Karl Lagerfeld's sucessor heralds new chapter for Chanel

Designer Virginie Viard (above) indulged Karl Lagerfeld's love of vivid colours with pieces such as an almost acid tangerine thigh-length two-piece suit, modelled by Kaia Gerber.
Designer Virginie Viard (above) indulged Karl Lagerfeld's love of vivid colours with pieces such as an almost acid tangerine thigh-length two-piece suit, modelled by Kaia Gerber. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

PARIS • The long shadow of Karl Lagerfeld hung over Chanel's first Paris haute couture collection without the Kaiser on Tuesday.

His successor and former right-hand man Virginie Viard - who admitted that she spent more time with him than any other person - recreated one of the legendary designer's libraries in the Grand Palais, where Lagerfeld staged his shows.

The bibliophile - who died in February aged 85 - is estimated to have owned up to 350,000 books.

In a rotunda worthy of the British Library, Viard - a book lover herself - sent out a sleeker, more restrained and more classically Chanel collection than the master delivered in his final years.

Nods to Lagerfeld were everywhere, from the models wearing their hair in ponytails echoing his white powdered mane to a series of dresses adorned with his signature starched collars and cuffs.

The brand appeared to be putting Lagerfeld's legacy on the same footing as the French house's founder Coco Chanel.


Designer Virginie Viard indulged Karl Lagerfeld's love of vivid colours with pieces such as an almost acid tangerine thigh-length two-piece suit (above), modelled by Kaia Gerber. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

That despite the German once admitting that Chanel would have hated what he did.

The two-tone bowed shoes evoked the court dandies of Lagerfeld's favourite century, the 18th, with patent slippers adding another touch of boudoir glamour.

The discreet Viard - who did not talk to reporters - appeared briefly on the first floor of the set at the end to acknowledge the applause.

She did, however, put her own mark on the clothes.

A four-pocket belted trouser suit and coat spoke of a purer, less flashy marriage of street style and couture in the future, as did some gorgeous retro silk bathrobe and pyjama pants combos.

A run of fluid high-line flared easy trousers was clear through the collection, with a battalion of pencil skirts and dresses, often slit at the back.

As Chanel said later, the library theme was also about Viard writing her own new page in fashion history.

White buttons and models in bookish glasses were also prominent as were all the Chanel standards of tweeds and Lagerfeld's sparkling highly embroidered sequinned pieces.

On the day when Australian arachnologists named a new spider species Jotus karllagerfeldi for its resemblance to the German designer's trademark high kent collars and black sunglasses, Viard also indulged his love of challengingly vivid colours.

Kaia Gerber, daughter of supermodel Cindy Crawford, wore an almost acid tangerine thigh-length two-piece suit, whose shoulders were decked with a frosting of white embroidered flowers and a ruff.

But overall, Viard was more sober and subtle than the sometimes brash designs Lagerfeld would dash off.

Her front-row celebrities, led by Australian actress Margot Robbie and French star Isabelle Huppert, seemed to have read the runes, wearing black and grey.

"I dreamed of a woman with a nonchalant elegance and a free and fluid silhouette," she said later in a statement, evoking the lightly worn, relaxed refinement of the 1930s.

Viard saved her one revolutionary act for the end.

To the strains of the "I just want to be a woman" refrain of Portishead's song Glory Box (1994), she did away with the wedding-cake-dress finale that has traditionally closed Chanel haute couture shows.

Instead, hers were pink satin pyjamas and a subtly feathered robe that Katharine Hepburn would have killed for.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 04, 2019, with the headline 'Karl Lagerfeld's sucessor heralds new chapter for Chanel'. Print Edition | Subscribe