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Chanel's Bruno Pavlovsky: The Full Monty on 19M

Oct 11, 2019

Few luxury brands have been as quietly busy as Chanel, which has strategically bought stakes in three new businesses and, just this week, unveiled the structure of its new center for artisanal excellence called 19M.

Bruno Pavlovsky

 Bruno Pavlovsky: The Full Monty on 19M
Few luxury brands have been as quietly busy as Chanel, which has strategically bought stakes in three new businesses and, just this week, unveiled the structure of its new center for artisanal excellence, called 19M.

The new building will group Chanel's extensive network of French Métiers d’Art – meaning highly skilled artisans that supply Chanel, and effectively all the world’s important haute couture houses, with unique artisanal skills. 
One of many long-term projects, the giant 25,000 square-meter 19M will house 600 salaried staff. Chanel ended 2018 with over 25,000 employees; almost double the number of a decade ago. 
According to the house’s most recent financial statement for the year ending December 31, 2018, Chanel scored an 8% increase in operating profit of $2.998 billion, earned on revenues of $11.1 billion, up 10.5%. Along with 19M, Chanel spent over $1 billion in capital investment in 2018, a whopping 9.1% of sales.
This year alone, Chanel acquired a 40% stake in Renato Corti, a major Italian leather goods manufacturer boasting plants in Florence and Milan. It also nabbed a 40% holding in Mabi, the Italian handbag-maker. And also bought into the French firm Grandis, which controls 12 workshops specializing in leather.
So, FashionNetwork.com caught up with Bruno Pavlovsky, president of Chanel Fashion and president of Chanel SAS, for an in-depth look at what Chanel has in mind at 19M; and where he sees the brand heading.

An artist rendering of how 19M will look once completed - Photo: Chanel - DR

FashionNetwork.com: Why did you build 19M?
Bruno Pavlovsky: The idea is to gather together 11 workshops out of 31 brand specialist brands. The other 20 are not in Paris - they are a little everywhere - in France, Italy, Spain or Scotland, like Barrie. These 11 companies are at the heart of Chanel. Before, some were in largely cramped places, nearby at Pantin or Aubervilliers. Everything was saturated. So we had to think of another option. For us, it is really important to be able to embody, here in Paris at 19M, the history of the Métiers d'Art. These 11 brands supply 35 international labels, 19 of which are members of the Fédération de la Haute Couture et de la Mode (France’s trade association of couture and ready-to-wear designers). So imagine what this interaction can represent. All these actors meeting and sharing here, and I hope that in five years there will be more. 19M must become an anchor of creation in Paris. 
FNW: Why did you choose the architect Rudy Ricciotti?
Because he had the craziest project, and the most authentic, covering the building with huge concrete strands like textiles. He visited, he inquired about these handicraft trades, and he offered us this result. The building will be 27 meters high: marking the connection between the street and the facade, but remaining very open. These trades deserve to be seen, shown. It is a way for us to connect them to the outside, while obviously protecting what they have to protect in terms of confidentiality. So, we found that the project corresponded well to the idea of an "open house", exchange, we wanted to create for crafts. 

This is the reason why we also fight in parallel for these trades to be recognized by the other big fashion houses. That these professions be credited just like a photographer on a photo shoot; or a hairdresser or makeup artist at a show. These trades contribute to the history of fashion in Paris, as well as that of creation.

Chanel's Métiers d'Art: Lemarié - Photo by Anne Combaz

FNW: Why did you invest in Mabi, Corti and Grandis?
We were motivated by convergent interests. It is a question of relying on a solid partner, which will help them to ensure the durability of their know-how and to envisage the future with ever more ambition. For Chanel, the desire is to rely on the experience and excellence of these companies with which it has worked for many years and with whom it shares the same vision. In line with Chanel's strategy in this type of operation, Mabi, Corti and Grandis will continue their collaboration with all their customers.
FNW: Here at 19M, you mentioned plans for exhibitions. What have you in mind?
We are very solicited by schools and associations. We therefore want to make exhibitions, to mount projects and we have the space to implement them. An exhibition space that creates an exchange, between the trades that inspire and the city around them. For me, the luxury of tomorrow must be "good for his city", very well incarnated in the city of tomorrow.  You know, since we announced this project, the number of requests we have had is immense: I am sure that we can create a unique and exceptional place of exchange such as exists nowhere else in the world. There is no equivalent for artisans like we have here.
FNW: We are far from the center of Paris here, as well as the world of luxury. There is literally a favela of tents full of poor immigrants under a flyover, on the other side of this square. So why here? Is there a tax benefit?
No, there is no tax advantage. We have been located close by in Pantin since 2011. We also have teams in a former matchmaking factory, which is 15 minutes away, 60 employees or more work there. So it's not a "new neighborhood" for us, it's a neighborhood we're used to. What is interesting here is the proximity with all the infrastructure work for the Olympic Games and the proximity to Paris. You can be at our historic headquarters at Rue Cambon in about twenty minutes by subway. We are half-located in Paris, half in Aubervilliers. We explored other options, but this location fits us perfectly. And we did not get any benefits, nor tax exemption.

Chanel's Métiers d'Art: Goossens - Photos by Anne Combaz

FNW: The Métiers d'Art is French, and unique. I imagine your idea is to gather all them inside one beautiful building, the better to show the power of this exceptional know-how?
I think that to continue to exist in the next 20 years, they must be visible. People must admit their contribution, we must be able to visit them. For me, crediting them is a very important point in valuing their contribution. Of course we must emphasize the creativity of any brand, as well as the fabulous work of their shows. But behind the scenes, it takes craftsmen to execute them, and without them, none of this would be possible.
FNW: In terms of exposure, will you bring clients here to see what's going on? 
You know, today, we have almost daily requests to visit, especially to see the Lesage embroidery school. So we try to connect, not disconnect, with everyone, whether schools or customers. I believe this connection is essential for the development of our crafts. How we will attract vocations. Today, to recruit 80 people a year - it seems little, but it is a real challenge in terms of training - we want to bring them to a place worthy of the name, which embodies the know-how.

You know, the person who deals with digital here in the local commune said that the expectation from young people is enormous. So, we must reimagine, see differently the trades of fashion. We will do our best, even if we do not want to change the world. 

Chanel's Métiers d'Art: Montex - Photo by Anne Combaz

FNW: How much did this building cost?
At Chanel, we never talk about money. We spend according to whether it is worth the cost, or not, if the project contributes to the development of know-how. Yes, the investment on a building of this size is large, and thanks to Chanel it is feasible. 
FNW: You spoke with him about 600 employees here at 19M. Would they be new jobs, or do they already exist? 
We recruit today - between retirements, etc ... - 80 people per year, for the 10 workshops present. If we are talking about all 30 or so houses, we are at about 300 recruitments a year.
FNW: What do you want people who come here to think, once the project is completed?
BP: I think they must feel the beating heart of creation. Where products take shape. This is the connection between workshops and studios. That's what we want to share. Only that. Having a place in Paris that embodies work done by hand is very important. 
FNW: Will the space that you will also allow to develop innovation structures with advanced tools, or research laboratories? 
BP: The future will be a mix between what we do today and new technologies, although I do not yet know which ones. With embroidery, buttons or jewels, we already work a lot with 3D. Five years ago, we did not think we could do this kind of thing. We try to make these professions evolve slowly, combining their ancestral know-how and the contribution of new technologies. But we are not inventing new materials: leather is leather.

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