When early last year Chanel announced that the location of its next Métiers d’Art show would be Rome, after destinations such as Edinburgh, Dallas and Salzburg, one couldn’t help wondering how Karl Lagerfeld would instil a dose of Italian flair into the maison.
With a city such as Rome, the possibilities were endless:from the vivid iconography of ancient civilisation to the baroque architecture of Bernini, the ecclesiastical influence of the Vatican and the glamour of la dolce vita, Lagerfeld had a lot at his disposal and could have gone for one of those much-loved clichés that have come to define the city.
Instead of choosing the easy and expected route, however, Lagerfeld – who, thanks to his role as creative director of Fendi, calls Rome his second home – decided to bring the City of Light to the Eternal City, recreating an entire Parisian quartier (boulangerie, Metro station, brasserie et al.) in Rome’s famed Cinecittà studios, where directors such as Federico Fellini shot the classics of the golden age of Italian film.
The sepia-toned set was an idealised recreation of Paris, an idyllic vision of the city, populated by models such as Lara Stone, Jamie Bochert, Catherine McNeil and Freja Beha Erichsen, who came out of a metro station clad in monochrome separates, embellished dresses and déshabillé outfits that harked back to the beauty of Italian bombshells but never veered too far from the quintessentially Parisian allure of Chanel.
It was a poignant homage to Paris, especially given that it took place only two weeks after the terrorist attacks that shook the city last November, revealing deep fissures at the heart of French society.
As Lagerfeld said in an interview immediately after the show, “It’s just an idea, a dream, of Paris. We need to keep dreaming, because the reality in Paris is bleak. And that is not funny.”
Although some may baulk at this whitewashed vision of Paris as a bubble of Chanel-clad beauties picking up freshly baked baguettes, you can’t deny that Lagerfeld is a master of this kind of spectacle. The designer is the closest thing to Walt Disney in the fashion world, a magician who never fails to delight the public with one extravaganza after another.
It may be seen as gimmicky, but in the end fashion is meant to make us dream and Lagerfeld never fails to deliver on that count, whether through his shows or the short films that he directs to accompany his collections. This time it was Once and Forever, a tongue-in-cheek short depicting a fictional actress taking on the role of Coco Chanel,and played by Kristen Stewart.
The American actress put it best when defining Lagerfeld’s nonpareil ability to create vivid tableaux that keep alive the dream of Chanel and send people queuing up at its temples of luxury around the world. “You feel the love, you absolutely feel the compulsion,” said Stewart in a post-show interview. “He has to do what he does, he doesn’t do it for any other reason other than something that is intangible inside him and it needs to come out, and you feel that in every single show.”
PHOTOGRAPHY GIOVANNI SQUATRITI
STYLING GIOELE PANEDDA
MAKE-UP AND HAIR GIGI TAVELLI AT FREELANCER ARTIST AGENCY
MODEL ALEJANDRA ALONSO