THE BEAT GOES ON

All Images, courtesy of Chanel.com
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Chanel Fa·rewe·ll 2019

March the 5th was just another Tuesday for another Chanel show. A Tuesday two weeks ago, the legendary Creative Director of Chanel ended his game of throne only without a trailer. Five, a perfect number to the house of Chanel, was chosen - almost fated - for this presentation of Fall 2019. “Today is your day”, captioned Virginie Mouzat on Instagram in the morning of the show. It was a sentimental and memorial date for many who were brought together under the towering dome of the Grand Palais. Carine Roitfeld, Sophie Fontanel, Caroline de Maigret and other close friends to Karl paid their homage to the late designer who served as the Pope of this fashion religion for half a century. On Gabrielle Chanel’s funeral, attendees were dressed in black Chanel to pay the last tribute to the house founder. And today, complicated mood intrigued, these fashion elites showed up in their best looks for the man whose spirit will last forever despite a physical absence.

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The show started with a minute of silence dedicated to remember the late Karl Lagerfeld, followed by an interview recording. Then there was a silence again until a chiming sound of bells broke the sorrow. It was a fall collection showcased among icy surroundings that included mountain figures, wooden chalets, artificial snows and the ominous atmosphere of a loss. Although Sarah Mower found it sombre, she and other critiques eventually arrived on the same word, “serene”. The verisimilitude staged by Chanel once again exceeded our expectations. No one could ever do a show grander than Chanel or dare to play so like Lagerfeld. Every inch of the venue contributed to an indelible impression. This winter wonderland was conjured in Karl Lagerfeld’s mind who, according to BOF, “gave us the feeling that was larger than life, bigger than death. Immortal.”

Gabrielle Chanel herself and Karl Lagerfeld had some similarities in being a great innovator. Starting off in 1910, Gabrielle Chanel created a fashion that many followed. She took pride in this phenomenon saying a design would be a failure if no imitations. 12 years after the death of Gabrielle, Karl Lagerfeld was invited to join the house by the Wertheimer family. Initially - communicated in the interview played before the show - Karl turned down the offer. However, he later took the job because the naysayers kept convincing him, “don’t touch it. It’s dead.” Probably somehow rebellious, like that of Gabrielle, he challenged what’s dead to others and proved an existence of dynamic energy. “In fact, it was dead.” The designer said in a recent Netflix documentary “7 Days Out” and followed - “when I started a line, things are completely new.” This German designer, having built a reputation since his triumph at the International Woolmark Prize, then resurrected a dusty French fashion house whose niches were aptly redefined thanks to his entrepreneurship.

“A master of category segregation,” analyst Luca Solca referred to Chanel’s large menu ranging from $100,000 a couture dress to $28 a nail lacquer. His 36 years at the house not only transformed a fashion label but also resulted in $9.6 billion of sales in 2017 alone, making Chanel one of the most formidable powerhouses in the world. Upon his arrival, he created the global fashion as we know today. He was the first generation of celebrity designers, next to Yves Saint Laurent, who “recognized earlier than most that ready-to-wear wasn’t just couture-lite but the vibrant centre of the new, accomplished woman’s lifestyle”, remembered Anna Wintour. BOF added, Karl Lagerfeld wrote a playbook and created a template that many established fashion enterprises imitated. He was the designer who can do it all; all fashions, all styles and all businesses. FYI, a Karl-Lagerfeld-designed apartment is soon to be completed in Taiwan.

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by DDA, 07 MAR 2019

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While Karl’s interior and exterior designs for this luxury accommodation remained unclear, his imagination for Chanel Fall 2019 was an intelligible Réalisme. The carved chalets called for Swiss to some wealthy loyalists, although the signage reading “Chalet Gardenia” may be indicating the snowy retreat in Bormio, Italy, which was rated 5 stars on Tripadvisor. Wherever the inspirations from, the result was absolutely magnificent, perfectly agreeing on what the Queen Mother of England said of Karl Lagerfeld’s productions, “it’s like walking in the painting.” Bit by bit, he extracted the essences of Chanel and recombined the DNA alongside his lavish experiments with audacity. Karl Lagerfeld had put together an oeuvre in which the extravagance outshined the legacy of Gabrielle Chanel. Then here was the one last masterpiece.

As if yesterday, Cara Delevingne hurtled down the stairs to start the show. The opening silhouette was composed in draped coat, slouchy trousers, front-open top and an unforgettable touch of fedoras, setting the tone for this collection. In addition to the houndstooth, herringbone prints, tartan weaves, delicate plaids and emblematic tweeds were mismatched to enhance a parade of classic patterns, twisting a bit of trompe l’oeil into fun patches. The neck scarfs in leather and chiffon were either pinned with brooches or adorned with tassels. Together with the fedoras, they served as the final touches to the upper silhouette accentuating a neutrality in between masculinity and femininity. The androgynous attitude of this collection was heightened.

Although the show began with rather heavy winter looks, it seamlessly evolved into an array of pop colours and upbeat styles. Light wears like the flounced chiffon dress naturally caught the winds when juxtaposed to knitwear in Nordic motifs by Barrie, a Scottish manufacturer of premium cashmere safeguarded under the Chanel umbrella since 2012. Puffer coats and ski suits in purple, turquoise, pink and the pantone colour of the year - coral - broke the dullness of hues, such as black, white, taupe and the beige that Suzy Menkes called “hyper-fashionable”. On top of these fabulous styles, a burgundy coat dimmed in brightness contrasted to the snow with attentions. The model’s silver hair magically accomplished this tailored garment to the nines, transcending the narratives to a fairy tale. In the feathery effect of faux fur, the snowball-shaped skirt lent somewhat a cuteness to the spirit, reminding us of the childish purity that used to incorporate in the designer’s taste, say his Memphis collections and the emoji-charmed jewelleries at Chanel Fall 2016.

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Seen by Jo-Ann Furniss, former editor-in-chief of Arena Homme+, fashions at Chanel Fall 2019 were not a simple lineup of clothes for the next season, but “a moment in time, an event, and an expression of a feeling for the future.” Karl Lagerfeld was reportedly on duty for Fendi the day before he passed away, hence the last Chanel collection by the designer himself was believed being treated the same. However, it’s also true that Lagerfeld’s longtime right arm, Virginie Viard, assisted in designing this collection. Although Viard, now appointed as the successor of Karl at Chanel, humbly admitted her inadequacy, she knew Karl from heart, and this co-chaired collection could be the best proof of her worth in this position. Bridget Foley at WWD asserted, “this collection indicates that Chanel’s future is in good hands.”

 

Viard surely secured these meticulous details at Chanel collections. Snowflakes embellished on the clothes were creatively made in vinyl. The embroideries were so genuine that gave Suzy Menkes an illusion of edelweiss. And her attentive curations also took place on the accessories. Limelight on shearling-skinned Chanel classic handbag was stolen by cable-car-shaped bag whose windows were fogged to leave a CC monogram. Then those playful costume jewelleries even transported us to the world-renowned vintage store Amore in Japan. Next to the brogans were hiking boots that hit us with a flashback to the 1990s in terms of styles, but this current version was more approachable, because - for Karl- “clothes are nothing unless they are worn”, said Sarah Mower. Needless to say, Viard definitely understood this pragmatism of her mentor. This collection was unmistakably “Chanel according Karl”. Whoever to define it, the former Director of Chanel studio or the current Creative Director of the house, they are both and one, because of the mutuality they shared.

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Karl’s creative flair to reinterpret Chanel can take many forms, which was never limited to the lapping waves or a rocket to the space. Despite his definitions season after season, to Suzy Menkes, “the hardest thing to imagine is not how Chanel will be without the Lagerfeld stamp, but rather why a person of such rare intellect and knowledge was either content – or perhaps unable – to break out of Chanel’s shell.” To her, Karl succeeded in building Chloé, Fendi and Chanel, but only failed to define his eponymous label. Consequently, he had become everything but himself. However, he was happy playing the characters he conceived of for himself; a role that took a lifetime to complete just like his perpetual exuberance at the house of Chanel.

Crying to David Bowie’s Heroes, Mariacarla Boscono buried her head into Cara’s arms hiding her tears at the emotional closing. Michel Gaubert took advantage of his job and crowned his intimate friend Karl Lagerfeld hero. He, who reinvented Chanel, recalibrated fashion business and reassured beauty, certainly deserve this glory. But above these, he was the living history that bridged eras and whose impact rippled beyond the reach of fashion. It was proved when a fashion-irrelevant man sitting next to Anna Wintour handed her kerchiefs for her drops and said, “the world has lost a great figure.” “Even he felt the loss. Karl was just this force,” Wintour recalled. From an almost perennial rival, Dior, to the ex-relationship, Chloé, the whole fashion industry mourned for Karl. Bridget Foley sighed, “still, fashion changed forever the day he died.”

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Karl Lagerfeld didn’t want a funeral but did gave out instructions on “white roses” for himself. From the number to the length, he was a perfectionist to the end. Penelope Cruz showed up at Chanel Fall 2019 and walked with a single white rose, which had all these make sense. Therefore, coming to this show, which took place in a familiar place and was held by a familiar host, was like visiting the tomb designed for the alive. Sophie Fontanel wrote, “une odeur de neige est parvenue jusqu’à moi, comme dit la chanson.” Amidst the flavor of snow, she felt an upheaval, “ça va faire bizarre,” because a surprise of figure can no longer be expected. Virginie Viard took the bow solemnly alone in the end, and in tears. Everyone was heartfelt, but no one could feel this void much louder than her. The guests rose in spontaneous ovations for both Lagerfeld and Viard, standing for minutes and lingering for long unwilling to leave.

 

Regardless of their sentimentality, the house of Chanel kept this business professional. Like the simple hairstyle at the show, the minimal makeup had the skins painted fair with only a touch of rosy cheeks to create a sun-kissed look as if burnt by the reflection from snow - chill and cool. In the press kit, there contained an illustration by Karl Lagerfeld on which Gabrielle Chanel was accompanied by the painter himself (she took the front position to declare her dominance, hence accompanied rather than joined) and his signature writing said, “the beat goes on.” Has he sensed the day coming? Such prescient mystery had been held for too long and it finally came; also, the show, the day, the end and this article which has took me long enough to process. Although the date of this picture was left untold, who cares? The beast goes on. 

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Chanel Fa·rewe·ll 2019

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Chanel Haute Couture Printemps-Été 2019