PARIS—It’s snowing in Paris, but that didn’t matter for Chanel, which showcased frothy, 18th-century inspired couture inside a lavish, sunlit Italian villa.
For once, Karl Lagerfeld didn’t take his usual bow—the house said the octogenarian designer was fatigued.
Some highlights of the spring-summer 2019 couture collections on Jan. 22:
Karl Lagerfeld Absent
Chanel’s designer Lagerfeld, who has looked increasingly frail in recent seasons, did not come out to take a bow at the house’s couture collections in Paris because he was “tired.”
In his place, his longtime studio director Virginie Viard appeared through a door in the lavish Italian villa decor that had been painstakingly created by the house.
It immediately prompted surprise and visible sadness from many fashion editors attending the show at the Grand Palais.
At the end of the first show at 10 a.m., an announcement explained the designer would appear for the noon presentation. But come noon, the German-born couturier was absent again.
It’s the first time in recent memory Lagerfeld, who has designed for the Parisian stalwart since 1983 and was a contemporary of the late Yves Saint Laurent, has not been physically present to receive applause at the end of his shows.
In a statement, Chanel said “for the traditional greeting at the end of the show, Mr. Lagerfeld, artistic director of Chanel, who was feeling tired” asked Viard “to represent him”—without providing any further details.
Villa Chanel’s Couture
A gentle geometry defined Chanel’s summer silhouette on Tuesday—one that riffed on the decor’s impressive architecture. The set this season featured a shimmering Italian Chanel villa center-stage, with steps that led the gaze down to myriad real palm trees, grass, and a rectangular swimming pool.
Shivering and dripping guests were momentarily transported away from Paris’ subzero temperatures and snow to enjoy a moment of summer bliss, and the clothes’ pastel hues glistened in floodlights evoking warm sunshine.
Slits in the skirt and long vertical lines in the center of the body were a central theme in this season’s feminine 62-look collection.
A silvery skirt-suit, a house signature, opened the show with a slit running down the leg to the season’s new shoe: a backless pointed heel with a full-fronted panel.
Marie Antoinette-style full skirts fared less well as the display progressed, with the weight of the tiered silk fabric making the designs look somewhat limp.
The slit also morphed into an exploration of unfurling styles in some jackets that seemed to open up like the scented flowers in the villa’s verdant gardens.
“Marie Antoinette” director Sofia Coppola was among VIP guests invited to admire Villa Chanel’s 18th-century full-skirted designs.
“I did think of Marie Antoinette when I saw the pink dresses at the end. They were beautiful,” she told AP.
″(It evoked) a bygone era to see the dresses with the feathers up close,” she added.
Coppola, who has won the best director award at the Cannes Film Festival, has come a long way since she first forged ties with the Parisian house—as a nervous teenage intern.
Bond girl Carole Bouquet had helped the young Coppola find the stint.
“I was really intimidated… It was thrilling to be 15 in Paris in the ’80s at Chanel,” she said. “It was during the couture, so it was incredible seeing it being made.”
Alexis Mabille’s Versatile Bow
French designer Alexis Mabille’s signature bow made a recurrent appearance in varying sizes, styles and colors at his demure couture display Tuesday.
It began as a front detail on a truncated, shoulder-less little black dress.
Then, the mischievous item cropped up as a cinched belt on a coral red gown or a long pink satin one with divergent stripes.
Going retro, the bow was conjured up as a 70s jabot collar on a Farrah Fawcett-like blue silk column dress.
But the piece de resistance was the detail’s cameo as an oversized bust detailing, giving the feeling that the model in a red tulle gown could be unwrapped.
Other great ideas in the 45-piece display included a look that used swathes of bright yellow ruffled silk to cocoon its wearer.
It was, however, the versatile bow that stole the show.
By Thomas Adamson