When Elise Harmon posted a video of her unboxing a Chanel advent calendar to TikTok, she probably didn’t expect to ignite an internet firestorm. After seeing the contents inside the holiday gift shaped like the French label’s No. 5 perfume bottle—unremarkable branded knickknacks such as key chains, stickers, and dustbags—digital thumb warriors seethed with righteous fury over the hefty $825 price tag.
After Harmon claimed Chanel blocked her on TikTok as punishment for her brave exposé, even though the private account has no posts or followers, the incensed mob picked up their pitchforks and marched on over to Instagram to call out Chanel’s suspected grift, becoming “the latest example of vigilante justice meted out against powerful global brands,” as Vanessa Friedman writes in the New York Times. She cites the label’s mythology of its own making as somewhat of a double-edged sword—thanks to high expectations, customers are more likely to believe they’re being ripped off. The episode is just the latest flashpoint in internet watchdog culture, spearheaded by the likes of the Instagram account Diet Prada, which often wastes zero time calling out fashion’s perceived injustices.
“This controversy is a bit of a shame because it’s not what Chanel intended,” Bruno Pavlovsky, Chanel’s president of fashion, told WWD, noting that the advent calendar was produced in a limited run. “Chanel thought it would please some of its customers by offering this type of product. Evidently, we see that you have to be careful and therefore, in future, we’ll be much more cautious. Next time, we’ll think of another way to do this type of thing.”
If the entire scandal sounds bizarre and overwrought, that’s because it is. Chanel clearly discloses the advent calendar’s contents on its website, so it’s pretty clear what the buyer is receiving. It’s also hardly the first brand to peddle pricey holiday-themed gimmicks. Dior and Saint Laurent recently introduced advent calendars of their own, and Tiffany & Co teased one housed inside of a four-foot-tall cabinet emblazoned with a turquoise-blue print of a Basquiat painting that’s priced at a whopping $150,000. Otherwise, everyday goods branded with fashion monograms have always struck us as gimmicky; if Prada paper clips, Louis Vuitton band-aids, and Chanel boomerangs didn’t make you weary enough to pass on $825 monogrammed advent calendars, that’s on you.