PARIS: Legendary designer and bibliophile Karl Lagerfeld made a pitch for immortality Tuesday by setting his very Parisian Chanel haute couture show in front of the Academie Francaise.
The venerable institution, whose members are known as “the immortals”, was the backdrop of the spectacular set of the banks of the Seine that Lagerfeld had built inside the Grand Palais in the French capital.
Everything from the bouquinistes’ stands with their vintage Vogue magazines and books eulogising Chanel, to the Paris pavements and lampposts was recreated in staggeringly realistic detail.
All it lacked to pass for the real thing was the tourist tat and a few beggars.
Lagerfeld even roped in his godsons Hudson and Jameson Kroenig to play riverside booksellers with along with their father, the square-jawed American model Brad Kroenig.
All, of course, were dressed in Chanel.
Lagerfeld told reporters later that he can see the Quai Voltaire and the academies that act as the guardians of French culture from his windows.
At 84, the Kaiser is now too old to be admitted into any of the august bodies housed below the gilded dome of Institut de France.
In fact he is nearly a decade over the age limit to be a sage, yet the German-born designer shows no signs of slowing with two haute couture shows in two days — with another for Fendi Wednesday.
Despite appearing doddery on his feet recently, there was almost a spring in his step Tuesday as he took the bow for a classily restrained autumn winter haute couture collection marked by slit dresses and sleeves.
– Victorian chic –
“Karl is as fresh as a bridegroom,” Conde Nast maven Karina Dobrotvorskaya cooed on Instagram over her picture of him with his “bride”, the traditional finale of couture shows.
The pale green two-piece dress, inspired by the olive leaf motif worn by academicians, was worn by South Sudanese-Australian model Adut Akech, who also opened the last Chanel Cruise show. The South Sudanese-British model Alek Wek, who has recently come out of retirement, was the first black model to be given that honour 14 years ago.
Like the Dior show the previous day, Lagerfeld went for a refined sobriety of sharply-cut black and grey slit dresses, worn over short thigh-riding miniskirts.
Many were lit up by flashes of crystals, feathers and glittery-edged embroidery, which pointed up the zipped slit arms.
With Spanish actress Penelope Cruz and South Korean heartthrob Han Hyo-joo in the front row with singers Lily Allen and Pharrell Williams, Lagerfeld often paired black with silver, giving nostalgic touches a metallic futuristic edge.
While much of the collection had a revved-up retro late 1940s feel with ankle boots and models’ hair styled in cockerel quiffs and some wearing fascinator hats. T here were also Belle Epoque Victorian flourishes in satin and tulle dresses with glittery tweed capes and long fingerless gloves.
– Armani’s army –
Fashion’s other great veteran, Giorgio Armani, who is a mere 83, began his 95-look show with a similar black, white and silver palette before unleashing a string of bubblegum pink gowns festooned with feathers and rosebuds.
As ever, sheath silhouettes dominated with the designer sending out a string of shimmering ivory-hued creations in the final third of his show for his Giorgio Armani Prive Couture line so adored by films star like Cate Blanchett.
Stephane Rolland, who dressed Beyonce for her latest video “Apeshit” shot in the Louvre museum, draped his models in a series of spectacular gowns and cowls which almost seemed custom-made for the US singer.
Haute couture shows — which only take place in Paris — are the creme de la creme of fashion.
Thousands of hours of work sometimes goes into the handmade dresses that can only be afforded by the richest women on the planet.
The label is accorded by the French industry ministry to acknowledge traditional craftsmanship in hand-sewn, custom-made garments using strict criteria.
Only 14 fashion houses currently boast the recognition, including Chanel, Christian Dior, Giambattista Valli, Givenchy, Jean-Paul Gaultier, Maison Margiela, Schiaparelli, Alexis Mabille and Stephane Rolland.