PARIS—“Sad. That’s how the Front Row feels about Karl Lagerfeld’s death,” said Paris-based fashion journalist Jessica Michault. “It’s the end of an era. The cutting of a cord. Lagerfeld so beautifully understood 20th century French fashion and brought it into the future.”
As Paris Fashion Week settles into its second full day, with big shows on Wednesday including Lanvin and Dries Van Noten, snap-happy fashionista posed at venue entrances across the city. Inside, the fashion world proper went about its business. Lagerfeld, who died just over a week ago aged 85, was never far from people’s minds.
“It was really sad in Milan on the day of the Fendi show,” added Michault, a former New York Times fashion journalist. The Fendi show took place two days after Lagerfeld died. He had been creative director of the house since 1965, as well as serving as creative director of Chanel for the last 36 years.
Michault, SVP of Industry Relations at Launchmetrics, added: “He was designing right up until the last minute, and of course we will see his imprint again at the March 5 Chanel show here.”
Between the stream of catwalks on Wednesday that took people from the bowels of the Palais de Tokyo art museum, for Dries van Noten, to underground basements, like the Espace Commines, which was used for the Nehara Show, the fashion world nonetheless continued its daily grind. Some shared fond memories.
“When I was still a student working at Visionaire, our fax machine would receive beautiful hand-written letters from Karl Lagerfeld that he had written while on a plane,” New York-based designer Angel Chang told The Daily Beast. “It seemed to sum up what he embodied,being rooted in the past, living in the present, and having an eye on the future. He was such an inspiration and will be missed.”
Rebecca Leffler, a Paris-based blogger and journalist, said of the mood at Paris Fashion Week: “There’s a dark cloud hanging, despite the spontaneously sunny spring weather. France may no longer have a monarchy, but the fashion world still does, and Karl Lagerfeld’s death sent shockwaves through the entire industry.”
Many in the fashion world have been on the road for almost four weeks, since the shows started in New York last month. Lagerfeld died when the Milan shows were underway, meaning most were out of town. Fashion royalty like Anna Wintour flew in to Paris for Lagerfeld’s cremation on Friday.
Meanwhile, Vogue’s U.K. editor, Edward Enninful, declined to be interviewed for this piece on Wednesday. “No interviews allowed,” he said, sitting front row at Rochas.
Lagerfeld’s successor at Chanel, in-house designer Virginie Viard, was named the same day Lagerfeld died.
Some at Paris Fashion Week thought it was a rush to announce his replacement so quickly, but others pointed out that Lagerfeld left strict instructions about proceedings upon his death.
“It was probably upon his instruction that Viard was named as his successor that day at Chanel. And you have to remember he was essentially freelance. He did many other things. He also had his own label and designed for Fendi,” said one U.K. reporter, who didn’t wish to be named.
The Lagerfeld conversation comes and goes here.
“Lagerfeld isn’t on everyone’s minds as much as he was the day of the Fendi show, but it will come again with the Chanel catwalk scheduled for March 5,” said Michault.
An international crowd is in town for the last fashion week of the Fall/Winter 2019 ready-to-wear season. Said Hollywood stylist, Raymond Lee: “Karl Lagerfeld was a genius that turned Chanel into a luxury powerhouse.”
Added Japanese fashion curator Akiko FukaI: “Karl brought about the renaissance of Chanel at the beginning of 1980’s with edgy street styles: jeans, underwear fashion, and so on. As a result, the brands ‘Madame’ styles resonated with the younger generation.”
Marianna Rosati, designer and creative director of DROMe whose Paris show takes place on Saturday, said: “Karl Lagerfeld was a very inspirational figure for me. He was not just a designer, he was an artist. Most of all, he was a lover of freedom and creativity. He always faced his ambitions and his dreams with no fear, constantly challenging the world surrounding him. This is what being creative and creating a legacy really means.”
What will he be best remembered for was one point of debate.
“Nothing ‘defined his style,’ because he was a chameleon who changed his colors according to the house for which he was designing,” Valerie Steele, the director and chief curator at the Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York told The Daily Beast. “As he said once, he was Miss Chanel, Miss Fendi, Miss Chloe (even, perhaps, Miss Lagerfeld)—with different styles for each.”
What Lagerfeld should be remembered for is carrying a heritage brand, that defines the giddying heights of the beauty you can create through the artisan or couture crafting of fine clothing, into the present.
Without him, Chanel could have been another defunct fashion label, like Patou, Madame Grès or Curiel, buried in sartorial history dust.
“Working for an icon like Karl Lagerfeld required you to be perfect night and day, and extremely passionate and focused,” said Paris-based choreographer JP Chandler who collaborated with Chanel. “I just wanted to say, ‘Thank you for giving me a chance. Good bye Karl.’”