A Store Is Born: Chanel

Before the re-opening of the Chanel boutique in San Francisco, rumors surfaced that Karl Lagerfeld himself would grace the city with his presence. The buzz only escalated with reports of alleged sightings. With all the leather bars in the area, who can be sure? But alas, no Karl, although we weren’t completely disappointed as architect and longtime Chanel collaborator Peter Marino did arrive—and in full leather regalia, like Al Pacino in Cruising. We’re not sure Mademoiselle would have approved, but then, she never did shy away from a butch look, and surely chaps and a leather cap are black-tie equivalents in the city by the bay.

Otherwise, the new boutique is the picture of Coco propriety, unfolding as a clever dialogue between the house’s blue-blood heritage and its hard-edged future. Coco versus Karl. Notable additions include hand-pleated silk panels backlit by LED screens, a new upstairs shoe salon, and what’s described as a “Hand Bag Bar” (perhaps one of Peter’s cheeky ideas), where clients can get cruisy with the latest reinvention of the quilted classic. In present company, the black patent leather and chain version couldn’t help but look a little sinister.

The fete spilled onto a tented-off Maiden Lane, with a temporary exhibition of Chanel couture gowns flown in for the occasion. San Francisco society turned out in hordes, but only a select few embraced the impromptu leather theme. We admit we would’ve loved to see the dapper mayor outfitted in a studded leather harness, but instead he was demurely accessorized with his blushing bride in equally blushing Chanel resort.

In a nod to pre-recession excess, The Misshapes were also flown in to provide a soundtrack to a largely oblivious crowd. Tucked into a corner, they may have looked a little bored, but seemed reasonably entertained by a groupie who was a dead ringer for Chuck Bass. Talk about life imitating art. Asked for her thoughts, Leigh Lezark effused, “I absolutely love Karl! He’s a genius! Everything he touches he transforms, from fashion to photography to art!” And impressions of San Francisco? She smiled demurely: “We do as we’re told.” We do love a bit of discipline.

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