July 2009: the fashion world was abuzz with two leaked photos (by Stéphane Feugére) of a custom-built ‘Chanel Triton’ being photographed for use as a prop for a Chanel photo shoot.  Staff explained the photos were for their 2010 Spring collection, ‘Starting Point’, during the shoot on the Rue Royale Chanel boutique in Paris, during Fashion Week. The photos were no surprise to The Vintagent, as we’d watched the bike come together during the year, and were curious how this beautiful problem child would be received by the world.

While delivered to the address indicated, the package was refused – ‘return to sender’ [Benoit Guerry]
While vintage motorcycles are regularly used to give high-fashion advertising a cachet of authenticity, nostalgia, and  bad-boy chic, the Chanel-branded Triton was a different animal; a contemporary custom covered in the company’s logo.   The houses of haute couture typically use motorcycles as an anonymous prop, but the Triton was Chanel all over, from the cutout logo on the exhaust heat shield, to smaller details like ‘double C’ gas caps and fork seal retaining rings, which were shaped to mimic the current crop of Chanel watch bezels, while the speedo itself was rebuilt to as a Chanel watch. The address of Coco Chanel’s apartment, 31 Rue Cambon, is emblazoned on the Featherbed frame (surrounded by a ‘midnight-with-starry-sky’ paint job) – a reference as well to the new Chanel magazine of that name.  ‘Chanel’ even replaced ‘Triumph’ on the engine cases!

Karl Lagerfeld, Baptiste Giacobini, and Lara Stone on the set of ‘Vol du Jour’

Models Lara Stone and Baptiste Giacobini were draped over the bike, and the Triton wasn’t merely used for a photo shoot; Karl Lagerfeld, the infamous Creative Director of Chanel, featured the Triton as the principal prop of his latest film  – ‘Vol du Jour’ (the film is nonfunctional on the Chanel website, watch it below).  In the film, Stone and Giacobini shoplift clothing from various Chanel shops in Paris, and escape by stealing the Triton!  A plotline with a sense of humor…but Karl should definitely keep his day job, as his films aren’t nearly as polished as his clothing, or his image.

The Triton was built as a collaboration between several French creatives: Daniel Delfour (builder of the Norton Alla’Verde hybrid, and a violin maker by trade), Vincent Prat (Wheels&Waves founder), and Frank Charriaut (an original Southsider, and former Chanel designer…which may have something to do with the Triton…), with paint by Momo.  It was also born into trouble, being built without the the permission or knowledge of Chanel themselves. While Karl Lagerfeld loved the Triton, and rented it for Chanel’s advertising and his own film that year, lawyers representing the firm insisted all identifying logos be removed from the machine.  The raison d’etre of the exercise thus defeated, the Chanel Triton was then completely dismantled, having been built for a purpose.   Its parts were scattered to serve other projects, and it exists today only as photographs and a short film, an avant garde alt.custom before its time, that was appreciated by creatives, but destroyed by lawyers.  Handkerchief, please.

A stunt rider, and nominal ‘owner’ of the Triton, on the set of ‘Vol du Jour’
An homage or a theft of intellectual property? The Chanel Triton.
The Chanel Triton as it appeared in the company’s print advertising
The offending parts of the machine, bearing the company’s logos
The exhaust heat shield – a bold statement! [Benoit Guerry]
Such a shame; it was a beautiful motorcycle [Benoit Guerry]
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