By Laura Dolfi
“His spirit is everywhere” wrote Laurence Benaïm, journalist at Business of Fashion, after the passing of fashion’s most iconic figure, designer Karl Lagerfeld. Chanel’s emotional Fall/Winter 2019 RTW show in Paris was only a few days ago, and Benaïm’s statement couldn’t be more true.
The show took place in the Grand Palais but was set in an Alpine village: Karl’s winter wonderland. It was the designer’s last goodbye and the perfect tribute to its 37 years spent as the Creative Director of the Maison with the double C’s.
The show opened with a minute of silence in the memory of “the Kaiser”, followed by a recording of Karl’s voice. A symbolic one, as he explained how he first decided to work at Chanel more than thirty years ago. Cara Delevingne then lead the way, and the models filed past the audience one by one. The styles and the colors of the collection seemed to make a nod to the recent sad event, commemorating the past and announcing the future of Chanel.
Typical of Gabrielle Chanel, the collection was introduced by a very sober palette displaying black, grey, white and mismatched tweeds. Weeks after Karl’s passing, the predominant black color almost seemed like a display of grieving, a sign of mourning. The mood was relaxed, with over-sized coats, wide trousers and midi length skirts. Michel Gaubert’s soundtrack, an obscure yet placid rhythm, lead the cadence of the models’ walk and perfectly matched the mood of the collection.
As the beat got faster, the tweeds got brighter and more colorful. Hues of pink, blue and red took over the runway. These highlighted Karl’s creative genius, one that entered the House of Chanel in 1983 like a breath of fresh air. They were the perfect demonstration that, like McDonough wrote in the Washington Post, Karl made Chanel into a desirable brand for young customers. For more than thirty years, he added flamboyant pieces to each collection and reinvented the iconic ones by adding fresh cuts and colors.
The styles then went back to dark colors, with black leather and long capes. And then, almost like an angelic vision, came the models dressed in white. From white puffers to feathered miniskirts, these last looks of the collection gave Karl’s winter wonderland a soothing aspect, almost celestial. They seemed to reassure the audience of a bright future in the hands of Virginie Viard. Viard is Lagerfeld’s long-time right hand, his “secret weapon” (BoF, 2019). They had been working together for almost three decades. Viard was entrusted by the Wertheimer family to carry on Gabrielle’s and Karl’s legacy and deemed a good bet to maintain Chanel’s leadership in the luxury fashion world.
The emotional finale in this dream-like décor made the fashion editors in the audience shed a few tears. The grandiosity of it did Karl justice.
The world lost an icon, but “the beat must go on”…
Cards at the Chanel Fall/Winter 2019 fashion show.