his morning I woke up and brushed my teeth and washed my face then put cream on my legs and got dressed. There was no existential debate about what I would wear and who I would be; in a fell swoop, I slipped into an A-line, knee-length skirt boasting what I call undone tweed, like the chaotic leftover scraps of a Chanel jacket not unlike the one that covered my top half. I grabbed my keys and my bag and walked the 0.3 miles from my hotel to The Grand Palais, which was set up, on the morning of the unveiling of Karl Lagerfeld’s final show for the house he revived 30 years ago, as a French mountain top.
A structure built to resemble a chalet stood at the end of the venue, floors covered by a snowlike substance that shockingly did not stick to even a single shoe. Three tiers of steps were outside the Chalet Gardenia, and to inaugurate the show, all 73 of the models loitered among them in the complete range of Chanel Fall 2019 as a voice over requested one minute of silence. The minute was followed by the voice of an effusive Karl Lagerfeld, saying something in French that I could not understand until the very end, when in English, he described the setting: It’s like walking in a painting.
Cara Delevingne, dressed in a jumbo houndstooth coat and tweed trousers, was the first figure to walk through the painting with her signature sass — a half smirk and bounce in her hip commanding attention from the refurbished room. Those who followed carried the weight of winter wedges or shearling boots to complement the selection of distinctly familiar, irrefutably iconic Lagerfeld silhouettes from the floppy lapel, soft shoulder ankle-length coats to the chunky, Scottish knits and fitted tweed jackets. Hair bows and barrettes made their way into every model’s hair, some accented with a top hat. Chains and pearls covered the sum of several bare necks — adding that expected joviality to otherwise serious clothes. Well, somewhat serious. There were two instances of white biker shorts and a series of winter white, sort of snow bunny dresses with marabou accents. This part of the painting was led by Penelope Cruz, who also walked the historic last show.
At the end, all the models skipped together holding hands or linking arms — some tearing up, others laughing. I thought about the setting, how similar it looked to what had been on display in the still-unreal-but-certainly-more-real world just outside of the Palais. Because the streets that led to the venue were populated on this morning, as they are every season, by decades worth of archival fashion — head to toe, fingernail to hair strand — from Chanel. It is a house, no question, with a history as controversial as its founder and ultimate successor, but one that has succeeded in the egomaniacal pursuit of creating a microcosm of a world in which to wrap yourself completely. This is the dream, to a degree, of every designer, but very few can truly accomplish this level of envelopment.
I don’t know how it is accomplished, but I’d guess the exactitude and certainty and likely the insufferable attention to detail of a truly rigorous creator spills over into the public experience. After all, I got dressed in five minutes flat this morning. No identity crisis, no existential confusion. I wasn’t a monkey, or a sheep, and even though I was dressed in borrowed clothes, it was enough to make me feel like a million bucks.
Runway photos via Vogue Runway.