Luxury Fashion Ups Its Restoration Game

When French officials unveiled details of an extensive renovation project for the Grand Palais in Paris last year, they said the effort was intended to draw a wider and more diverse public to the towering glass and steel edifice.

“The new Grand Palais must embody France of the 21st century,” said Françoise Nyssen, the country’s culture minister at the time. The minister was flanked by architects who presented plans to improve traffic flows between the sprawling sections of the complex, connecting exhibit halls with more public spaces to shore up its status as a major events venue and tourist destination — also reflecting the government’s inclusive bent. Accessible, with something for every audience. And that would include luxury fashion fans.

Alongside the local and national politicians supporting the half-a-billion-euro refurbishment is also one of the world’s most established luxury labels — with Chanel throwing 25 million euros into the pot. The brand is known for staging monumental fashion shows in the space — from waterfalls to sandy beaches, and even a rocket — but its participation, as with sponsorship projects led by other brands, is about more than simply securing a top-notch fashion show setting.

“This allows us to write the history of Chanel in Paris in a very visual way,” Bruno Pavlovsky told WWD when the project was revealed, describing the benefits to the brand, which will include naming the entrance to the nave “Gabrielle Chanel.”

The project will give the Grand Palais an “absolutely exceptional dimension at the center of arts and events, and that’s why it’s important to be able to be a part of that,” Pavlovsky said.

Analysts note that renovation projects can add further dimension to a brand’s image and communication — at a time when labels are jockeying for attention in a crowded digital landscape.

“Association with art enhances consumer brand perception,” said Luca Solca, luxury analyst with Bernstein. “Today is all about having something new to tell and show consumers.”

He cited the example of Fendi, the LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton-owned label that restored the Trevi Fountain in Rome and held its 90th anniversary show there.

“I think there is the bonus of doing something unique that you can weave into your storytelling — think of Fendi and its Trevi Fountain association,” Solca said.

The brand in 2013 unveiled its “Fendi for Fountains” project, refurbishing a series of fountains including the Fontana dell’Acqua Paola al Gianicolo and the Fontana del Mosé al Pincio. The brand spent more than 2 million euros restoring the Trevi Fountain.

“That was not bad, but what the hell will we do for the 100th anniversary?” Karl Lagerfeld asked after Fendi’s 90th anniversary runway blowout at the Trevi Fountain.

Meanwhile, Gucci, which belongs to the Kering group, has turned to the botanical world for restoration projects, contributing 2 million euros to renovation of the historic Boboli Gardens, also sponsored by the city of Florence and the Uffizi Gallery. Works started in 2018 with a 17th-century cypress, which was reinforced with high-tech, hyper-resistant fiber cables, followed by revamping the drainage system near the park’s Sycamores Boulevard and the replacement of terra cotta pots for the centuries-old collection of citrus trees. The garden theme is central to the universe of creative director Alessandro Michele, who weaves a narrative with his own experiences combined with the house’s history.  It’s not just about reviving the past. The Gucci Garden Galleria in the Palazzo della Mercanzia in Florence in June mixed historic house pieces, including Gucci luggage from the Fifties, with recent pieces, including some from a capsule collection with Italian artist Livia Carpenzano.

Then there is Diego Della Valle and Tod’s Group, which in 2010 pledged 25 million euros toward restoration work on Rome’s Colosseum. The work is expected to be completed between 2020 and 2022.

The latest contributors toward restoration work are LVMH and Kering, which got into a bit of one-upmanship this spring after the tragic fire at Notre Dame in Paris. The Pinault family that owns Kering quickly offered 100 million euros toward the restoration work of the iconic cathedral — only to be topped a few hours later by Bernard Arnault and his family of LVMH, which promised to provide 200 million euros.

This story was reported by WWD and originally appeared on WWD.com.

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