HAMBURG (Germany) • Karl Lagerfeld is not one for nostalgia. So it was not familial memories or lost childhood that inspired him to unveil his 15th Metiers d'Art collection for Chanel in the German port city of his birth.
Rather, he claimed, it was an unwavering interest in the excitement of the present, and in contemporary architecture - specifically the Elbphilharmonie, the city's showstopping new concert hall, which became a one-night-only Chanel venue last Wednesday.
The Metiers d'Art, an annual presentation since 2002 of the intricate craftsmanship of the Chanel-owned specialist ateliers central to Lagerfeld's designs, had previously been held in Dallas, Salzburg, Rome and Paris.
This year, and for the first time, Lagerfeld brought the Metiers d'Art home. The event had the largest guest list to date, with 1,420 clients, buyers, journalists and celebrities (Tilda Swinton, Kristen Stewart and Lily-Rose Depp were in the front row), many wearing Chanel.
The soaring Elbphilharmonie auditorium is nestled in a gargantuan, glass galleon-like structure atop an old brick warehouse that overlooks the harbour. Designed by Swiss architectural firm Herzog & de Meuron, it opened this year, seven years late, and at a cost of an eye-watering €798 million (S$1.3 billion) at current exchange rates, several times the original estimate. (Lagerfeld is similarly known for ignoring financial limitations when putting on memorable shows.)
As for the clothes - all 89 looks - they were a nod to place and history: rooted in the sights and sailors of the Hamburg port, with a particular nod to the Swinging Sixties, when The Beatles called the city home. From blue chunky cable knits and cashmere thigh-high leg warmers to bejewelled Elbesegler sailor caps and side-slung quilted duffel bags, the models were transformed into merchant mariners. Ahoy.
Accompanied by rousing original music from the Resonanz orchestra, led by composer, conductor and cellist Oliver Coates (who took centre stage in a hoodie), the maritime references continued to flow thick and fast.
With nautical braids in their hair and gauzy net headscarves, models Kaia Gerber and Grace Elizabeth traversed the hall's tiers in rusty-hued jackets and sweaters imprinted with knotted ropes, or shimmering with multi-colour metallic mosaics, a la shipping containers.
The final battalion of textured evening wear in myriad glittering blues, intended to mimic the waves of the sea, drew gasps from the crowd, with most members peering through mini Chanel opera glasses that had been left on their seats.
"It was so moving tonight, more than usual I thought, to see Karl back here in the city he was born," said Depp, the face of a number of Chanel advertising campaigns.
"So much of the spirit and energy of this city was clearly woven into the clothes, the emotions were buoyed by the music, too, and this space," she said, waving at the hall's white vaulted dome and gleaming organ pipes, arrayed like a waterfall on one wall.