On Monday, May 1st, the 2023 Met Gala will take place. This year’s Costume Institute exhibition, “A Line of Beauty,” will celebrate the oeuvre and life of Karl Lagerfeld. The exhibition will see Andrew Bolton and Wendy Yu, curators in charge, examine the work of Karl Lagerfeld (1933–2019). Throughout his lifetime, Lagerfeld worked at prominent fashion houses such as Balmain, Chloé, Fendi, Chanel, in addition to founding his namesake brand. More than 150 pieces will be on display in the exhibition, many of which will be accompanied by Lagerfeld’s sketches. In the following days, I will look back at my all-time favorite Chanel collections, designed by the one & only Karl. Hope some of these magnificent looks will end up on the red carpet on the first Monday in May…
“The Ritz is very gilded,” said Karl Lagerfeld, gesturing toward the decor of the newly refurbished Paris hotel as he held court on a plush velvet couch in the lobby. “Look, white with gold!” Sparkle, sequins, gold metallics, even gold-dipped feathers naturally became a festive-looking thread in the Chanel Métiers d’Art 2017 collection. Coco Chanel famously lived at the Ritz from 1937 throughout World War II, and died here in 1971. The house of Chanel is steps away from the hotel’s back door, on the Rue Cambon. Lagerfeld’s angle, though, wasn’t the life of Chanel herself, but, he emphasized, “cosmopolitan elegance and people from all over the world who’ve come to the Ritz. There were hundreds of dinners in the ’20s and ’30s, where women wore incredible things. But you cannot tell from the collection what decade it is, and I think that is modern, no?” The brilliantly chic show, which was served up in three sittings at lunch, tea, and dinnertime, sent a mixed bunch of lanky models, “daughters-of,” and Pharrell Williams winding their way around tables in the hotel lobby and a specially built “Jardin d’Hiver.” It made sense as a ready-made scene without any need for flown-in props. The Ritz is exactly where the international high-rolling couture customers billet themselves while shopping in Paris. Hair up in net veils decorated with roses, the girls pranced at a clip in midi skirts and Lurex pedal pushers, bubble-shaped capes, and square-shouldered jackets. There were skinny knit silvery dresses, a gorgeous white lace poet-sleeved blouse with a black leather cape and pants, a navy sheared mink tailored coat piped in gold leather, and tiered skirts flouncing out from narrow dropped-waist bodices. It was less a look than a cocktail menu of individual styles, really. But as Lagerfeld put it, that is the measure of the distance between Coco Chanel’s time and ours. “In those days, even to the ’60s, there were one or two designers who dictated what everyone wore. That is not the case today, when there are thousands of images of fashion available, so anyone can choose to wear what suits her.” Just as long as they belong to the Chanel glitterati, in this case.
Collage by Edward Kanarecki.
Don’t forget to follow Design & Culture by Ed on Instagram!