THR. “I work a lot with Chanel’s Through Her Lens program [for women filmmakers], and I feel like doing that is a continuation of how they’ve carried on her ideas. You’re not a doctor, you’re not a scientist, you’re an artist, which really is the most telling part of the human soul.”
Prior to the dinner and a surprise concert by Grammy best new artist nominee Gracie Abrams, a tour of the new boutique only reinforced those ideas, Beetz added. “I was expecting something small and petite, but in many ways, it was grand and beautiful,” she said. “And it felt like a museum, as though you could walk around and appreciate gorgeous, delicate jewels, as well as the history behind them.”
Located at 730 Fifth Avenue, the boutique officially opens to the public on Friday, Feb. 9.