Retail Unchained: An Evening with Richard Collasse, President - Chanel Japan


The Fellows and several significant others were treated to an evening of leadership and fashion with Richard Collasse, President of Chanel Japan.  Born in France, Mr. Collasse moved to Tokyo after studying at the University of Paris and his first job was at the French Embassy.  Just a few years later, he began his fashion career at Givency in 1979 and joined Chanel Tokyo in 1985 where he rose to lead the franchise over the past 33+ years. 

Collasse discussed leadership and strategy, technological changes to the bricks and mortar retail industry, recruiting and, finally, brand and reputation. “Luck is a huge factor in one’s success and you have to catch it,” noted Mr. Collasse, "... luck is about seizing the opportunities that come your way." 

Collasse also commented on how hiring at Chanel is about feeling.  He can quickly read a candidate to determine if they will fit with the Chanel culture.  Another important component of the interview is seeing how the candidate interacts with his/her significant other. 

“Fashion has nothing to do with research, it is all about the feeling and how to create the unexpected for our customers.”  He noted how true leaders are not always on the front line, but in times of trouble a leader should always take the hit. 

Chanel’s brand has been protected by the human touch and they won’t let AI and robotics influence the future too much (only for stock taking behind the scenes) as the salespeople are the key component to understanding the customer, her wardrobe at home and what current trends complement her collection.  But Chanel is trying to incorporate facial recognition technology for their VIP customers when they enter different stores around the world. The Chanel brand is always about being different and keeping its integrity.  “Coco did completely unexpected things and we are about being a leader, not a follower. She used men as an inspiration for women’s trends, but we don’t have the know-how of the body of a man so won’t veer too far from our current path.”  The company rarely discounts anything, unlike many of its competitors, and its loyal customers keep coming back for more as they offer creativity and excitement in their fashion and cosmetics lines season after season.