karl lagerfeld's love affair with paris

The autumn/winter 17 Chanel haute couture show paid tribute to Paris as the fashion capital and awarded Karl Lagerfeld its highest honour.

by Anders Christian Madsen
06 July 2017, 12:44am

Wedging their way through the show-goers arriving at the Grand Palais for the Chanel show, one tourist sighed to the other: "It's fashion week again." But how wrong you were, unimpressed tourist. This is haute couture! The smallest fashion week in the calendar and a totally different game to the rest. There's an at once heightened excitement and brilliantly casual attitude about these high-high fashion shows. Inside at Chanel, Kristen Stewart and Julianne Moore were chatting to the mere mortals, the press and the dressed-to-the-nines clients, who fly in from their various oil platforms to buy their seasonal couture looks. They far outnumbered the celebrities and press there, and it's what gives the couture shows such a different atmosphere. "Good afternoon, how do you do?" said an American lady in a canary yellow Chanel suit and hat as she sat down. You don't get that elsewhere in fashion (or the world, for that matter) and it's what's so incredible about haute couture: old virtues like elegance and politeness, dressing for good behaviour, for self-respect and respect for others. And you don't have to be a client to subscribe.

What transpired at Chanel on Tuesday morning came from the heart of haute couture. It sounds crazy, but while the set featured a life size Eiffel Tower erected inside the Grand Palais -- complete with its own manmade cloud to vanish into -- it felt like one of those intimate old-school salon shows, everybody seated neatly on French café chairs watching the creations prance by. This one was for Paris, the most important woman in Karl Lagerfeld's life and one he's so devoted to he didn't take his Ancient Greece-inspired cruise show in May to the Parthenon, but instead, recreated the Parthenon inside the Grand Palais. 

At 83, Lagerfeld feels for the city he's lived and breathed since he got here in the 50s. At Chanel, nobody said a word about the French financial situation or last year's terror attacks, but the sheer tribute to Paris embodied in this show made words very unnecessary. This was haute couture with all the Parisian spirit you could dream of: shapes like works of art, feather work to make the angels sing, and ball gowns to put Hollywood's red carpets to shame. Sure, some of it was mad--and it should be. The clients, who come to these shows, dress like something out of Dynasty, gloves, hats and jewellery in tow. Much like the Chanel show, it sounds like something out of a different time and it is. Haute couture is privilege at full throttle. But there's something so amazingly civilised about this circus, which makes you wish we all lived in that world of "how do you do?" and Chanel for lunch.

When they talk about the dream of fashion this is what they mean: an ideal world. And for four days twice a year in Paris it comes true. After the show, which ended with a beautiful bridal gown, the mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo, took to the runway to present Lagerfeld with the Médaille Grand Vermeil de la Ville, the city's highest honour. Their speeches were in French, which will spare you a word-by-word account of what they both said, but Lagerfeld was visibly moved--and so was his industry and clients. Moved for Lagerfeld and for Paris, two of fashion's greatest loves.


Text Anders Christian Madsen
Images courtesy Chanel

Karl Lagerfeld
couture week
chanel haute couture