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Chanel vs Gucci – two amazing, well known brands that have their own loyal fans. Which one is the best choice for you?
The battle of them all. Arguably two of the most historic and iconic fashion houses in the world, but which is actually better? In 2023 they have very distinguishable, different visual identities, but this wasn’t always the case. Chanel has always been known for its sophisticated and smart aesthetic, whereas these days Gucci is as vibrant as its history. (If you’ve seen House of Gucci you’ll know what we’re talking about).
Below, we will conclude which brand is better in terms of exclusivity and image.
History: Chanel vs Gucci
You may be surprised to learn that Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel actually began her career by specializing in hats. In 1910 she opened a boutique in France named ‘Chanel Modes’. Even her first brand was exclusive, being worn by French actresses at the time.
2 years later in 1910 she opened the first Chanel boutique as we know it, selling sportswear. Jersey was previously reserved for men’s underwear, so her new approach to sportswear revolutionized the industry. It wasn’t long before the first couture house was opened in 1915, which employed an impressive 300 staff.
Capitalizing on their success, Chanel launched their Chanel No.5 perfume in 1921 which was later made iconic by Marilyn Monroe in 1955. Make-up soon followed and is still going strong nearly a century later.
When most people think of Chanel, they think of their quilted flap bags. The first was created in 1955 and has never went out of style ever since. Something else you may associate with Chanel is boucle two piece suits, this was debuted one year later in 1956.
Sadly Coco Chanel passed away in 1971 which saw the arrival of a young Karl Lagerfeld in 1983 who restored the brand to its former glory. Following his recent death in 2019 the brand is now headed up by Virginie Viard who’s designs are still a nod to Chanel’s past.
Gucci’s past is so chaotic they made a movie about it. Guccio Gucci worked at the world-famous Savoy Hotel in London as a bellboy. He is said to have been inspired by the luxurious suitcases owned by the high society hotel guests.
In 1921 the first Gucci store opened in Florence. In the mid 30’s they developed their first signature print – dark brown interconnecting diamonds on a tan background. This is still synonymous with the brand today and can be found on everything from bags to sliders.
They were innovative for their time when it came to materials, getting round the imported leather ban during the war by using materials such as hemp, pigskin, and bamboo. It was truly a family business, with Guccio’s son Rodolfo opening the first Milan store and his other son Aldo opening the first American store in New York. Rodolfo’s son, Maurizio also began working in New York with his uncle Aldo and in 1983 he took on leadership of the company.
He later partnered with Investcorp who bought 50% of the family’s shares and in 1993 the family no longer were involved in the brand. Tom Ford was then appointed as Creative Director and he brought a sexy, glamorous vibe to the brand.
In a turbulent twist, in 1995 Maurizio Gucci was shot and killed in front of his office in Milan. It was later discovered that his ex-wife hired a hit man. The company was then listed on the New York stock exchange which saw a boom and continued to thrive under the reins of Tom Ford. The CEO acknowledged that the brand became ‘cheap’ following over exposure via licensing, franchises, and second lines and they worked to regain their exclusivity.
During Tom Ford’s success Prada and LVMH chief Bernard Arnault began buying shares and eventually tried to take over the company which caused one of the biggest fashion battles in the world and was fought in Dutch courts.
The company ended up being bought over by Arnault’s rivals, Kering. Unlike Chanel, Gucci has had many creative directors such as Dawn Mello, Tom Ford, Frida Giannini, Alessandro Michele, and now currently Sabato De Samo. Arguably, all of these different designers visions have led to the brand not having as distinct an aesthetic in comparison to Chanel.
Heritage Differences Gucci vs Chanel
Despite both starting at around the same time, the brands clearly both have a very different past.
Whilst Gucci has a more interesting story, the stability of Chanel as a company and the longevity of their Creative Directors has meant they have a stronger brand image. Chanel has never been seen as cheap or tacky as they were more selective with who they worked with and chose to be perceived as more exclusive.
Between take overs, murder, and court cases, the story of Gucci turned them into a bit of a soap opera, which arguably meant they weren’t taken as seriously in the fashion world as Chanel.
Key Differences Chanel vs Gucci
Below we will look at the key differences between Gucci and Chanel, including price, exclusivity, resale value, and aesthetic.
Price / Resale Value
You cannot buy a Chanel bag online, not from their website and not from websites that usually sell designer goods such as Nordstrom, Saks, Farfetch etc. You can of course still buy pre-owned Chanel bags online, but you cannot get the boutique experience online.
The highest resale value is $70,000 for a pre-owned novelty 2014 XXL Shopping Basket Bag. A classic flap bag from 1992 is being sold for $52,674. The lowest price is £555 which is for a pre owned clutch.
For new Chanel bags, the majority of bags range between $4,500 to $11,000 with outliers costing much more than that (you would often see “price upon request” on Chanel.com.
Chanel bags are an investment and you’re almost guaranteed the price to increase over time on pre-owned sites.
Although still expensive, you can easily buy a Gucci bag under $2,000 USD. The majority of Gucci handbags are between $1,700 and $3,500 USD, although there are some outliers on either end of the scale.
Conclusion: Price – Chanel vs Gucci
Is clear that Gucci is a much more affordable brand compared to Chanel. You can buy a “top of the line” Gucci bag for less than Chanel’s cheaper bag. Thus, for most people Gucci is the better choice.
If you have a $3,000 USD budget for a new, designer bag, you have tons of options at Gucci but you’re limited to seasonal, or small leather goods at Chanel.
Exclusivity – Who is the most exclusive, Chanel or Gucci?
As we mentioned above, Gucci is nowhere near as exclusive as Chanel. Gucci can be found on websites such as Farfetch, Net-A-Porter, MyTheresa, and in stores such as Cruise in the UK which has a poor brand perception due to its ownership.
Chanel sells their low end brand carriers such as cosmetics and perfume online, however this is not the case with clothing, shoes, or bags.
They believe that luxury shopping is an experience which shouldn’t be had online. If you’re looking to buy Chanel, you have to go to one of their worldwide boutiques.
In an effort to be even more exclusive and limit their presence on resale websites, Chanel have limited sales of their most iconic bags to one of each model per year.
They have also increased the price of their bags 3 times throughout the pandemic to make them even more inaccessible to the general public.
It’s also worth mentioning that Gucci have unveiled Hature Couture collections in the past, however they are not a member of the Chambre Syndicale which means they are not eligible Haute Couture designers, whereas Chanel are. This gives Chanel another degree of exclusivity.
Conclusion: Exclusivity: Chanel vs Gucci
Chanel’s Parisian Chic aesthetic has remained similar and cohesive over it’s 100 year tenure. Two piece suits are their staple and they always give them an update that’s relevant to the era. Their looks have always been classy and well put together. Chanel’s most popular handbag, the classic flap is a testament of the brands’ luxurious and feminine aesthetic.
Whereas the aesthetic changes with each Creative Director, Gucci’s aesthetic looks like it could be from multiple different brands.
However, this isn’t always a bad thing, sometimes it can be good to switch things up and broaden your horizons however it’s not always cohesive for brand image.
Tom Ford’s era oozed glamour, sex appeal and sophistication whereas Alessandro Michele’s era was more whimsical and fantasy like, with a lot of playful 70’s references. Although the items certainly weren’t cheap, many thought that their collaboration with Adidas cheapened the brand.
However, Alessandro Michele liked to use irony in his designs and they were often very gimmicky + clickbait worthy. See also his deliberately misspelt ‘Guccy’ designs which were a tongue in cheek jibe at all of the counterfeit Gucci styles circulating.
Conclusion. Chanel vs Gucci – which is the better brand?
If you desired exclusivity and beautiful, classic designs, you might prefer Chanel. The French fashion house has waitlists, limit purchases, do not sell online and are not stocked on popular luxury websites such as Net-A-Porter.
Chanel also wins if you’re looking for an investment rather than affordability, the scarcity and limiting sales of their bags is only going to drive the resale value up.
However, if you care more about affordability and popular culture, then Gucci is for you. Gucci is perceived as more ‘edgy’ and is represented by celebrities such as Harry Styles, Billie Eilish, Miley Cyrus, and Jared Leto who are all known for their flamboyant, unique style. If you like fun, playful fashion rather than looking smart and taking yourself more seriously, then Gucci wins.
In summary, purchase Chanel if you want to be timeless, and Gucci if you want to be trendy. But at the end of the day, don’t purchase due to the brand – buy whichever bag makes your heart sing.
OUR FAVORITE FINDS