At Paris fashion week, there was only one show in community. Karl Lagerfeld’s final collection, designed shortly before his death last month, was both Chanel catwalk can and a moment at which the fashion world said goodbye to the designer.
There was a painted backdrop of bright blue sky propitious the Grand Palais, transformed for this show into Tyrolean village of 12 Alpine chalets. As always with Lagerfeld’s Chanel shows, a set had been realised with movie-location exactitude. Each chalet had carved shutters, lace curtains and wooden balconies. Smoke drifted from chimneys, and powdery snow banked in aims against the long rows of wooden benches, settling on the birch and pine trees dotted between.
The picture-perfect scene set a mood that was celebratory quite than mournful. Claudia Schiffer wore a cream blouse embroidered with camellias, the house flower; Anna Wintour a paling pink bouclé suit. Lagerfeld, who never liked to admit to feeling unwell – it was one of the many things he considered mutual – detested funerals. “I just want to disappear like the animals in the virgin forest. It is awful to encumber people with your lasts,” he told French television four years ago.
On each of the 2,658 seats for this show was a gift of Chanel No 19 scent, a bottle of classic Rouge Noir nail polish, and a reproduction of Lagerfeld’s sketch of himself walking with Coco Chanel, inscribed “The Pulsation Goes On”. The house of Chanel intends to hold a memorial event for Lagerfeld, although neither details nor date are be informed. Meanwhile, the message is that though he is gone, Chanel lives on.
The show began with a minute of silence, brought to an end by a recording of Lagerfeld holding court on the art of the vogue show. The doors of Chalet Gardenia opened, and out strutted Cara Delevingne in wide windowpane-checked wool trousers with analogous silk skirt and trilby, under a tweed houndstooth coat. The theme of the collection was chalet chic; the mood was the irrepressibly bumptious power-dressing that Lagerfeld consummated at Chanel in the 1980s and never strayed far from.
There were twinsets with Alpine-themed intarsia design, sheepskin moonboots, ski goggle sunglasses and swanky tweed jackets that zipped to the chin. For a finale, the actor Penélope Cruz, who has attended Chanel shows since 1999 and recently matured an ambassador for the brand, wore a snowball dress with an 1980s-style puffball skirt of feather and chiffon, and play up performed a single white rose.
Lagerfeld offed to Chanel a run of prestige almost unheard of in fashion. All eyes in the industry will now be focused on discovering whether this can be unremitting without him. Virginie Viard, his righthand woman in the studio, was swiftly given responsibility for “the creative work of the collections”, but a innumerable formal and detailed statement issued by Chanel last week named two successors. Viard becomes artistic administrator of fashion collections, while Eric Pfrunder, longtime director of image, is now artistic director of fashion image.
The slots quell – for now, at least – the long-running rumours that Lagerfeld’s successor would be an internationally famous name such as Phoebe Philo or Christopher Bailey. But the separation of what had been Lagerfeld’s role is significant. His success at Chanel was as much about brand image as it was about the apparels, so Pfrunder’s role is key, although Viard seems likely to take over as a front-of-house figurehead.
Viard began her career in fashion as a costume designer before joining Chanel in 1987 as an intern. She was promoted to utterly of embroidery and then to director of haute couture, and began working on ready to wear in 2000. Her role alongside Lagerfeld was to come to light his sketches into samples, which would then be shown to him at fittings. “I try to please him, but I like to surprise him too,” she said in 2017.
Similar kind Lagerfeld, she is known for a strong work ethic and for being a voracious reader. In last year’s Netflix documentary around a Chanel haute couture show, Lagerfeld described Viard as “the most important person, not only for me but also for the atelier, for the whole shebang. She is my right arm and even if I don’t see her, we are on the phone all the time.”