We chart Karl Lagerfeld's greatest Chanel shows...
When we say the sets that Karl Lagerfeld conjures up for his Chanel shows are on a different universe to every other brand, we quite literally mean it. This is, after all, the man who built a giant revolving globe for one recent catwalk outing. To see pictures from the latest SS16 show, click through the gallery at the top. Then take a stroll with us through some of Karl’s other greatest hits…
The Chanel shows have been staged in the Grand Palais since anyone who’s anyone can remember (well, 2007 to be precise). However, that’s only prêt-à-porter. Let’s not forget that fashion’s most energetic designer has a whole host of other collections on which to lavish his showmanship. His couture shows have seen their fair share of incredible themes, and not to mention the annual Métiers d’Art extravaganzas. Dreamed up by King Karl to celebrate the craftsmanship of all the French artisans that the house supports, they’ve seen the fashion pack travel everywhere from a Scottish castle to The Bund in Shanghai in order to marvel at demi-couture in suitably splendid surroundings. While we wait to see what Lagerfeld will magic up for the SS16 show today, we thought a petit tour down fashion memory lane for some of his cleverest moments was in order… but where to start?
The Green House, Couture Spring 2016
It was day three of Couture fashion week in Paris and all eyes were on a large wooden structure placed in an ‘eco-zone’ (read green plants and lawns aplenty) in the historic Grand Palais.
For his latest trick, Karl went green. Not literally, of course – in fact, the palette for SS16 is more monochrome with a scattering of pastels – but the set was built from timber and came with a personal guarantee from Karl that the whole thing would be recycled following the show.
The usual roll call of famous faces including Gigi and Bella Hadid, Kendall Jenner and Lindsey Wixson strolled over walkways among orchards and lawns before lining up on a huge wooden structure that looked for all the world like a modernist 21st-century take on a dolls’ house.
Casino – AW15
There was Kristen Stewart rolling the dice, there was Julianne Moore playing roulette, not to mention Rita Ora, Lara Stone and Vanessa Paradis doing their best poker faces – all wearing outfits specially designed for them by Karl. Yes, it could only be a giant casino, staged for the AW15 couture show in Paris, specially constructed with tables in the centre for the models to walk round as the A-list played. And the piece de resistance? Kendall Jenner wearing a white tux trouser suit complete with super-sized trailing veil, in place of the traditional couture bridal gown…
Street protest – SS15
Karl’s take on Sixties street protests came with a feminist update and a whole heap of controversy. He took Emma Watson’s History is Her Story UN campaign and ran with it – not to mention designed bags round it and covered it with a watercolour floral print. We never thought we’d see Jamie Bochert rallying the troops or Charlottes Free brandishing a Free Freedom placard either. But that’s fashion for you.
Lily Allen Live – SS09
The show was a rollicking roll in a Chanel-branded farmyard, complete with hay bales and romping milkmaids in crochet, flower-applique bags and clogs. And that was fab enough. But how we (and not to mention Prince and Rihanna, both sitting FROW) sat up and took notice when Lily Allen rose through the floor in her very own mini barn, and sang ‘It’s Not Fair’ live, accompanied by a band and some models roped in as backing singers – all head to toe in Chanel, of course.
Linlithgow castle – Metiers d’Art, 2012
Lagerfeld mined Coco Chanel’s lesser-known Celtic connections for this eerily beautiful show, held at Linlithgow Palace, just outside Edinburgh, where Mary Queen of Scots was born centuries earlier. Guests were seated in the ice-cold December open air, in the ruins of the great hall and chapel. But fear not for the intrepid FROW – luckily, tartan Chanel blankets were provided for protection against the snow flurries. Stella Tennant et al stalked the flame-lit scene wearing kilts, tartans, and Argyle knits.
Golden Lion – couture, AW10
Forty feet high and weighing eight tonnes. No, we’re not talking about Karl’s famed library of art and fashion books. Nope, in a reference to Coco Chanel’s star sign, Karl decided that the accompaniment for his winter 2010 couture outing had to be a monumental bronzed lion. He towered over the models, who looked like something from Alice in Wonderland as they walked around his giant paws. The pièce de résistance? Male model Baptiste Giabiconi, who walked alongside the finale dress wearing a lion head, complete with mane.
Revolving globe – AW13
In a jaw-dropping illustration of the sheer global scale of the Chanel powerhouse, models stalked round a circular set featuring a huge spinning globe, with lit-up flags bearing a sparkly double-C marking every spot where the brand has a boutique – stretching from Hawaii to Japan. The girls emphasised the cross-cultural international vibe with neon fur hats that looked like crazy-coloured wigs – equally cool on any nationality or skintone.
Ice caps – AW10
The tonnes of ice specially transported from Scandinavia to build the iceberg set were the talk of Paris – applauded by some as a timely comment on global warming, while others wondered how shipping a small sea’s worth of water to another country for a show could possibly be eco. Either way, the collection itself was enough to keep us warm through any apocalyptic emergency – models dressed up like polar bears in Chewbacca shaggy faux-fur, snow boots and bags shaped like ice cubes. Brrrrr.
Supermarket Chanel – AW14
The notion of disposable fashion was clearly top of mind for Karl when he transformed the Grand Palais into a giant, totally true-to-life supermarket – complete with Chanel-branded crisps, cereal and a whole DIY aisle of plastic hard hats and chainsaws. There were even plastic trolleys dotted about. Oh, how we wished we could heap one high with bags and shoes and make a run for it.
Paris-Dallas – Metiers d’Art, 2013
Held in the historic Fair Park in Texas, the set was a specially built drive-in movie theatre, complete with restored vintage cars parked in front of giant movie screens showing a short film by Lagerfeld, starring Geraldine Chaplin as a Fifties-era Coco Chanel. The clothes? Wild West-inspired prairie blouses and cowboy boots, of course. The after-party? in a custom-built saloon, complete with mechanical bucking bronco.
Space shuttle – SS12
Indulging in even more blue-sky thinking than usual, Lagerfeld took the fash pack on a Couture jet set trip with a recreation of a space shuttle – models wearing every shade of blue (and then some) strutted down the central aisle, while outside the clear domed roof, the ‘Earth’ passed into view. Far-out.
Futuristic flowers – SS15
Monsieur Karl can even command flowers to grow – mechanical ones, that is. For SS15’s couture extravaganza, 300 computerised 3-D flowers adorned the set. They were sprinkled with water from a (Chanel-monogrammed, naturally) watering can and kicked off the show by bursting into life. A Chanel-branded garden – paradise, non?