February 19, 2019, the day of the death of Karl Lagerfeld, will be remembered by fashion and luxury as an epocal turning point. Nothing, after him (for CHANEL but not only) would continue to be like it used to be
By Luca Fumagalli
The opening photo of the previous pages has to be explained, because it contains almost 40 years of history of one of the most famous fashion industry brands, as well as much of the near future. And because it can be considered the farewell message of one of the greatest designers of all time.
We are in Paris.
It is October 2, 2018.
The CHANEL fashion show has just ended and Karl Lagerfeld, creative director of the fashion house since 1982, comes out to greet the public of insiders in his usual total black look to which, for some time now, he has combined an unusual beard. He is joined by his right hand, Virginie Viard.
January 2019. At the end of the CHANEL fashion show, as never happened in the past, Kaiser Karl does not show up for the greetings. The brand tries to silence any inference on its health status with a press release in which it attributes the cause of the absence to the “tiredness” suffered by the German designer, who would be beginning to accuse the weight of his 85 years (alleged age).
For once, however, those who feared the worst were right. Karl Lagerfeld died on February 19th, leaving not only a profound stylistic imprint on the entire creative layout of international fashion. His personality (capable of simultaneously managing the collections of CHANEL, Fendi and his “personal” brand; capable of enhancing leather and fur without hesitation and contradictions) was the basis of a business model that, as Business of Fashion writes, “has turned a dusty French brand into a multi-billion dollar fashion house. Lagerfeld has created almost a template for managing production, collections, creating iconic models, defining aspirational strategies”. His legacy, therefore, takes the form of an extraordinary responsibility, which Chanel (for now) has decided to support “in his name”, that is, in the sign of continuity. The role of Kaiser Karl passes, therefore, to Virginie Viard and Eric Pfrunder, currently image director, who joined the brand together with Lagerfeld in 1983. He will be co-artistic director and will deal with image, advertising, marketing, movies, events and digital initiatives, while Viard will be in charge of designing high fashion collections, ready-to-wear and accessories.
A choice that confirms as “do not change a winning team”. But that could also highlight a deep question: can we go beyond Kaiser Karl?
YES, WE KARL
September 2018. As if he was aware of having to affect his memory in fashion and luxury, Karl Lagerfeld allowed himself to be interviewed by the Fashion Network portal at the end of the Fendi fashion show. His words are as current now as then and remain an ideal common denominator of every word spent by this publication (online and in its print edition) on vegans, leather and fur. It is worth repeating them: “It is precisely because others are running away from fur that we embrace it. Instead we have to run away from fake furs that are so polluting (…) As long as people wear leather or eat meat, then furs (provided that animals are treated with care and in dignified conditions, as happens with Fendi furs) will always be legal and coveted (…) It is easy for London to ban fur, when it is not with them that they make a living!”.
“I am deeply saddened because today we have lost a unique man and a designer without equal, who gave so much to Fendi and myself”. Words by Silvia Venturini Fendi, pronounced at the end of the brand’s fashion show, who is owned by LVMH, during Milan Fashion Week last edition. “I was just a child when I saw Karl for the first time. Our relationship was very special, based on a deep and genuine affection. There was a great mutual appreciation among us and an infinite respect. The creative genius of Karl Lagerfeld was and always will be the guiding light that has shaped Fendi DNA which, today, is synonymous with timeless quality, strong tradition, unstoppable experimentation and bold creativity. His passing is an unimaginable loss”.