It was a bittersweet day at the Chanel Fall 2019 show. Their long-time creative director Karl Lagerfeld had passed on, leaving the fate of the storied Parisian luxury house in the hands of his chosen replacement, Virginie Viard. Now, just how do you honor someone who had openly announced his dislike for sentimentality? Karl willed to not have a public memorial, so it seemed his final show for Chanel was his grand adieu and served as a prompt for us to brave a new fashion era. He said so himself, as the show notes bore his own handwriting: "The beat goes on."
Karl is illustrated walking with Coco Chanel.
As it is with his previous shows at the Grand Palais in Paris, Karl transported us into a new world. This time, he turned the historic venue into a winter wonderland. Snowy mountains, a Chanel chalet, and cabins became the backdrop of his final collection. A moment of silence preceded the show, but emotions were running high as soon as the stillness was broken by Karl's French voice-over from Chanel's podcast. He ended in English, delightfully recalling someone complimenting his sets to be "like walking in a painting."
Cara Delevingne, a close friend of Karl, fittingly opened the show in the designer's signature look: tweed plaid pantsuit with wide palazzo pants cinched just above the deep plunge of the neckline. Her look was also luxuriously accessorized with a matching printed fedora hat and a statement necklace made of steel chains and pearls. Cara trodded onto the snowy runway with a coat that bore a houndstooth print, which became an apparent pattern across Karl's collection.
The whole collection was designed and brought to life by both Karl and Virginie, all of which reviewed Chanel's iconic looks seen through the sartorial lenses of today. This meant skirt suits and wide leg trousers in tweed that came in Chanel's famous neutral combinations: white, tan, and black.
But as the show progressed, the looks started to take a colorful turn as bright fuschias, cobalt blues, and rich amber shades paraded down the runway. It showcased a playful juxtaposition of light fabrics like tulle, chiffon, silk, and embellished pieces against winter essentials like heavy coats and Nordic sweaters.
As Karl would have it, the collection did not shy away from trendy accessories. There were thick soled and shearling-lined boots, backpacks and fannypacks that featured furry and knit panels, elaborately adorned neckerchiefs, statement necklaces, and heart-shaped earrings, which countered the otherwise masculine silhouettes of the clothes. And of course, the late designer did not forget about hair pieces, as well. They to0k logomania up a notch in pearl-studded barrettes with the house's name in script—a cute finish to their winter looks.
The show's last leg featured Karl's vision of a Chanel woman headed to an evening affair: fully sequined tops, patent leather jumpsuits, and furry and feathery skirts. The show also featured Chanel's new face, Penelope Cruz, who made her runway debut at Karl's last bow. She carried a single-stemmed white rose, in memory of the late designer. Kaia Gerber, one of Karl's muses, also walked the runway.
Cara headed the final walk along with teary-eyed models and Karl's muses Cat McNeil and Mariacarla Boscono to the beat of David Bowie's Heroes, just like what they did at the Fendi show.
And as the final model walked by, Anna Wintour herself stood, which prompted a standing ovation from the crowd. No one came out for the final bow on behalf of the team, making Karl's absence even more felt, leaving the show's front-row audience Kristen Stewart, Claudia Schiffer, Naomi Campbell, Janelle Monae in tears.