“When I took over Chanel everybody said to me, ‘Don’t touch it. It’s dead…’ And I said to myself, ‘I love that people think that. Now let’s see.’” These are the words of a true fashion icon. Today, we say farewell to a prolific designer, Karl Lagerfeld who passed away this morning at 84 in Paris. Best known for his prolific, news-making observations and idealistic vision, Lagerfeld has touched fashion houses including Chanel, Fendi, and Chloe.
Courtier of Chanel since 1983, the multitalented designer was full of creative force and sharp wisdom within the fashion industry, propelling Chanel into an icon of international luxury. Lagerfeld’s endless imagination and exceptional genius spread across years of tireless design and reinventions of the French brand. Fashion show after fashion show, collection after collection, Lagerfeld has rejuvenated Chanel’s legend, promoting innovation that spreads across artistic horizons in a way that will not be forgotten.
Today, we look back at some of Chanel’s most spectacular shows from a legend whose shining expertise, enchanting collections and ravenous search for the new made him into a fashion mastermind ahead of his time, one who has left his mark on the past, present, and, we are sure of it, future.
31 Rue Cambon, the Chanel boutique address in the heart of Paris, was brought to an audience of close to one thousand spectators with a life-sized facade of the home built within the Grand Palais. Madness’ “Our House” played when the doors opened, ushering Chanel-clad pedestrians down a street runway in an array of tweeds, cocktail dresses, and metallics.
A huge, imposing barn was conjured in the Grand Palais, illustrating the fairytale-esque side of the Chanel brand. Speckles of golden wheat clung to model’s tousled hair as they emerged from the countryside wonderland of sunny beehives, peasant poppies, and rustic harvests.
Amethyst and crystal stalagmites became centre stage at the Chanel Villa as Lagerfeld focused on fierce shapes and precision. Stripes of crystal and glitter lined each of the models’ brows, made fiercely to compliment the show’s fortress-like grand design, complete with jet blue moonstones, geometric angles, and color blocking done in an avant garde manner, reminiscent of the early days of cubism.
Inside the Grand Palais, but also inside a dark and dreary apocalyptic theater of wailing opera and futuristic projections. The Emerald City of Atlantis grazes against the Far East frontier in this show when, behind a shabby set of drapes, models surrender to a masterful, 3D illusion, making for the imagined world that gave us all the sentimental feels, making for a sci-fi show reflective of Lagerfeld’s inspiration being brought upon by Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World.
Lagerfeld’s exquisite genius reimagined the world as an all-encompassing supermarket, un grand magasin. This store offered no bargains. The shelves were embellished by thousands of items, making for a fashion candy store, mixing together the concept of pop culture fashion being satirically connected to consumerism.
The Haussmannian, Parisian streets became the perfect locale for the designer to stage a feminist protest, honoring the long withheld French tradition of strikes and political manifestations. It was on this Boulevard Chanel that Lagerfeld created an immaculate, fierce street scene that brought every bit of Paris to a standstill. Models hoisted placards with feminist slogans sketched about them, displaying political passion in chanting statements such as “Be different,” “Women first,” and “History is her history.”
A Chanel Airlines Terminal was installed in the Grand Palais for this collection, showcasing the concept of strong, empowering women always being on the go nowadays. A departure board was created, listing all the locations that Chanel had once showed such as Shanghai and Dallas. Blue skies were visible from inside the makeshift plane as male and female models handed showcards at a Chanel check-in kiosk. Over ninety looks were shown, between bright prints to crystal-embroidered bodices and full silhouettes, a look for every woman’s point of departure.
An open street, Chanel Cruise was staged along Havana’s Main Street with a flock of well known fashion beauties including Kendall Jenner and Gisele Bundchen. With tense relations between Cuba and the U.S. thawing, Lagerfeld offered 700 guests a spectacle welcomed by a brightly colored vintage collection of Cadillacs and Buicks. It was a timeless event that celebrated Cuban culture featured dressed printed with vintage cars and berets ad t shirts of sequins reading “Viva Coco Libre!”
The healing power of nature - fresh air, spring water, and greenery brought Chanel up to the cliffs and cascades of waterfalls for this show. The Grand Palais was recreated into a dreamlike, whimsical wonderland lost somewhere in the countryside on the south of France that created an illusory sensation of a summer breeze and childlike rafting across a calm canyon.
At the Villa Chanel we awed at Lagerfeld’s show stopping, superhuman approach of serene luxury infused with high chic drama. The Grand Palais in Paris, the January winter cold was forgotten as beyond the doors of Chanel’s estate was transformed into a spectacular, Mediterranean retreat, embracing nature, joy and the exquisite couture the French brand is iconic for. The setting became a quaint country house of blue skies, palm trees, green grass, and clear ponds. Lagerfeld’s love for eighteenth century fashion was reflected in Marie Antoinette-inspired gowns with an abundance of florals and ravishing silhouettes of wrapped bodices embellished with ruffles and ribbons, representing intricate details and stunning craftsmanship.