Not Quite Café Society

Coco Cafe

We knew this was going to happen: that Chanel would open an F&B outlet to tempt the tam chiak among their customers. The supermarket set for the fall/winter 2014 show in Paris was prelude enough (and how many people tried to swipe the products on the shelves?!). And now, we get to see and experience a Coco Café in our island. Nope, Chanel has not lost the plot. They still make expensive clothes, bags, shoes, jewellery, watches, perfume, face lotions, make-up, and, occasionally, USD5,000 headphones. For nine days, they’re just serving coffee—and cakes—to sell cosmetics.

Before you get too excited, this is not Paul, or anything that will remind you of Café Flores or Les Deux Magots, or those cafés in the Quartier Latin that capture the charm of Paris. This is essentially the Visual Arts Centre in Dhoby Ghaut Green, above the MRT station, that’s transformed into a Chanel pop-up, or more accurately, “café-themed beauty pop-up”. In Asia, Coco Café first appeared in Tokyo last month, in a swankier address than Singapore’s: Omotaesando.

Coco Cafe 2

In fact, retailers are surprised that Chanel has chosen this spot for its pop-up. You know what they say about “lower Orchard Road”. That Chanel is willing to be Plaza Singapura’s neighbour is both unanticipated and contrary to the belief that this area is too close to the education sprawl of Bras Basah and Bendemeer to be beneficial to luxury branding. On the bright side, this could bode well for this part of Orchard. If this stretch is good enough for Chanel, it could be good enough for retailers with less marketing muscle.

And marketers are amused by a café that does not actually sell coffee or attendant comestibles. Yes, they’re serving, just not selling. What they do sell is Chanel’s newest lip product Rouge Coco Gloss. Well, that’s the star. Others include those from the skincare line Hydra Beauty, as well as make-up and fragrances, a happy mix that will no doubt allow you to partake in Chanel’s intoxicating luxury in case you can’t really bear to stress your credit card to acquire their bags such as the just-launched Gabrielle.

Coco Cafe 3

Inside, nothing will remind you of Rue Cambon. Coco Café (two Cs that pairs with Chanel’s interlocking ones) is a pop interpretation of a beauty store disguised as eatery that looks more Harajuku than Dhoby Ghaut. The watchful, oversized café logo, fashioned out of neon lights, could be something dreamed up by Hello Kitty. In other words, the café’s cute rather than hip.

Did Coco Chanel ever imagine her name lit up for a café? We doubt she did, but she would not have pictured either that the brand she built would one day have to seduce Millennials into spending with coffee and cake on the house.

Coco Café opens today till 16th April 2017, from 11am to 8pm. You need to register to visit the café. Unfortunately, all slots are taken. Photos: Zhao Xiangji

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