Karl Lagerfeld was notoriously averse to any discussion of his mortality, and it was his wish that when he died, there would be no memorial.
But it’s been impossible for the fashion community to ignore the hole that Lagerfeld’s absence has left for both Chanel and the entire industry. Since the designer’s death on Feb. 19, at the start of Milan Fashion Week, there was both insider and public speculation on whether Chanel would honor Lagerfeld’s wishes. On Tuesday, the French fashion house paid tribute to its iconic designer in subtle — but powerful — ways.
1. Showgoers wore black in mourning
Chanel show attendees usually pull out all the stops, donning their best double C’s in bright tweeds, statement boots and whatever the current season’s clever theme may be at the time. But for Tuesday’s show, most showgoers avoided the bright corals and beach vibes of the spring ’19 collection and opted for mostly black and navy in the brand’s signature tweeds or simple wool. Many attendees wore Chanel’s distinctive ballet flats and Mary Janes in two-tone nude and black. Lagerfeld muse Kristen Stewart was front-row in an all-black ensemble with double C’s.
2. The show notes included a self-portrait sketch of Lagerfeld with Coco Chanel
Lagerfeld included sketches in most of his collection notes at both Chanel and Fendi, so it was not unusual to see one in fall ’19’s show notes. But this time, the sketch was a self-portrait of Lagerfeld standing next to Coco Chanel. “The beat goes on,” read the title at the top, with the designer’s signature below. It was yet another indication of Lagerfeld’s postmortem request to focus on the show and not on his death.
3. The show’s Bavarian ski-themed set honored his birth country
Lagerfeld may have been born in Hamburg, Germany, but there is no doubt that the entirety of his home country had been inspiration to him over the years. For the fall ’19 show, the Grand Palais was transformed into a quaint Bavarian ski village, complete with traditional chalets (with smokestacks producing puffs of faux chimney smoke), skis stacked outside, sleds and massive amounts of fake snow covering every surface, from the runway and fake trees to the wooden benches and railings.
4. There was a 1-minute moment of silence
Musical chimes rang out as models opened the show by walking out of the set’s main ski house, aptly dubbed the Chalet Gardenia, and standing on its wooden deck. As the last model walked out, an announcement was made that there would be a 1-minute moment of silence.
5. Some of his favorite muses walked the show
Model Cara Delevingne opened the show wearing a black and white checked tweed overcoat with matching hat, walking solemnly down the snowy runway. And one of his last muses — and collaborators on his own Karl Lagerfeld line — model Kaia Gerber closed the show wearing a frothy fur-trimmed embellished minidress and white platform snowboots. There was also a cameo from actress Penélope Cruz, who held a single white rose in her hand while wearing another white minidress.
6. Models walked the finale to David Bowie’s “Heroes”
The classic Bowie song must have been one of Lagerfeld’s favorites, because it played at both Fendis’ fall ’19 finale on Feb. 21 (just days after his death) and at the Chanel finale. Newly named Chanel creative director Virginie Viard (who had been by Lagerfeld’s side as design assistant for years) made a brief appearance outside the Chalet Gardenia but otherwise let the moment go to the deceased designer. There were visible tears from showgoers and models alike, the latter walking arm-in-arm to the music. The entire audience stayed still in reverence, waiting for the song to end.
7. The peaceful, snowy winter setting was a poetic close to Lagerfeld’s life and career
For his most recent collections, Lagerfeld had worked through the actual seasons of the year in fashion’s self-imposed seasons. There was a poolside Italian villa in full springtime bloom for haute couture spring ’19; a sunny, summery beach (with gentle waves and real sand) for spring ’19; and autumnal leaves and trees for fall ’18. Fall ‘19’s snowy winter setting was the perfect close to both Lagerfeld’s life and his time at the French fashion house, where he had continuously pushed the boundaries of show theatrics for the entire industry.
Flip through the gallery to see every look from Chanel’s fall ’19 show.
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