The Wing's New Women's Club In Soho Opens Its Pop-Up Doors To Chanel's CoCo Club

The Wing’s founders, Lauren Kassan and Audrey Gelman. 

The Wing’s founders, Lauren Kassan and Audrey Gelman. 

Women's clubs are on the move, and the timing may be perfect. I'm reluctant to write that American women are at some kind of watershed moment in our understanding of just how difficult it is to succeed in the boys club world. Watching our fundamental, hard-fought rights being rolled back in Trumplandia while Margaret Atwood's dystopian 'The Handmaid's Tale' won eight Emmys, American women are primed for some serious female business bonding. This sister act was in play well before the Harvey Weinstein scandal dropped, launching the massive #MeToo campaign spilling out of our misogyny-overloaded brains. 

If The Wing is a home base for women on their way, the space's first pop-up CoCo Club is perhaps better for women who have arrived. How clever of The Wing to plan for pop-up spaces and other events on the premises. It seems that Chanel took over the entire Soho location as a money-generating, member-acquiring drive for the permanent landlord of this women's club -- The Wing. In not so subtle fashion, Chanel celebrated the launch of the brand's new BOY∙FRIEND watch. 

From a branding and messaging to women perspective, the permanent decor at The Wing evokes a dramatically different vibe than the temporary tenant CoCo Club. 

The Wing

Note that in the case of 'The Wing', the term 'women on their way' is a relative one. Women are dropping $2,350 and waiting on an 8,000-person list to join an exclusive, no-men-allowed home base in New York City with this second SoHo location.. The Wing has two more clubs in the pipeline, one in Brooklyn and one in Washington, DC.

Founders Audrey Gelman and Lauren Kassan anticipated a huge win for women with a Hillary Clinton presidency. With a background working as a junior aide to Hillary Clinton in her 2008 campaign, Gelman imagined a new place for women in American society. She explained to Business Insider: 

"This was going to be the golden age of women in power, so women could have rooms like this. It was sort of a triumphant concept." No more running around Manhattan changing outfits for events and meetings in "random bathrooms around the city."

"Obviously that's not what happened," Kassan said.

Overnight, after Donald Trump's victory, The Wing was inundated with calls from members and people on the waitlist, who, according to Kassan, were saying, "I didn't realize how much I wanted or needed a space like this."

The 10,000 square-foot SoHo space (three times larger than the original NYC Flatiron location) at 52 Mercer St. includes half-a-dozen phone booths for private calls, a beauty room, a breastfeeding room, showers, a café, nap rooms, and open areas for lunch meetings and other collaborations. The aesthetic is "a coven, not a sorority" via The Wing's Instagram. One look at The Wing's shopping page, which features the first issue of their magazine 'No Man's Land', underscores the reality that this is a project for cultural creatives millennials on the move and their successful, Democratic-leaning moms. Karl Lagerfeld will get no inspiration shopping here. 

Photos of The Wing's new Soho location at 52 Mercer St, 5th floor by Sarah Jacobs/Business Insider

The CoCo Club


In the case of The Wing, design plays a supporting role. At the CoCo Club, every design detail is brand-perfect.  The Observer writes about the space:

Upon entering, guests are immediately transported into an immersive experience of all things Chanel, with a photo booth that snaps a pic for their “club passport,” which serves as a guide through the various spaces. The {Boyfriend} watch’s influence can be seen in the emphasis on time; specifically, on the modern woman’s ability to manage time and find balance.

Although the name Chanel is not obvious, there are interlocking Cs everywhere. The CoCo Club is Parisian chic, Karl Lagerfeld style. If The Wing is your backup emerging brand, designed to help a woman soar in her own individual self, the CoCo Club design is more somber and sophisticated -- except for the vibrant pink hallway which screams BE A WOMAN TO WATCH! Even that message is as superficial and Insta-grammy.

Of course the most successful human rights lawyer in can be a woman to watch both for her love of luxury brands like Chanel and her pragmatic efficiency in taking down tyrants. Think Amal Clooney. More likely, though clothes and watches do not define these Wing Women, even if they do help to defer the costs of membership. 

It's not the case that we're talking an (un)easy alliance here. As Lagerfeld would say: "For God's sake, Anne, it's only fashion." Lagerfeld himself hates mixing politics with fashion, and I'll not plunge into his views on feminism. Yes, yes, I remember the September 2014 fashion show with Gisele Bunchen leading the parade of models with pro-feminism signs.  

Still, the brand messaging to women is very different between the two club concepts.

Just to be REALLY CLEAR that you are not in The Wing's No-Man land, the CoCo Club hosts select Chanel products at the BOY-FRIEND-BAR, which makes sense for a pop-up promoting Chanel's  BOY∙FRIEND collection.

The retro, private phone booths reinforce the man-friendly message with framed mantas like 'A Boyfriend's Place is on a Woman's Arm.'  The Coco Café features a Boys Club Sandwich, presumably because women want to grow into the values espoused by pussy-grabbing men like Trump and the infamous Frenchman Dominique Strauss Kahn.

I hate to tell Chanel but right now in America, the Boys Club is not something that millennial women and older seek to emulate. There are exceptions, of course: luxury brand-loving fashionistas with modern, Wall Street values. This woman's identity is very grounded in her clothes -- the more obvious, the better. Think Trump Tower! I suppose that within this context, Chanel tones her down with its subdued BOY∙FRIEND, old-world club design.

Just for the record, how does all this Boys Club, BOY∙FRIEND branding appeal to gay women or successful, independent single and happily-married women who choose not to be identified by having -- or not having a man? 

What women do we see in the CoCo Club: Angelina Jolie? Wonder Woman Gal Gadot, who this weekend dropped the gauntlet to Warner Bros, refusing to do a sequel, unless they cut ties with accused molester and neck grabber into his masturbating cock in the back of a limo  'Wonder Woman' producer Brett Ratner? 

Of course, women are friends to men, but at this point in time -- especially in the consuming sexual harassment scandals launched by Harvey Weinstein -- most women I know are comfortable that we are down with men's rights, too. Calling out that reality in a women's club is a branding misfire in my opinion.

Then again, Chanel supporters are very devoted to their brand, and American feminists can be so boring in our exploding-again, fed-up militancy. In fact, a pink pussy hat or two could perch next to the BOY∙FRIEND watch, eliminating any and all branding confusion about the  BOY∙FRIEND collection's DNA.

First and foremost, Chanel did professional a big favor in organizing this pop-up event at The Wing. Thank you, Karl. 

This women's club trend territory has deep roots, based on my reading today. Time for an even deeper dive. Stay tuned. ~ Anne