On Tuesday morning in Paris, Chanel showed Karl Lagerfeld’s final collection, which was a work in progress when the designer died last month. True to Lagerfeld’s legacy, the show included an extensive set design, a model casting full of his friends, and one of his signature sketches — a memento for the guests in attendance.
Before the show began, the brand held a minute of silence in honor of the 85-year-old designer who had transformed the brand from secluded, forgotten fashion house into a luxury juggernaut during his last 35 years at the helm. A recording was also played featuring an interview of the German designer talking about his role, revealing that he initially accepted the job because everyone told him not to.
“It’s the first time that a brand managed to become fashionable again, to turn itself into something desirable,” he said, according to Reuters. Lagerfeld, for his part, did exactly that: Chanel went from being known mostly for just its signature fragrance, No. 5, to an exploding accessories business, and ready-to-wear and couture shows that became pinnacles of (if not the very highlights of) every fashion month. According to Joe Zee, it was Lagerfeld’s idea to resurrect the now-coveted “CC logo” that has become the house’s calling card.
In the video, Lagerfeld describes his final show, as being like “walking in a painting.” That “painting” was one set in a ski resort, with the requisite snow, smoke, and cabins. Kristen Stewart, Janelle Monae, and other ambassadors all sat front row for the momentous occasion. On each seat lay a sketch Lagerfeld and the brand’s founder, Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel, with the phrase “The beat goes on …” scrawled across the top.
— Alyssa Vingan Klein (@alyssavingan) March 5, 2019
On the runway, longtime Lagerfeld muse Cara Delevingne opened the show, a slot of honor for models. Though she has recently been focusing on other creative pursuits (mostly by way of Hollywood), Delevingne returned to the runway for Lagerfeld. In the finale walk, she comforted a crying model.
The collection was expectedly — since it was set in a ski resort — heavy. Oversized, long, lush coats in herringbone and tweed set with matching hats and wide legged, sometimes high-waisted, trousers were the vibe of the show. Clothes and accessories were rendered in mostly muted, almost somber tones for the first half, before bursting into a flurry of colors toward the middle, smacking of the ladylike elegance that has always been Chanel’s style. In the final section, featuring a runway walk by the newly-minted brand ambassador Penélope Cruz, the models appeared in all-white. The show received a standing ovation led by Condé Nast artistic director Anna Wintour, which reportedly lasted for minutes.
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— Vanessa Friedman (@VVFriedman) March 5, 2019
It would be the second such occasion where Lagerfeld was memorialized during the women’s collections. At Milan Fashion Week, his final runway show for Fendi, where he was the designer for 65 years, took its bow. Guests were also met with Lagerfeld’s signature sketches on their seats, and a short video where he described his time at the brand. Silvia Venturini Fendi, his collaborator and protégé, took a tearful bow after the finale walk.
The beat will indeed go on, as in fashion, it always does. The label has already appointed Virginie Viard, who was the designer’s second in command, to take over. As Vanessa Friedman noted in The New York Times last month, Lagerfeld’s death really does signal the “end of an era.” The end of outrageous grandiosity, creative power and control that supersedes even corporation’s fiscal ambitions, sure. But Lagerfeld also represented an old guard — a man who was revered despite his outlandish and even offensive remarks, and never apologized. If the beat is to go on, in this era, it will certainly be to a different tune.