What would Coco think?PARK HAE-RI
The author is a political and international planning team reporter of the JoongAng Ilbo.
Gabrielle Chanel was born to a poor family in France in 1883. She was sent to a convent at the age of 12 and learned sewing there for seven years. The black and white combination of the nun habits and the stained glass inspired her taste and design, says French biographer Henry Gidel in his book "Coco Chanel."
Chanel was once a singer, and in 1913, she opened her boutique. At the height of World War I, women's labor was in demand, and simple design was becoming popular over ornate decorations. Chanel used light jersey fabric mostly used for menswear and presented two-piece suits. She showcased comfortable cardigans and dresses, deviating from the corsets and heavy underskirts in the 1920s. Chanel's pragmatism is considered the key to her success, along with the marketing targeting the high class.
In 1977, Gabrielle Chanel passed away, and Karl Lagerfeld joined in 1983, continuing the brand's fame. Lagerfeld came up with the CC logo, now a symbol of Chanel. Lagerfeld reinterpreted existing vintage bags and designed the classic flap bag, which is considered the signature of the brand and is still hugely popular.
Koreans seem to have a special love for Chanel. There are less than 10 stores in the country, and customers line up before they open. The "open run" is a rare scene in other countries, customers run to the store as soon as it opens. There is no guarantee that they will buy the products they want, because it is uncertain when the inventory is coming in. Customers wait in front of the department store early in the morning until they buy what they want. As not many products come in stock, the earlier you stand in line, the higher the chance of buying.
Last year, Chanel Korea's operational profit was 149.1 billion won ($132 million), up 34.4 percent in a year. As of 2019, Chanel's global revenue is $12.27 billion, and Korea makes up about 8 percent.
One in ten Chanel bags are purchased by a Korean. On July 1, prices of major Chanel products are expected to rise by 12 percent, and the waiting lines are getting even longer.
Chanel challenged ornate and uncomfortable fashion and pursued practicality and comfort. What would Gabrielle Chanel think when she sees Korean customers swallowing all this inconvenience to buy a Chanel bag?