Last week, when I posted my Chanel handbag, a reader said she was surprised that I owned something so girly. This made me giggle. Coco Chanel, the very bastion of androgyny, wore men’s suits and incorporated masculine tailoring into her designs to create a new, time-enduring aesthetic. By paring down the frou frou of the Belle Époque, she redefined femininity into something simpler. I’m aware that I barely possess a morsel of the elegance she left behind, but I like to think that my freedom to cross dress sans vilification is in part thanks to her.
And another thing – just because I prefer a little black jacket over a bedazzled purple peplum, it doesn’t mean that I don’t love perfume and makeup. Chanel N°5 was the first fragrance I ever bought with my first PR pay check. It still evokes a coming-of-age nostalgia for the Sydney summer of 1992, though these days I prefer Allure (by day) and Allure Sensuelle (by night). The Rouge Noir lipstick that my friend Marina bought me before I left Sydney to live in Papua New Guinea in 2001 also converted me to a love of dark lips that I’ve recently resuscitated.
I was reminded of all this when I visited the now ensconced Chanel Beauty Boutique on London’s Covent Garden last week. I’m trying to find another word to describe this place, but heaven is all I can come up with. It may be a cliché, but it’s true. The monochrome walls, the splash of pink, the glass bottles and switchback ‘Cs’. Step inside and you’ll see what I mean.
What began as a pop-up last July has become a permanent residence for the luxury brand, and they’re now offering all sorts of services along with the full complement of beauty products. In addition to makeup, fragrance, skincare and nail polish, they’ve got manicures (I chose Blue Rebel above), makeovers, skincare consultations and makeup lessons available on site.
It’s a must-visit if you find yourself in the area – especially this weekend. From today until Sunday, they’ve installed the Chanel Flower Stall, which is dedicated to the discovery of all the blooms used in the House’s most celebrated fragrances – all in time for Mother’s Day. Also, if you buy a 100ml eau de parfum of any Chanel fragrance, you can have a personal message written on a camellia embossed card by an expert calligrapher. Go on, you’re mum’ll love it.
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All images © Kate McAuley