TEMPO.CO, Paris - Karl Lagerfeld's last collection for Chanel opened with a minute's silence for the late designer on Tuesday, March 5, as friends, collaborators and fans turned out in Paris to remember his 35 years as the creative force behind the French couture house.
Conceived before his death at 85 in late February, the catwalk was transformed into a typically over-the-top winter wonderland setting, complete with wooden chalets and smoking chimneys, sealing Lagerfeld's reputation at the pinnacle of fashion showmanship.
Actress Penelope Cruz, one of the faces of the brand, took to the snowy runway in a white, feathery puffball dress, while a teary-eyed Cara Delevingne took a last lap of the catwalk along with other models after opening the show.
Guests also heard from "Kaiser Karl" himself, with an account of how he first took the job at Chanel in 1983 played over the speakers inside the Grand Palais exhibition hall.
"When I was asked a second time, I accepted, because everyone told me don't do it, it won't work," the German designer said, speaking in French.
"It's the first time that a brand managed to become fashionable again, to turn itself into something desirable," Lagerfeld added.
Lagerfeld, who also turned out collections for his own label and Italy's Fendi, is credited with transforming Chanel into a luxury industry titan with $10 billion in annual sales during his tenure, and injecting fresh life into Coco Chanel's once eminent but fading couture house.
His twists on the brand's famed tweed suits, season after season, earned him a faithful following. The collection on Tuesday included bubblegum pink looks, fuzzy, woollen skirts to cosy up in and furry snow boots.
"His art must continue," said Natalia Solonevich, a long-time client of the brand from Moscow who works in cosmetics, and who was dressed at the show in head-to-toe Chanel, including an oversized pearl necklace. "There is a little bid of sadness... but this shows to people that he and his art can live on."
Lagerfeld's second-in-command Virginie Viard, named to take over the creative direction of the brand, worked on the collection alongside him, Chanel said.
Several sources have told Reuters that the appointment was transitional and that another successor could yet be announced.
Former Celine designer Phoebe Philo has often been cited as a potential candidate, though Chanel has previously dismissed this.