Chanel: A winter wonderland farewell to Karl with a minute's silence
They bid adieu to Karl with his final show for the house of Chanel inside the Grand Palais on Tuesday, two weeks to the day after the German couturier passed away in Paris. An initially somber fashion event that ended for many in tears.
These were the final clothes that Lagerfeld would ever sketch, and the final set he would conceive. A magnificent Alpine village, with 10 life-size cabins with smoking chimneys, the audience of 2,000 sitting on wooden benches, surrounded by an enormous backdrop of the Alps. This fall-winter 2019-2020 collection brought down the curtain on a career at the house that began in 1983, a dozen years after Coco Chanel had died.
At the set’s center-point, a painted cabin, named Chalet Gardenia, in a reference to Coco’s floral emblem. Some 40 models gathered in front of the chalet, before Karl’s great friend and DJ Michel Gaubert called for a minute of silence. Seconds after it ended, Lagerfeld’s voice came over the speakers, musing on his decision to join the house Chanel.
"When I was offered it, people said, 'Don’t take that, it’s hopeless, it’s over.' Because today it’s all about the reanimation of the most absurd brands. But at the time, you didn't do that. New names were needed. There was another world to build, I don’t know what… And I still found it quite fascinating, the character and everything [so that] when they asked me a second time, I accepted because everyone was saying to me, 'Don’t do it, it won’t work.' But it’s the first time that a brand became a fashion thing again, apparently, something that you want. Even to the Queen Mother of England… And I will never forget, when she got out of the car… We’d made the decor look beautiful, I can tell you that! A fortune, flowers and everything. And there, she said in English: 'Oh, it’s like walking in a painting.' And that, I will never forget,” said Karl, who died on February 19 aged 85.
To gentle twinkling of sleigh bells the show began. Entitled Chanel in the Snow, the cast marched on a faux snowfall along the 120-meter catwalk of the giant space. Cara Delevingne, a long-time Chanel ambassador, had the honor of the first passage in white-and-black check pants, with matching hat, under a giant houndstooth coat; Dutch model Luna Bijl took the final walk. Just two looks after Penelope Cruz, another Chanel ambassador, marched out proudly in a snowball-shaped skirt made of feathers.
In the depth of winter, coats were a key element – from outsized beige and coal tweed plaid coats, topped by Austrian gents' hats, to a fabulous windowpane-check ankle-length version worn by red-haired Mariacarla Boscono.
Most everything anchored with shearling lined hiking boots often worn with a new flared skirt that finished halfway down the calf, some done in beautiful folkloric Alpine motifs; or with raw edged tweed minis, over a new Chanel development: tweed leggings cut off at the knee.
Fittingly, given the set, the finale was all in white: perfectly judged pantsuits; with roll neck sweaters; pearl bracelets and belt buckles; or the divine snowball skirts, worn, with typical Lagerfeld humor, with miniature cable car cabin bags.
A classy collection, ending a classy career in the classiest of houses, Lagerfeld, according to his team, even visiting the Chanel studio in the week before he departed to make final alterations. The show also ended a long tradition of monumental shows imagined by Lagerfeld inside the Grand Palais begun in 2005 that included a virtual Versailles Garden; colossal copy of the Eiffel Tower; giant Chanel supermarket and art gallery and dense Teutonic forest.
“It’s a day to remember a great friend and to remember a beautiful life. He was a very generous, noble gentleman,” said Gérard Wertheimer, who along with bother Alain owns Chanel.
Added Françoise Montenay, president of the supervisory board of Chanel: “Karl left the way he wanted. Working until the end with passion, and surrounded by the people he loved. Who would not want that?”
A highly emotional moment, with scores of actresses and ex-models in the front-row: Marion Cotillard, Kristen Stewart; Virginie Ledoyen, Janelle Monáe, Alma Jodorowksy, Naomi Campbell, Claudia Schiffer and Karen Elson.
On the catwalk, most of the models fighting back tears: from Boscono to Anna Ewers.
Lagerfeld will now be succeeded by his right-hand-woman Virginie Viard, who has been at his side for over two decades. For the first time ever, the official program described the collection as having been designed by Karl Lagerfeld and Virginie Viard.
Dressed in black, she took her bow emotionally in the doorway of Chalet Gardenia; waving gently before suddenly bursting into tears and disappearing into the backstage. Quite possibly, the best-prepared successor in fashion history, she will make her debut in May with Chanel’s next cruise collection. It will also take place in the Grand Palais.
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