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Villa Chanel

Viva Karl

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by DDA - 10 Jan 2019
(amended 22 Feb 2019)

Snow may be covering the streets in Paris, but inside the Grand Palais Chanel has filled the air with warmth from not only the heaters, but the enthusiasm coming from accelerated heartbeats. With a pool served in the center, Chanel invited its guests to an Italian Villa worthy of the Mediterranean aesthetics. Ornamented with oleanders in terra-cotta urns, stone balustrades, cypress and palm trees, the transformative power of the mise-en-scène echoed with Virginie Mouzat’s memory of La Pausa and said “lazy summer in bygone times” to Susie Bubble.

Internet has changed how people experience fashion. In “7 Days Out”, Karl remembered that shows used to happen very afternoon at the atelier. However, the enclosure is now replaced by opportunities offered by digital media to peek into the insular world of couture. Victor Denès, the Set Décor Construction Coordinator, has said the scene has to be part of the story. And indeed, all eyes fixed on Chanel never escaped the narrative from the esoteric plots that Karl composed with such articulate imagery. It may seem less groundbreaking to see floral themes and garden references again, as we have been treated many at Chanel for spring summer, but considering the “Gilet Jaunes” out there, “an oasis of calm in a violent world” was more appropriate than drama, noted Suzy Menkes. Nonetheless, lying in the heart of the collection, the theme was very much dramatic in imagination, delivering a transcendent norm initiated from the designer’s sketches.

Courtesy of Vogue, 
Photographed by Annie Leibovitz, September 2018

Couture is like a swiss watch, precise in measurement, accurate in translation and organized in orders. “No second option”, as Karl declared. This time, and now the last time, the iconic Artistic Director of Chanel devoted his eternal fantasy towards the 18th century. The designer had a distinctive personal taste to this period of time regarding his museum-worthy furniture collection of the 18th (find out his other furniture obsession in Chanel Métier D’Art 2019). “It was a most polite century, and so modern,” Karl said to Kennedy Fraser. Given a modern twist, every inch of the fabric was dedicated to the designer’s most of dream. It was refined, idealized and protected - a forever neverland of couture that was “out of its world and unattainable”, realized Sam McKnight. It was a show of earthy delight, but so more expensive and exclusive that cannot be “earthy” at any costs.

Courtesy of
Courtesy of Vogue Runway, 
photo: Armando Grillo /


Feathers, among these ultra-delicate details, are the most noticeable punctuation that lifted the looks. This infinite material can be heavy like fur for autumn-winter when lavishly layered in abundance, however, it can also be lighter than air when adapted for the spring. Swinging next to the face, the feathers floating like drapes underneath the earrings went lost in insouciance with every stroll of the model’s. The lightness also contributed to the flowers assembled of feathers by hands; a symbolic reminiscence of the camellias. They are scentless but vividly alive thanks to the unconscious flow of the feathers in succession, creating an illusion of blooming.

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McQueen, Spring 2007
Courtesy of Alexander McQueen,
photo: Sølve Sundsbø 
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Courtesy of Vogue Runway, 
photo: Armando Grillo /


It’s not the spring that makes the flowers, but the flowers that make it spring. Beaton would quote: “flowers are the most useless of things; yet we pursue, cultivate, nurture and foster them, spending hundreds on our greenhouses and gardens.” Although today, they cost more than merely hundreds to attain, particularly those at the couture. Dried flowers were sealed in resin to preserve the best moment of their youth away from decaying, as if being set aside from the order of time. The glossy sheen on the petals gleamed like dews, adding another touch of spring to the dress. Such physical metaphor was so romantic that it resonated to the dress by McQueen for Spring 2007, but only this time the energy is more uplifting, positive and encouraging. It is an Amaranthine dedicated to the best years of life, or, for Karl, the best 18th. It is a decent gesture in defense to the world of decadence. Therefore, flowers, as a permanent symbol and an ephemeral existence of spring, constantly dovetail into the collections paying an ode to the season of exuberance.



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Although the jacket covered in white sequins was coherent to Saint Laurent’s design in 1990, the Veste Versailles, Karl Lagerfeld was referring to something less metallic but more fragile. The “Marchand-Mercier” piqued Karl’s interest. Paying tribute to this particular fragment of time, he gave the flowers that never die a reincarnation in ceramics. Hamish Bowies then added, “La Pompadour rallied the French porcelain works at Vincennes to create similar china flowers so that her splendid houses and dinners could be supplied with her beloved flora in the winter months when her gardens had died back.” The recreations gave out a revived reflection in their ceramic skins, extending Madame de Pompadour’s will on dresses entitled Chanel.


Further than this, several dresses embodied the voluptuous shape of a porcelain vessel which somehow eschewed the heaviness of the volume but accentuated the sensual femininity of a woman. Without overshadowing the interpretation of a blue-and-white porcelain, the dress embraced tiers of ribbons to give the figure a sense of surprise, like a present; a moving etiquette rather than a still object for eyes only. Such meticulous adaption also entailed in other silhouettes. The skirts - in the air of a debutante dress - was decorated with Couture-standard embroideries of luscious camellias, rendering the finish a piece of fine porcelain. The remarkable ceramic application of the house’s signature flower in “sapphire, cherry red, amethyst, earth brown and scarlet” then won Suzy Menkes’s approval saying “it was indisputably a work of art.” Some other dresses were given amplified bottom thanks to the sumptuous layers of tulle which, for Hamish, “suggested a cloud of swansdown trim.”

Veste Versailles, Yves Saint Laurent,1990
Courtesy of internet


Could Karl design this collection as if his last one? No. “What comes with me goes with me,” the sartorial polyglot casually responded in nonchalance. He designs therefore he breathes. It was all intuitive and intelligible to him. The opening Chanel suit was twisted into longer hemline, a witty retouch to the staple which implied an unconventional enhancement of the pass. “The new Chanel,”as he would describe. The little black jacket, namely, was given an athletic manner. For other jackets, they were structured in graphic outlines and matched with geometrical collars which folded itself seamlessly into the ensemble, like a bolero but unseparated; the tenderness remained while the empowerment unreduced. He had also given many looks the bateau neckline to lengthen the neck. This elongated charm reminded me of Cecil Beaton’s appreciation on Lina Caralieri - “the line of her back merged with the nap of her neck to create a noble volume.” Then there was Kaia Gerber whose pose spoke for a retro glam that threw us back to the age of “the Big Five”.

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Courtesy of Vogue Runway, 
photo: Armando Grillo /
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Couture is a sentimental job. The 4 premières were like the mothers who gave birth to their babies, and the models would bring life to them in motion, although shortly. Casted by Aurelie Duclos, each model was specifically chosen for the special dress for her, and each of them only wore one dress. Like commitment, like marriage. The final look has always been expected to be a wedding dress, but Karl always conjured his magic to do it unexpectedly.

Courtesy of Vogue Runway, 
photo: Armando Grillo /
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Gabrielle Chanel seldom made wedding gowns, and among the handful in the 30s were her designs for close people only. She claimed such “circus” was unwanted at her shows. In her life, she had many lovers but never a husband. “I’ve wept so much, now I don’t cry anymore”, Gabrielle Chanel asserted. As paradoxical as she was, she denied her emotions while kept revisiting locations that evoked her memories and, most of all, moods. She perhaps had her reluctance in designing a wedding gown because of the love she couldn’t have, but it can also be the white communion dress that her father gave her. The dress that “made her a couturière”, according to Claude Delay, also made her refuse white hence embracing black.

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The last wedding gown by Karl Lagerfeld was an extraordinary masterpiece. A bride in swimsuit was only fitting to the pool at the centre. He doesn’t have a religion, therefore a church was unnecessary. A simple fantasy will suffice. Recalled by Vittoria Ceretti, Karl sketched his dream of this bridal look in the mid of the night. The designer constantly gave the credits of his creations to his dreams, and this time was no exception. “It’s either Vittoria or we are not doing it,” said Karl as the model remembered. It was a dress that made Sophie Fontanel “envie de me marier.” The train was attached to the headpiece which was in coherence to the suit. Encrusted with silver flowers, the swimsuit was bathed in the illusion of broken mirror fragments; mirror by the staircase at 31 rue Cambon maybe? Somehow romantically, the final bridal look at couture shows was never accompanied by a bridegroom. And somehow poetically, I tend to perceive this as a metaphor to the broken fantasies of Chanel who has the wealth to enjoy such villa life but alone, and who used to see so much beloved future in herself through the looking glass but failed. The mirror then fell into pieces, and now sewn onto this particular clothing dedicated to happiness and marriage which Gabrielle considered irrelevant to herself. Reflecting the past and glistening into the future, this audacious bridal look may put a period on Karl’s profound imagination, but it was so rhetorical that one cannot cease to think about it. Caroline Issa would put, “but the magic of Chanel Haute Couture lives on beyond the show, almost impossible to put into words.” The fantasy continues.

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Drawing inspiration from the 80s, the makeup and hair was fierce as ever. The stylish spirit of David Bowie came to the artists this time. “A mix of old century romance and Bowie’s Blitz Kids”, concluded Sam McKnight. The higher the hair, the closer to god. Offset with feathery flora pinned to hair, the crown-like hairstyle was set away from the face, lengthening the back of the neck to the extreme and allowing every detail of the features to catch attentions.Then the blue-teal smoky eyes spiced up the “punk” of the look, blending wildness into elegance by Lucia Pica. Round at the top and floating horizontally on the lower lash line, the matte eyeshadows collapsed with balmy texture to make a statement. Juxtaposed with equally powerful and playful texture, the bold eyes were complemented by bright lips in flamboyant rouge. The colours fought with each other yet live off each other harmoniously; awkward and attractive, incongruent and dangerous, seductive and irresistible.

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Courtesy of Vogue Runway, 
photo: Armando Grillo /


Many little thoughts sparkled through the fabrics that were kept minimal, giving ways to the essence of the poise. The signature tweeds were made simple, clean and classic this time, creating an array of pestle shades. Dotted by several looks featured in dusted coral, prairie green and powdery pink, the collection pared down the 18th to be less serious and was injected with a mood of ease. In addition to the tweeds, tulles were plaited into strands of woolen-like threads and placed in grids to resemble the effect of plaids. Together with feathers and reflective materials, the 3rd look featuring a holographic aura cheered the inner space of the Grand Palais.

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Courtesy of Vogue Runway, 
photo: Armando Grillo /
Courtesy of Vogue Runway, 
photo: Armando Grillo /
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Chanel Haute Coutre Printemps-Ete 2019 was an eclectic collection under Karl Lagerfeld’s interpretation alongside the curation of Virginie Viard. Together, they created something larger than life, an educated sophistication that blended the future in the remains of the past while reproducing the bygone times in a contemporary taste. It was also the only show that Karl missed during his 3 decades of tenure which - commonly recognized - took him a lifetime to fulfill. Saddened by the news of his decease a month later, the fashion industry has truly closed an era. Anna Wintour then wrote, “Karl was the living soul of fashion: restless, forward-looking, and voraciously attentive to our changing culture.” Abruptly, he had put an end to his extravagant oeuvre for the house of Chanel. His legacy will continue to live in the ornate designs he has presented to us and the memories he had built for almost half a century. Gabrielle Chanel had epitomized the Parisian chic, and now Karl Lagerfeld would become eponymous with Chanel.

*Please Contact for amendment if any inappropriate use. 
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Gabrielle Chanel 



Karl Lagerfeld


A La Mode,

A L'Antique

Chanel Métiers d'Art 2019

Paris - New York

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