Chanel and I – Chapter 1

When counting the blessings life offered me so far, I’m grateful to be able to count Chanel twice. People often ask me how I’ve made it possible, I’ve often heard them say:  » Everyone knows Chanel is inaccessible and hard to get in » or « You must be knowing someone, right? ». And it’s somehow true, as one of the oldest pioneer French luxurious brand, Chanel will always be sacralized as THE iconic fashion luxury house…

CHANEL AND I

I like to answer these questions saying that life gave me an unexpected encounter with Chanel a few years ago in a casual French restaurant. While christmas vibes were spreading happiness and positivity around us, I felt carried by this friendly Holiday atmosphere and simply started to chat with my desk’ neighbor who was dinning alone. This gentleman was kind, and smart, shining by both his personality and his elegant style. Our conversation started when I asked him details about his wonderful cufflinks. The man was surprised and amused by such a question and praised my eye for details and my sense of style. One thing leading to another, I’ve started to explain him how passionate I was about fashion and luxury, which were always my favorite art forms.

I told him how everyday’s fashion items crossing my daily path were able to (fairy)tell me fabulous stories, especially when these beautiful products are uniquely and luxuriously made. I told him how shapes, materials, stitching or designs seem fascintating to me when they were done with love and precision, how each of these precise elements are able to narrate me the story of a product, a design, or even the life story of the one who made it. I told him how brands like Chanel, Dior, Saint Laurent or Hermès were still breathing the oldness of their past time kissing our contemporary age. I told him how inspired and admirative I feel about people working for these fashion houses, committing their talents, creativity, and visionary spirits to create magic and quality while respecting the greatness of the name they are humbly working for.

Professionals working for these brands must use humility as a creative tool to respect, honor, and exalt the brand. Our conversation was pretty animated, and I almost forgot people around us (sorry mom and dad sitting next to me). I was somewhere else, dreaming and flying between Chanel bags, Dior shoes, Hermès Silk, Cartier Jewelry, and other wonders. Seriously guys, don’t start me talking about Fashion and Luxury if you expect a short conversation.

I ended up brought back to earth by my interlocutor himself when he suddenly handed me his business card. Kindly laughing at my surprised face, he told me:  “Chanel is mainly looking for people understanding and living for fashion. People like you. If you want to work for us, email me and I’ll help you”. It took me a few minutes to fully realize what was happening. But I somehow managed to thank him two hundreds times, smile more than I should have, cry (lol, just kidding), and somehow followed the end of a normal conversation for an extra ten minutes before he left after warmly exchanging a handshake with me and my family.

I was about to realize my dream. Just thanks to cufflinks !

After many emails, phone calls, and lunches with my new mentor, my application process for Chanel was on its way. Thanks to my mentor’s help and network, I’ve been finally hired at Chanel Sloane Street.  Also called (by only me, myself, and I) « The best Chanel Store in the Universe ». A day after celebrating my birthday, I flew to London for the first time, and the adventure was about to begin.

I’ll always remember my first day, or more precisely the morning wake up of my first day: I felt excited and anxious, but also surpisingly calm, like if everything was finally standing to reason. I was young, inexperienced, goofy, and about to start a dream-job which many people would have killed for… I had this incredible chance because someone believed in me enough to recommend me without requiring any further experience. In other words, I was under pressure.

Walking on Sloane St’ sidewalk from teenage years to adulthood, a petrified body in my petite robe noire, I finally timidly opened the doors to heaven…

And so my Chanel journey began

I’ve been warmly welcomed by an amazing team which I can call family now (love you guys! I know you’re reading). My new colleagues – which quickly became friends – naturally took me under their wings as their Chanel’s baby: I was officially niknamed The Little One... During this whole amazing experience, my Chanel family didn’t only train me… They literally put all of their efforts to give me the best experience one can’t even dream of. Indeed, they wanted me to discover and experience the best sides of their jobs frst, so they were always giving me the most amazing tasks! (My sweet angels)

People tend to think that a first experience in luxury is essentially made of boring and unimportant errands… It might be true, but definitely not in Chanel Sloane St, not for me. Step by step, my colleagues introduced me to Chanel’s products: from the unavoidable iconic bags or slingback shoes to the rarest alligator clutch or fine jewelry necklaces.  They taught me how to sell these masterpieces according to customers’ origins, styles or ages. Indeed, Chanel stores are focusing a lot on the “guess a style” process. Consequently, all of our staff floor’s walls were decorated with Coco Chanel or Karl Lagerfeld’s inspiring quotes and tips to reach customers efficiently while providing them the best personalized services of all time. Indeed, having such powerful and iconic founder and director highly enforces the connection between Chanel and its customers. Strong personalities and inspiring leaders such as Gabrielle Chanel and Karl Lagerfeld clearly add value to the way Chanel connects with its clients by communicating and promoting a lot about the iconic brand historical identity. Storytelling is definitely an important side of Chanel’s internal processes. Thus, I’ve been taught how to adapt my selling advice and techniques to customers in order to analyze their behavior, to guess their style, understand their wants, create desire and needs, and satisfy them with a personal selling method completely adapted to their unique personality; always while using Chanel spirit and storytelling. At Chanel, every product has its own story, and each story has to be told, just like the brand itself. But guess what peeps? Such an essential process also involve to prepare coffees, and to know how to properly serve Champagne. Working for Chanel doesn’t include only luxury, it is also about luxurious services of all kind… It’s not always as glamourous as we can imagine, but it’s always crucial and serving a real purpose. Every. Step. Matters.

Obviously, I haven’t been able to fly on my own on the first weeks. My (French!) manager was a great listener and a knowledgeable and inspiring resource. I was enjoying spending some time with her in her office speaking about fashion, success, life, family, or simply looking at pictures of my dog on my phone haha. Her and I directly clicked. She guided me the whole time and created a special training path for me to make sure I’ll know the products when the time for me would come to fly the nest and start selling on my own. Thus, I began to learn a lot about packaging and unboxing in order to enhance products even after they’ve been bought. What an essential step! That’s the moment to materialize the whole customer’s experience only with some ribbon, paper, and stickers. As I always say, noone would ever invest in a $5000 handbag if it was sold in a plastic bag. The whole packaging and unboxing process is also one of the best way to make Chanel services last in time and take roots in customers privacy outside of our stores. After all, I’m sure I’m not the only one keeping my Chanel shoe boxes, ribbons, stickers and shopping bags. Admit it! (Seriously, those are great home decor elements!). BREF, you’ve understoor,  It’s the first step to the Chanel’s Timeless experience.

Simultaneously, I’ve worked a lot with stock managers. Yup, I was the little goblin registring, tracking, and tagging all of our newly received products. After being delivered, I was the first person to touch and double check the products to make sure they correspond to our initial order and to Chanel’s quality standards. After some time spent at the stock control desk, I’ve been required to re-organize our stockrooms from bags, to clothes and jewelry. Basically, everything.  It took me weeks to do so, and it was the best way for me to memorize every Chanel products and references (you know, those tricky numbers là?). Once I was done, I was more than familiarized and ready to finally wear my best uniform, and to adventure myself on the amazing, stunning, and sacred shop floor.

First, I’ve spent time simply looking at my colleagues to learn from their sales techniques, following them discreetly from customer’s welcoming, toward the fitting rooms, straight to the cashier desk. Once the observation step has been completed, I’ve been assisting my colleagues in their special sales with their VIP clients for some time – it was a good way to upgrade my selling skills. Indeed, these exclusive clients are either celebrities, government officials, or very wealthy and loyal customers frenquently spending a lot in our Chanel Store. Their VIP statute allows them to benefit from customized services from their own dedicated Fashion Advisor being an 100% reachable even out of working-hours. Fashion advisors must know their VIP customers ‘sizes and tastes by heart. Indeed, when a VIP wants to come shopping, an appointment with his/her personal fashion advisor is scheduled and the fitting room must be ready before the customer’s arrival. The bond linking a VIP customer to his/her sales advisor completely rely on trust and stylistic harmony. Actually, I’ve never seen any VIP customer coming to look at the new arrivals or collections: they always go straight to the VIP fitting rooms where new items have been previously selected on their behalf according to their Chanel purchase historic and their style. Working with these very special customers helped me sharpened my eye for details, my analytical spirit, my sense of adaptability and my luxury service skills. This is how I’ve finally been able to become a real Chanel Fashion Advisor.

This personalized training path, and strong relationships of trust and transmission of knowledge given by both my colleagues and my boss helped me becoming a real professional Chanel lady. At Sloane St, I’ve never doubt of myself and never felt judged or reprimanded, simply because my training was entirely built on a step-by-step customized learning curve. My training was completely adapted to my background, my strenghts, my origins, my age, and my personality. As you can see, Chanel encourages employees to stay true to themselves. The brand really dedicates its human resources management to the enhancement of each individual. While respecting our own selves, Chanel grows in us as a wonderful Camelia blooming differently in each employeeChanel makes every one of us unique, but still part of a community; More than a huge learning experience, and more than a beautiful professional and human adventure, Chanel is a lifestyle which never really leave us. Once your mindset become Chanel, it stays Chanel forever.

Thanks to this first chapter at Chanel Sloane street, I haven’t only find my way, I’ve also found a family. And, most importantly, I’ve found myself. I’ll be grateful forever to all of these amazing people I met who made this experience possible and wonderful. Working for Chanel was not only a dream becoming true thanks to the brand name, it became true thanks to the people who’ve been part of it.

My Chanel adventure took a whole different shift one year later when I’ve been hired by Chanel Geneva in Switzerland… To be continued.

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(Fun fact: The cufflinks at the beginning of the story were not Chanel’s or any famous designer brand’s – Don’t be fooled by simplicity. The trendiest ones are not showing up 24/7)

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