The legendary German creative director for Chanel had recently passed away on Feb 19, and we can’t deny that this veteran had made a huge impact in the world of fashion.
Apart from the introduction of the interlocking double “C” logo to making pearls cool and trendy again, what truly impressed us was his well thought out runway shows. Since the inauguration of a supermarket edition for F/W’14, these staged shows were Karl’s ingenious ways to address the ongoing socio-political issues in the world, all whilst making fashion fun and relatable to the masses.
“Fashion show after fashion show, collection after collection, Karl Lagerfeld left his mark on the legend of Gabrielle Chanel and the history of the House of Chanel," said Bruno Pavlovsky, the President of Fashion at Chanel. "He steadfastly promoted the talent and expertise of Chanel’s ateliers and Métiers d’Art, allowing this exceptional know-how to shine throughout the world. The greatest tribute we can pay today is to continue to follow the path he traced by — to quote Karl — ‘continuing to embrace the present and invent the future’."
To honour his passing, we show you six of the most magnificent runway sets that this creative genius had ever worked on.
1. Feminist protest at Boulevard Chanel, S/S’15
Karl took to the streets of Paris for Chanel S/S’15, where the hallowed grounds of Grand Palais was transformed into Boulevard Chanel.
Initially, nothing seemed out-of-the-norm. Models decked in the maison's iconic tweed strutted their stuff down the runway — which was very standard for a runway show. It was only till the finale that the message Karl was trying to translate across became clear: The protest to safeguard the feminist voice.
Cara Delevingne led the rebellion, calling out “Come on!” to incite the commotion, while the other models became freedom fighters, toting feminist signboards (like “LADIES FIRST”) and chanting phrases as part of this revolt.
“I don't see why every human being is not on the same level,” Karl told Vogue. “Especially in my business,” he continued.
2. Shopping at Chanel’s supermarket, F/W’14
Some may argue that fashion should stem from the notion of practicality. But for Karl, it isn’t. Well, not at least when he decided to send his muse (à la Cara Delevingne) and a bevy of models down a supermarket themed runway whilst dressed in designer garbs for Chanel’s F/W’14 show.
What impressed us was his witty analogy towards the saying of “Who said you can’t look and be stylish at any point in time?”
Juxtaposing the raw aspect of everyday life (in this case, it’s grocery shopping) with luxury clothes, if there’s one thing you could take away from this show, it should be Karl’s eye for colour curation and detail.
And who says you can't look glam while shopping for groceries?
3. Tea time at The Brasserie Gabrielle, F/W’15
Another immaculate set that took over Grand Palais was The Brasserie Gabrielle, where Karl took inspiration from the prominent French cafe culture.
From the opulent classicism interior to the leather upholstery, and even down to the little details like the champagne flutes and croissants, everything exuded what Paris was in Karl’s eyes: Cool, nonchalant and elegant. Nothing fell short when he was translating this French way of living.
After all, he had "a vision of France from a stranger who thinks France is not that bad," the late fashion maven told Vogue.
4. The enchanted forest, F/W’18
We can’t blame you if you weren’t sure if this show was held at Grand Palais, or at the outskirts of Bois de Boulogne.
For Chanel’s F/W’18, Karl conjured an entire forest (yup, you heard us right) into the historical Parisian site, where the breathtaking panoramic backdrop set the scene for the mysterious and sultry French mood.
“I’ve always loved autumn. This is a kind of Indian summer, with all the leaves. It’s a beautiful mood,” he told Vogue his inspiration for the set design. “I was brought up in the country, on an estate which had 12 allées [of trees] going from the house.”
5. Jet-set to a beach resort destination, S/S'19
Karl's final Spring/Summer prêt-à-porter show may seem like it was all about the breezy vacation life. But, we believe that it was his way to lighten the tense atmosphere during the period where Brett Kavanaugh was appointed to take on the place of United States' Associate Justice of the Supreme Court despite having numerous sexual allegations made against him.
Though there was no concrete evidence that Karl had made this subtle innuendo at the S/S'19 show, we didn't believe that it was a complete coincidence. We felt his respect for women: By providing them an escapism from the harsh, unfair and bitter reality. After all, our first point proves his notion on being pro-feminist. Kudos to you, Karl.
6. The tale of two cities, Pre-Fall '19
Chanel's Pre-Fall '19 was the meeting point of two cities: Ancient Egypt and The Big Apple. Set at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Karl's recent Métiers d’Art show displayed his latest inspiration, which was drawn from Egyptian culture.
From the copious injection of gold to the Sphinx and not to forget, the enchanting 10 B.C. Temple of Dendur (phew, no mummies!), everything screamed "Queen Nefertiti". Though this set may pale in comparison to The Brasserie Gabrielle or the enchanting forest, what we really love about this show is the rugged appearance of the moat. In other words, Karl was all about intricacy.