THE SHOW MUST GO ON

How do you part with the longest standing designer the world’s ever known? Karl Largerfeld was a fixture so endemic to the fashion process that to imagine a world without his ever-glazing eye is practically, unimaginable. Is there a gesture big enough for this swan song, or is grandiosity reductive? These must be the questions running through the very private corridors of the Chanel office since January when news of Lagerfeld’s health deteriorating spread and as Virginie Viard, Lagerfeld’s former Studio Director, awaited to ascend the throne.

If Chanel productions are anything to go by, the possibilities are endless. Between launching an almost life-sized rocket in the Grand Palais and converting it into a Chanel hypermarket in the past, there is precedent for turning the Fall/ Winter ’19 show into a Karl Lagerfeld post-humous spectacle. But Lagerfeld would have detested it one can imagine. A close collaborator of his, who worked on his many photo shoots, describes him as a very private person. “He’s a masterful compartmentalisor.” It explains his longevity in fashion, designing multiple collections a season across many brands including his namesake label. Public personas and private life are Church and State for him. And in death, Lagerfeld, the man, kept it small and intimate with a funeral service that almost escaped the news cycle. As for Lagerfeld the much-loved godfather of fashion, he parted with these poignant words, “the show must go on”, handwritten over his famous fashion sketches, this time of the Fall/ Winter collection.

The show at the Grand Palais ensued without pomp and circumstance. A snow-capped show set made for an aptly serene scene. It began with an audio excerpt of Lagerfeld reminiscing the early days prior to joining Chanel when contemporaries would dismiss the house saying, “Don’t take that, it’s hopeless. Don’t do it. It won’t work”. One wonders how many great men and women had been told that, only to go on to achieve greatness. Models walked down the Grand Palais with hearts heavy but their chins held high. Ringing arms with the other Chanel girls, Cara Delivingne, like a recently bereaved child prodded up her chest, appearing strong for her sisters. And in an instant, the show was over. Guests remained in their seats for a little while, with eyes gazing at the snow, pondering what’s next. The snow, so white it burned the eyes. Right then, Lagerfeld was meeting your gaze, bright yet fleeting. That’s what makes it so beautiful.

 

Words by Nabil Aliffi