Chanel paid tribute to Karl Lagerfeld on Tuesday, observing a minute’s silence as it presented his final collection at the Grand Palais in Paris, the scene of some of the legendary designer’s greatest triumphs.
With fashionistas mostly wearing mourning black, Chanel turned the Grand Palais into a Alpine wonderland for the show, with a dozen chalets and drifts of springy artificial snow, a set worthy of Lagerfeld at his showman best.
The workaholic creator, the most prolific of the past century, died aged 85 on February 19, less than a month after missing a Chanel haute couture show at the vast venue in the centre of the French capital where the “Kaiser” loved to stage his mega-shows.
Chanel — the brand he is most closely associated with — said “a farewell ceremony will take place at a later date” after the German-born designer’s no-fuss cremation attended by only his closest friends and colleagues.
The fashion house hammered home an upbeat message on Tuesday by giving every guest a drawing of the designer alongside its founder Coco Chanel that bore the legend: “The beat goes on.”
Models stood silent on the catwalk in honour of the man dubbed “the Sun King of Fashion”, who led the iconic French house for nearly four decades.
After the minute’s silence, organisers played Lagerfeld’s voice talking about his shows.
He could be heard describing how Queen Elizabeth II once came to one of his shows and said it was “like walking into a painting”.
Chanel had few precedents for handling the occasion.
In the first Versace show after the murder of its founder Gianni Versace in 1997, his tearful sister Donatella was surrounded by supermodels on the catwalk to take the bow before a celebrity-packed front row that included Lagerfeld and fellow fashion legends Giorgio Armani, Miuccia Prada and Donna Karan.
The high emotion of that occasion is unlikely to be replicated in Paris, with Lagerfeld’s friends insistent that the famously dry wit would have detested a lachrymous display of mourning.
There was also much speculation about whether his beloved fluffy white Birman cat, Choupette, would be present.
Lagerfeld is reported to have left a substantial slice of his estimated $200 million fortune to the cat, which is looked after by a bodyguard and two maids.
Choupette is also something of a social media star, with a large Twitter following.
The catwalk tributes to Lagerfeld began in Milan, where his final collection for Fendi, the Italian brand he had led since 1965, was shown only two days after his death.
The Fendi family turned the show into a hasty memorial, showing a video of Lagerfeld at work with the screen flashing up the message “54 years together”.
‘We miss him terribly’
Silvia Venturini Fendi, an acclaimed designer herself who had worked closely with him, reminisced about a conversation they had only a few days before, saying all he was interested in was the collection.
“We are going to miss him terribly,” she added.
The French brand Chloe paid a low-key homage on Thursday to the man who spent 25 years in two stints at the brand.
A compendium of his wit and wisdom was left on every seat at their autumn-winter show.
Virginie Viard, Lagerfeld’s right-hand woman for the last 30 years, and on whom he leaned heavily in his final years, presented his last Chanel collection.
The German called her his “right and left hand”, and Chanel’s owners moved swiftly last week to scotch rumours that her time as the creative head of the house would only be temporary until they line up another big name.
In a statement, the Wertheimer family confirmed their “confidence in the team that worked with Karl Lagerfeld for over 30 years”.
Viard will effectively be joint artistic director with longtime executive Eric Pfrunder, who will look after the brand’s image.
Before Lagerfeld’s death, Chanel’s global fashion chief Bruno Pavlovsky had laughed off rumours that the British designer Phoebe Philo, formerly of Celine, was being groomed to succeed Lagerfeld.
Chanel released one of Lagerfeld’s last interviews earlier this week, a podcast in which he revealed that friends told him “not to touch” the brand — “it’s dead” — when he was offered the job 36 years ago.
The Kaiser’s last piece of advice for other designers was unashamedly regal. “Don’t think about consumers… Do what you like.”