Cheers to Chanel

Trim the vine, hone the blend, perfect the colour or ‘robe’ of a fine. When it comes down to it, the world of fashion is not that far from that of winemaking. Already, the owner of Bordeaux wine estates Canon and Berliquet in the Saint-Emilion appellation, as well as of Rauzan-Ségla in Margaux, the house of Chanel has enhanced its Bacchic portfolio by acquiring Domaine d’Ile, a 34-hectare vineyard on the island of Porquerolles in the south of France and has created its very first Provencal rosé wine.

The essential palette for rosé blends is cultivated in terraces. On the menu: Mourvèdre, grenache and more. “Marine freshness, Mediterranean dew swept by the Mistral wind, symbiosis of the vineyard and the island’s vegetation.

The terroir of Domaine de l’Ile is unique and it has an extraordinary history,” says Nicolas Audebert, agricultural engineer and oenologist in charge of managing these vineyards, as he describes the vineyard that is now part of the illustrious luxury label. The very first harvest was carried out during the 2019 season. The 2019 rosé, classified as a Côtes de Provence, is available via online wine merchants, at EUR19.90 ($32.38) a bottle. With the Domaine de l’Ile, Chanel has also already concocted a “gastronomy” white wine. The wine can be purchased for the price of EUR24.90. Both the white and the rosé are also classified as organic wines.

“In this extraordinary natural setting, our desire is not only to include the estate in a global eco-responsible approach that respects the environment, but also to support local reflections and initiatives in terms of ecology and preservation, in connection with the territory,” says Chanel, as it introduced the Domaine de l’Ile.

Do the British twist

Film star Marcello Mastroiannto even Prince Charles — all have donned handmade ties from one shop in the Italian city of Naples so famed for its finery some devotees boast thousands. The painstaking needlework cannot be rushed, despite demand for E. Marinella ties usually far outstripping production.

In Naples, the tiny shop remains much as it was when it opened in 1914, with its wood-framed windows, chandelier, and counter where the red, blue, polka dot or diamond-patterned ties are displayed.

Maurizio Marinella, 64, who is the third generation to head up the company, says his family’s success in the southern Italian city, which struggles with poverty and unemployment, was “a kind of miracle”. “It all started in 20 square metres in Naples, where everything is a little more difficult than elsewhere,” he told AFP recently.

Maurizio’s grandfather Eugenio wanted to create “a little corner of England in Naples” in this city with its view of Mount Vesuvius, offering men’s shirts and accessories with fabrics shipped directly from England. Little by little, however, the tie became Marinella’s signature piece.

‘Maniacal’ care for detail

The silk is still hand-printed in Macclesfield, England, and the ties themselves are sewn by hand in a workshop close to the boutique, which employs 20 seamstresses.

Loyal customer Rudy Girardi has been frequenting the shop since his late teens and now boasts “thousands of Marinella ties”, costing anywhere from EUR130 to EUR215 for each tie. “The tie is fundamental,” he says, as a sign of “respect”, and he loves Marinella for its “maniacal care for every detail”. He changes his ties several times a day, selecting a colourful one in the morning, something a little more institutional in the afternoon, and an elegant option for upmarket dinners at night.

Each Marinella tie takes about 45 minutes to make, with ten steps in all, from cutting the silk to doing the stitching, and adding the loop and label. “It’s precision work, comparable to that of a goldsmith. We work on half-millimetres,” says Maria Rosaria Guarino, 60, who has worked for the company for 38 years.

Customers can personalise the length, width or thickness of the ties. Every day, about 150 ties are produced. But the demand pre-coronavirus crisis was much higher — as much as double or even triple. And in the three months leading up to Christmas, it could be “as high as 900 ties a day”, Marinella said.

The company had ruled out making more, however, saying it would compromise quality. “Each tie is a unique work of art”, he says, admitting that “quality is almost an obsession” for him. Personalities from all over the world have donned the ties, including former Chancellor Helmut Kohl of Germany — a “giant for whom we made ties 65 centimetres longer than normal”.

‘Pamper them’

Almost every day — Sunday included, from 6.30am — Marinella is at the shop to “welcome, pamper the customers, offer them coffee”, in the pure Neapolitan tradition. While the brand had a turnover of EUR18 million in 2019, it is expected to suffer a “significant” drop this year because of the coronavirus epidemic, which forced the shop to close, stopped tourism and saw many formal events cancelled.

The sector has suffered in general, even before the pandemic. Exports of ties, bow ties and neckties fell by 10% between 2015 and 2019, with Chinese products making up 46.5% of the market, compared to 13.6% for Italy, according to the International Trade Centre (ITC).

Fads are to blame: Youngsters have gone off ties, and some big firms and banks have made wearing one optional. “Fortunately, fashions are cyclical. Lately we’ve seen a bit of a shift away from streetwear to classic fashion, where the tie is the cardinal point,” notes 25-year-old Alessandro Marinella, who represents the company’s fourth generation.

He wants to shift the house’s focus “towards a ‘total look’, including women’s wear”, a move begun a few years ago, so that the humble tie now represents less than half the company’s turnover — through all of its reputation.