“Die doppelte Authentifizierung in Chanels Beauté Boutique: Vinylschallplatten, die Warenwelt und das Selbst in der Metamoderne” (“The double authentication in Chanel’s Beauté Boutique: vinyl records, the world of goods and the self in metamodernity”)
A contribution by Prof. Dr. Holger Lund (Baden-Wuerttemberg Cooperative State University Ravensburg) and Prof. Dr. Oliver Zöllner (Stuttgart Media University), for the worksho/conference “On the authenticity and inauthenticity of (media) artifacts. An Interdisciplinary Dialogue in Two Acts, Workshops/Collection Volume”, October 29-30, 2020, online. Organized by Dr. Amrei Bahr (Philosophy of Technology, University of Düsseldorf) Dr. Gerrit Fröhlich (Media Sociology, University of Trier).

In the course of progressive digitization, the analog vinyl record has gained new popularity in a robust niche market since around the mid-2000s. The social aspect of such a partial retrospective view in today’s politically and technologically uncertain times of upheaval should not be ignored. The new popularity of the analog record appears as a crystallization point for a comprehensive, sometimes paradoxical social discourse on modernization processes, especially the metaprocess of digitization (van den Akker & Vermeulen 2017). In the case of the vinyl record as material object, metamodernity is recoded and reinterpreted. As a “totem” it refers to lifestyles, group affiliations, expertise and the charging of specific places with certain meanings (Bartmanski & Woodward 2015, p. 138). As a “beloved object”, the record can serve to form identity and authenticate individuals, groups and cultural scenes (cf. Habermas 1999, p. 177). Vinyl has long been used outside record stores and clubs as a sign of coolness and hipness, for example in advertising or as a decorative object for the presentation of completely unmusical goods. This is exactly where we would like to start.

Our case study is based on an empirical case: that of the Chanel Beauté Boutique, the branch of the fashion and cosmetics company in Berlin-Mitte in the summer of 2020, where various vinyl records produced especially for the decorative store design as well as associated record sleeves with Chanel-related and at the same time pop music-historically coded claims served as objects of attraction for a specific hip, urban target audience. The store “disguised” itself quasi as a record store, and so well that it has been mistaken for one. However, it continued to offer only cosmetics and accessories, and none of the vinyl records were for sale, although there was a strong demand for them. The vinyl records on display and their sleeves were decoupled from the usual contents of this media bundle (music plus metatexts) and functioned merely as iconic, totemistic signs. The decorative vinyl records can be identified here as a kind of semi-fake: real, but without the usual utility value. The records contain formulaic rock music, but for licensing reasons they may not be played or sold. The Chanel Boutique, in the context of which these semi-fakes are used for marketing purposes, thus appears as a kind of simulation, with the mere signs of reality, but bypassing reality (cf. Baudrillard 1978, p. 9). Confusingly, the concept of the record store was simulated even further: As usual in such stores, there was a listening station with turntables, mixers and headphones as well as a playable text and music record with club-like electro sound, specially produced by Chanel, which, as it were, advertised a party for the introduction of the new lipstick Flash as an audio flyer. With Coco Records, Chanel also created a corresponding semi-fake record label that releases dead music: not to be heard, not to be purchased.

The display and store design of the Chanel boutique delivers a remarkable borderline authenticity. The markers for an authentic record store have been set so sufficiently, well and varied, the camouflage was so successful that the concept on the one hand did not appeal to Chanel but vinyl record customers, which led to confusion in the store, and on the other hand fanned a vinyl-savvy and financially strong Chanel clientele to (futile) bidding wars for the unsaleable records and their covers.

Chanel’s display and store design thus inscribes itself exemplarily into the economy of enrichment and its culture of collecting (cf. Boltanski & Esquerre 2018) and draws on formulaic semi-fakes. On the other hand, the display and store design as a semi-fake is a double being that appropriates the authenticity value of the analogous vinyl culture for the advertising of a lipstick and other accessories, which in turn serves precisely to produce authenticity: namely real red lips. We would like to take a closer look at these complex relationships of reality constructions using this empirical example (cf. Knaller 2008).

We also want to look at the continuation of the display and store design concept in Asian cities where the record store concept – unlike in Berlin – merely serves as an entrance for a semi-fake pop-up club situation in 1980s retro style behind it. In this club situation, again, with the help of exhibited records and their covers, juke-box, drum set and live stage as well as DJ booth, but in a strange decoupling of music, especially cosmetics and the Chanel logo are presented.

The “beloved object” vinyl record is emptied by Chanel by making it unusable, and at the same time it is transferred into the corporeal by giving meaning to and advertising materials for body modification (make-up). In this massive, obtrusive, exaggerated presence of signs and forms, the Chanel store appears as an example of “camp” (Sontag 1966) and at the same time of the self in metamodernity, in which the longing for forms of the past is transformed into a post-digital consumerism of the present – and there above all produces spectacular boredom.

But it is also remarkable that Chanel – unlike in Berlin – actually released a record called “Flash” with Coco Records in the Asian cities. Coco Records thus acts here like a real record label. It seems that the authenticity pressure of the concept, the pure power of the simulation, has finally led to a real record label that is alien to the subject matter, a temporary bulge in the company’s understanding, which was to be contextualized with other, real corporate labels like those of Coca-Cola, Texaco or Nivea.

The case of Chanel’s display and store design in Berlin, the pop-up concept in Asian cities, and Coco Records as a label touch, in various degrees and forms, fractures of capitalist consumer reality constructions or make them appear fragile. Authenticity and inauthenticity are staged on and around the media artifact record in an ambiguous way, which creates blanks with the inaudibility and non-purchaseability of records on the one hand and surplus with the real record of a real label on the other. We want to trace this fragility in order to grasp its significance in the context of corporate and consumer image and to connect it with social developments.