I can’t tell you how many times I’ve sat down to write this article only to either promptly close my laptop or write and delete the opening sentences multiple times over. Karl Lagerfeld was arguably one of the most important contributors to the world of fashion over the past century, and the mark he left on the House of CHANEL is indelibly inked into the very fabric of this legendary House. Even the most gushing of words seem like hollow platitudes in light of Monsieur Lagerfeld’s staggering accomplishments and talent. However, I will endeavour to capture my thoughts on what is most likely his final collection for CHANEL. Small as they may be, they are heartfelt, genuine, and written in utter admiration.
Expertly honoring the legacy of Mademoiselle Chanel and the DNA of the House, while injecting his own vision and style, the decades of collections Lagerfeld created will be remembered as triumphs. Possessing staggering talent, his collections were a visual feast for the eyes and represent all that is magical about the world of high fashion. Quick to point out the hard work of the individuals that make up the CHANEL atelier, and those that the House utilizes for specialty work, his Métier d’Arts and Couture collections for CHANEL in particular are nothing short of sublime in their celebration of these artisans’ talents married with his exacting eye. Drawing inspiration from all over, from the ancient world, storied historical periods, art, architecture, and even technology, Lagerfeld created collections as almost love letters to the women who wore his pieces.
The Ready-to-Wear Fall-Winter 2019/2020 collection that was shown earlier this month came only days after Lagerfeld’s passing, and it serves as both a testament to, and a triumph of, the great designer. Set against the backdrop of a chic alpine village that was undoubtedly a subtle nod to Lagerfeld’s birth country of Germany, the Grand Palais was blanketed with snow and shone with the brightness of a crisp and beautiful winter’s day. Lagerfeld, along with his closest collaborator and studio director Virginie Viard, created a collection that is the perfect representation of one of the greatest hallmarks of CHANEL – the delicate balance and intertwining of the masculine and the feminine. Featuring the classic CHANEL color palette of winter white, beige, black, and navy blue, there are also brilliant flashes of purple, emerald green, brick, and fuchsia that add a warmth and brightness to the collection. Robust fabrications of tweed, wool, houdstooth, leather, tartan, and knits play beautifully against the airy lightness of chiffon, duchess satin, and lace. As befitting a Fall-Winter collection, coats featured prominently throughout the collection. From great billowing capes and overcoats, to trim little tweed jackets and just about the most elegant down jackets ever created, one is left longing for cold winter days. The iconic CHANEL suit is imagined in oversized masculine proportions, with wide-cut trousers worn high at the waist or as a trim pencil skirt suit. Tailoring was impeccable – the garments exuded a feeling of effortless elegance and wearability. Sumptuous knits are done as pullovers, sweaters and cardigans, and are embroidered and embellished with crystals and mountain motifs. Skirts and dresses are even done in a white chiffon printed with mini skiers and CC chairlifts which ripple with the wearer’s movement. The final pieces to come down the runway, one being on no less than a single white rose clutching House ambassador Penélope Cruz, were delicate confections of white chiffon and feathers and adorned with embroidered with snowflakes in white and gold vinyl. These “snow-ball” skirts and dresses were a beautiful close to a serenely elegant show and collection.
It was obviously a moving presentation. From the opening voiceover of Monsieur Lagerfeld speaking during a recent podcast before the models took to the runway, to the closing walk lead by some of the House’s most notable faces wiping tears from their faces, the mood of the presentation was one that was both reverential and celebratory. And of the women he designed for, the woman who is fierce yet feminine, elegant yet effortless and who playfully mixes the masculine and the feminine, she will undoubtedly continue to live on in the designs of Ms. Viard as she takes the helm of one of the most storied fashion houses in the world.