Monday, 12 April 2010

Buying Chanel in Rue Cambon

One of the nicest ways to spend a day is in helping somebody else to spend money, so they say. And I think it may well be true, having done so in Paris a couple of days ago with a friend who asked me to take her to the holy-of-holies, the Chanel boutique at 31 rue Cambon. Mission: to help her choose a classic Chanel suit, something she has wanted for a long time.

As we popped out of the French end of the Channel Tunnel, the conversation turned to Chanel - and likely prices. My friend had decided on couture. A quick call to the London Chanel office and she thought of couture no more! The basic, standard cost of a couture Chanel suit is apparently around £30,000. 'It can go up much higher, of course, depending on the embroidery', the voice at the other end of the line cooed emolliently. So my friend, a businesswoman and highly pragmatic, did a quick bit of refocusing.

We arrived at the shop – all cream carpet, chrome and mirrors, with black-suited guards placed at strategic points – browsed the racks and at the exactly appropriate psychological moment when we had established our right to be in such grand surroundings, at least to our own satisfaction, a vendeuse glided up as if by magic. She had probably been watching us on closed circuit TV, deciding whether or not we were the real deal or just time-wasting browsers. Although my friend looked very elegant and even soignee, I am sure my beloved old duffel coat and cords probably threw the watchers a bit. But not for long.

As gently and unobtrusively as Mother Teresa, we were taken in hand and gently prepared for the kill. It felt a little bit like a Wagyu steer being massaged with beer to soften it up ready to be a Kobe steak: nice at the time but deadly in the end. My fiend is half my age, so the vendeuse (calling her a saleswoman would be as inappropriate as referring to Jensen Button as a guy who likes driving) assumed that it would be my credit card and included me in everything. Of course, I was slowly – and oh, so gently – cast adrift as 'not wanted on voyage' as it became apparent where the financial power actually lay.

Ninety minutes later, we were drinking a glass of champagne (on the house) whilst my friend's credit card was being processed for a bill just slightly over £10,000. For that giddy sum she had bought a Chanel tweed suit (not couture), a black Chanel jacket and a Chanel tweed sleeveless dress. All of them were classics … as were the black shopping bags. The stiff black Chanel version carries not only one of the world's most prestigious names but, at this level, is actually decorated with a famous white Chanel gardenia.

Over lunch, we agreed that we had not been shopping but, rather, performing in a one-act play in which we were briefly the stars, the vendeuse the director, and the author none other than Mademoiselle Coco herself. And there were at least six other plays being performed around us at the same time. No wonder they don't give discounts – as if anybody would dare to ask!


  1. Ah, how wonderfully depicted! I can see you in my mind's eye like dancers performing an exquisite pas de trois. How delightful that clothes shopping can be like this.

  2. Oh the sheer unadulterated bliss of such an afternoon! Your friend is a lucky woman and I hope some day soon I shall be equally lucky!

  3. Thank you for such a wonderful depiction! When I win the Lottery, I will definitely shop there.