I think it all started when I was about 8 years old and everyone was talking about what they wanted to be when they grow up. There were the typical answers, president, vet, teacher, etc. My answer stood out among them all when I said, “fashion designer, like Coco Chanel.” I got lots of confused looks from my classmates, and even my teacher because what 8-year-old knew who arguably the most legendary fashion designer of all time was?
I’m not really sure how I fell in love with Chanel, I honestly can’t remember, but I’m so glad I did. The first app I downloaded on my iPod touch was the Chanel app so I could watch runway shows from the comfort of my own room when I got home from school. I own probably every book ever written about Chanel, plus her movie which I used to watch all the time. I googled her original Paris boutique one day, printed out the Wikipedia pages that gave me all the information I needed to know and wrote the address down and stapled it to the pages. I ran downstairs to my mom and showed it to her and said “Mom! I HAVE to go here, this is it, her original store!!” My mom responded, “Nicole you’re 8, maybe sometime in the future.”
When I was about 9 my family and I were visiting family in California and we took a trip to the South Coast Plaza where of course there was a Chanel boutique. I begged my mom to go into the store with me and cried when she didn’t buy me a bag, because obviously at age 9 I had a lot of use for the Chanel Classic handbag.
I always kept Chanel with me, writing her iconic quotes down all over my notebooks, having Chanel art hung all over my room, and of course always checking the website to stare at my dream bag.
Senior year of high school my sister was studying abroad, and we met her in Paris for a few days. This was it; my chance had finally come to see the original Chanel boutique I had waited years to see. Unfortunately, we were only able to drive by the store at night and that was that. I just remember staring at the window display thinking how one day I would be back.
Let’s fast forward to this year. I had the amazing opportunity to study abroad in Florence, Italy last spring before they kindly asked us to leave the country due to COVID. While in Europe I had the chance to go back to Paris, but this time with my best friends. When we were planning the trip, I kept telling my friends all I wanted to do was go to the original Chanel boutique, I didn’t care about much else I just knew this was finally my chance. Even before I left the US for my trip, I had told my mom that I would be returning to the store and no matter what, purchasing SOMETHING and apologized in advance for spending money there.
I strategically picked out my outfit that Sunday morning in Paris, because in my head, I knew I needed to make a good first impression. I first stopped at the flagship Louis Vuitton store (oops, sorry dad) before hopping in an uber and meeting my friends at Chanel. Not to like be dramatic, but when I got out of the car I had some tears in my eyes because it felt like I waited my entire life to be here.
I walked in the store and was immediately greeted by a woman who introduced herself as my “hostess for the afternoon” (absolutely loved that) and asked what I was looking for. I obviously could not say I was looking for the cheapest thing they had in the store, so I had her direct me to costume jewelry. I so badly wanted to take my phone out and take videos of the store, but I knew I could not be that person and had to remain as composed as possible.
I waited in the chair watching a woman try on different belts and necklaces trying not to seem too excited until someone came to wait on me. Finally, a woman came over to me and offered me something to drink (again, loved that) and pulled out the costume jewelry. She was so patient with me while I looked at each piece so closely, admiring them all. She even let me facetime my mom so I could get her opinion and so she could pick something out for herself (sorry dad, again).
While I was picking out my earrings I got talking with my saleswoman and was expressing how much I loved Chanel and what a dream come true it was for me to finally be in the store. I think this woman was the nicest person I have ever met. She treated me like I was going to buy the most expensive thing in the store, even though I was a 20-year-old girl from America with like no money in my bank account, but she didn’t need to know that.
Once I picked out mine and my mom’s earrings, she asked me if there was anything else, I wanted to look at, even if it was just for fun. Actually yes, I wanted to look at literally everything in the entire store, but I had a plane to catch. I couldn’t leave though without looking at the wallets and cardholders, and of course, I did buy one. I did apologize to my dad later for spending so much money, but I mean it was Chanel, he had to understand.
After I picked out all my items, she went and wrapped everything up for my while I waited with my orange juice feeling like I was the richest person in the world. She came out with my bags and explained that the Rue Cambon store is the only store in the world where they have the iconic white packaging, everywhere else gives out black. She packed my bags in a reusable plain black tote since I told her I’d be traveling and gave me extra bags, boxes, stickers, ribbons and the best part was when she gave me 2 of the holiday postcards they send out because she knew how much I loved Chanel. I could have hugged her right then and there, but I felt that was a bit inappropriate.
I left the store with my pockets feeling light but I had the biggest smile on my face, and my friend looked at me and goes “I honestly don’t think I have ever seen you so happy” and that’s because I was never so happy in my entire life. Couldn’t leave without having a little photoshoot with my bags outside the store and happily sent them to my family to let them know that yes, my dream finally did come true.
I couldn’t really get over how nice the saleswoman was to me, because she so easily could have treated me poorly since I was younger than their average consumer and definitely not in the market to spend like $6000. Having her treat me so well really made my experience so much better because if for some reason she wasn’t so kind to me I think I would’ve lost a lot of respect for the brand and like my dreams would have been absolutely crushed.
I think about this experience a lot and how I was so lucky to be able to have it. I have my boxes and bags around my room at home and school as decoration, obviously. 8-year-old me was screaming that I was able to see the store in real life, let alone purchase something. It kind of reminded me to never give up on my dreams, because it’s always possible to make those dreams a reality, it just might take some time, and saving of your money. Next stop: working for Chanel and I simply won’t stop until I make that dream my reality. The little girl watching runway videos on her iPod touch would be so proud.