Karl Lagerfeld was not just a fashion designer, nor another creative director with power in his hands and a lot of spare time to show it off. He was a genuine pioneer, a person dwelling in a world of inspiration, fantasy and deep culture, who worked relentlessly in order to make reality seem a little better through style and aesthetics. Judging by the result, he succeeded.
His work for CHANEL, starting in 1983 and lasting until his death in 2019, can be seen as a case study of how a genius can “manipulate” a classic fashion brand into becoming a modern style platform, able to reach a large demographic and set trends applicable to pretty much every woman. What the restless virtuoso, who produced no less than eight collections a year, managed to do with the CHANEL legacy is simply remarkable. Being the careful observer that he was, as the years went by, he infused all of CHANEL’s signature items and symbols with a sense of whatever was relevant in each season, making them icons of global culture instead of letting them languish. He kept CHANEL alive in the best way possible.
Karl never stopped coming up with new ideas, was not afraid of seeming superficial, appreciated tradition but did not hold back on its reform and strongly believed that fashion is not just a product for the rich – but a cultural phenomenon aimed at everyone. One thing is for sure. He will not be forgotten.
Karl Lagerfeld’s last collection for CHANEL Spring 2019 Couture carried a retro flair, inspired by the 18th century bourgeoisie and their tendency to buy luxurious goods from Parisian merchants. In an awe-inspiring setting that marvelously recreated a decadent Italian villa, Karl presented what felt like a mood board of references and recollections from his favorite museums and works of art.
Long skirts, bubble hem dresses, ruffles, lean tailored jackets, pointed-toe kitten-heel boots and dreamy materials such as chiffon, lace, gleaming leather and organza served as a hymn to the exquisite skills of the French couture suppliers, along with sumptuous embroidered flowers and hand-painted sequins. Karl’s love for detail, craftsmanship and nostalgia (a vibe from his Chloé days was more than obvious) sprawled across the Grand Palais in a rather powerful yet gentle way.
Although Karl did not get the chance to give his traditional greeting at the end of the show for one last time, his invaluable collaborator and creative studio director, Virginie Viard, who has now been appointed CHANEL’s new creative director, stood in for him. If Karl’s instinct was right, we must expect great things from the brand’s era to come.