Monday 18 March 2019

Karl Lagerfeld's Chanel Winter Wonderland

Cara Delevigne and Mariacarla Boscono lead the way at the end of Karl Lagerfeld's last show for Chanel in Paris.
Photograph by Lucille Peron. Cover picture backstage at Chanel with Kaia Gerber
Karl Lagerfeld's last show for Chanel was majestic, set in a snowy, mountainous landscape of fir trees and wooden chalets, all created under the great dome of Paris' Grand Palais. We look back at the highlights of the fashion maestro's Autumn/Winter 2019 pret-a-porter collection. Story by Jeanne-Marie Cilento. Additional reporting by Antonio Visconti. Pictures by Lucille Peron

Cara Delevigne wearing a
sweeping, houndstooth greatcoat
A peaceful mountain village with pretty snow-topped chalets was the scene Karl Lagerfeld conjured up in his imagination for what would turn out to be his last show for Chanel. It was a beautiful scene when brought to life under the soaring glass roof of the Grand Palais, combining his signature grandiosity of gesture with his mastery of creating visual drama, another world in the heart of Paris.

There was a panorama of mountains, twelve Alpine huts with smoking chimneys and real pine trees.The atmosphere was like a sparkling, snowy winter's morning but one overlaid with the poignancy of the great designer's loss. A silence of one-minute before the start of the AW19 show, recognised how Karl Lagerfeld will be missed and the 36 years he devoted to building and expanding the Chanel fashion house. After the quiet, all you could hear was the sound of wind whistling in the trees and Karl Lagerfeld's voice from a recent Chanel podcast.

Looking back at when he first took over Chanel he spoke in French, until he finished in English describing the gasp of a guest: “Oh! It’s like walking in a painting!” He always liked to surprise, shock and delight with each of his haute couture and ready to wear shows.

The atmosphere was like a sparkling, snowy winter's morning but one overlaid with the poignancy of the great designer's loss

A brilliant fuchsia caped jacket
and trousers added a dash
of colour
One of Mr Lagerfeld's favourite models, Cara Delevigne, opened the show wearing a sweeping, houndstooth greatcoat, striding out from the Chalet Gardenia at one end of the village street that formed the runway. Mr Lagerfeld's other favourite muses were on the catwalk or seated in the audience, including Penelope Cruz, Kaia Gerber, Claudia Schiffer and Naomi Campbell.
After the show, Penelope Cruz said: "It was all about him, it was all about honouring him. I am very happy I was part of it. It was really emotional. I felt like smiling and crying at the same time."

The snowy street that formed the long catwalk was filled with Karl Lagerfeld's strolling, elegant mountain dwellers and Romantic dandies wearing tweed fedoras and long coats. The collection mixed both masculine and feminine silhouettes with a palette of winter white, beige, black and navy blue with dashes of purple, fuchsia, brick and emerald green.

The voluminous jackets were in houndstooth and tartan with big check motifs. The suits had wide trousers cut high on the waist combined with the long overcoats. Karl Lagerfeld designed many variations on the coat, some fastened with a shawl collar and mini cape, or enhanced with a trompe-l’œil bolero or a faux fur lapel. His virtuosity was once more displayed in the details from the straight, trapeze or double-breasted cuts, some belted with large, buttoned pockets.

"I thought the show was breathtaking," said actress Elisa Sednaoui. "It was so Karl in so many ways. I was sitting there, hearing his voice and the music and it was a collection of memories."

Italian model Mariacarla Boscono wearing
a long, enveloping tweed coat
The tweed jackets were trimmed with a thick wool braid, woven or left almost raw. Others revealed a flared collar or another version of the trompe-l’œil bolero. The soft knit pullovers were mixed with sweaters embroidered with crystals and cardigans with mountain motifs. There were also ski outfits mixed with urban wear, such as a down jacket with wide-cut trousers in check tweed plus zip-up ski-suits. The little tweed jackets were braided or adorned with a patch pocket to slip in a ski-pass and combined with a pencil skirt.
Another Chanel muse at the show, actress and singer Alma Jodorowsky said she felt "there was something very soft and very reassuring in these warm, enveloping clothes. They give a cozy feel that is quite wonderful. Yet its mixed with very feminine, flowing materials."

Large over-jackets had a certain swagger and were worn with wide-cut trousers in leather. Giving the softness to the collection were knitted scarves in embroidered chiffon, big blouses with jabots, necklaces in glass beads worn with white pearl earrings. It all translated into a sophisticated kind of comfort especially with the generous, fluid silhouettes.

Penelope Cruz: "It was all about him, it was all about honouring him. It was really emotional. I felt like smiling and crying at the same time."

Model and music producer, Caroline de Maigret, and another favourite model of Karl Lagerfeld, said  the show "was very beautiful and very moving. I could see Karl the whole time in the colletion. I found every piece, every fabric so beautiful. It was amazing."

Contrasting with the maxi coats were airy tops, skirts and dresses in white chiffon printed with mini skiers and CC chairlifts, scalloped collars and flounces that floated to the rhythm of the body's movements. The Romantic theme was enhanced by great capes in wool, dresses with Claudine collars and tiers of rounded panels, skirts in snowy guipure lace and white tuxedos in duchess satin.

Spanish actress Penelope Cruz
wore a fluffy "snowball" skirt
Finishing the show were delightful "snow-ball" skirts and dresses in chiffon and feathers with the bust embroidered with snowflakes in white and gold (see Penelope Cruz at left). Lagerfeld designed bags for the collection in black or white quilted leather, tweed with a double C clasp, one in faux fur plus a camera case in braided shearling.

Removable purses were designed to be attached to small bags with shoulder straps. Hip bags in faux fur or leather embroidered with glossy camellias alternated with gondola lift minaudières in rhinestoned resin, that looked very desirable to collect. The signature Chanel bags included the Gabrielle in leather and fluffy checked tweed, frosted with embroidered sequins and one in neon-orange quilted leather.

The finale of the show closed with Cara Delevigne and Mariacarla Boscono crying and clapping, leading the charge of models across the snow, the audience standing in an ovation celebrating Karl Lagerfeld's genius, his tremendous contribution to fashion, his fierce intelligence and energy that made him outstanding on the fashion stage for more than sixty years.

His right hand support for thirty years, Virginie Viard made a brief bow from the Chalet Gardenia at the end of the show. She will continue his legacy as creative director at Chanel. After the show, Naomi Campbell said: "I am so happy Virginie is going to be the head of the house. She has been by his side so many years, it makes so much sense."

Watch the story of the Chanel show in Paris below:

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