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Chanel, arguably the most famous luxury brand in the world, is also one of fashion’s greatest mysteries. Unlike Dior, Luis Vuitton, Gucci, or Yves Saint Laurent, it isn’t owned by a publicly traded conglomerate. And because it’s under no obligation to share its financial earnings every few months, the privately held house of Chanel has, at 108 years old, been able to keep its sales a closely guarded secret.
That’s why it’s so shocking that Chanel has decided to lift the veil on its financials for the first time. As expected, it’s a lot: Chanel’s sales hit $9.62 billion in 2017, up 11 percent from $8.63 billion the year prior, according to numbers shared by the company.
Though Chanel’s financial report lacks the historical data necessary to fully understand its growth trajectory, these results firmly place Chanel as a weighty competitor in the high-end fashion market.
Kering, which owns brands like Gucci, Yves Saint Laurent, Balenciaga, and Alexander McQueen, reported revenue of €15.47 billion (roughly $17.92 billion) across all of its businesses in 2017; sales of its luxury brands totaled more than €10 billion ($11.58 billion) that year. The French conglomerate LVMH achieved revenue of €42.6 billion ($48.65 billion) in 2017, with its fashion and leather goods brands, at $15.47 billion in sales, contributing most heavily.
Why did Chanel, which is controlled by brothers Alain and Gérard Wertheimer, publish its earnings for the first time ever? Chief financial officer Philippe Blondiaux told Reuters that it is “absolutely not” a signal that the brand is going to IPO, nor is it a preparation to sell. Instead, Blondiaux said, it’s an affirmation that Chanel can remain independent and privately held “for the next few centuries.”
That said, Chanel has reorganized to bring nearly all of its brand activities under a single company, Reuters reports.
To help market its iconic quilted handbags, tweed suits, and fragrances during 2017, Chanel spent $1.46 billion on “brand support activities” like advertisements (starring Kristen Stewart and Lily-Rose Depp) and runway shows. Indeed, Chanel’s Paris Fashion Week shows are massive productions, with set pieces including a cruise ship, a rocket, and an iceberg. In March 2018, Chanel designer Karl Lagerfeld — himself one of fashion’s most recognizable figures — transformed the Grand Palais in Paris into an immersive, surprisingly realistic forest.