Fendi: A tearful farewell to Karl Lagerfeld
They bid goodbye to Karl Lagerfeld Thursday in Milan, as the house staged the final collection designed by the German couturier in a tearful and somber show.
His great friend and long-time DJ Michel Gaubert played David Bowie’s Heroes at the finale, bringing to an end a 54-year-old tenure at the house by Lagerfeld, who died on Tuesday morning in Paris aged 85. Many of the models, done up with slicked back hair and futurist glasses, were visibly in tears, as were several LVMH executives sitting front-row.
Bella and Gigi Hadid wore the final two looks – two flowing semi-sheer pleated chiffon dresses worn over logo tights, one in nude, the other in tangerine, the former worn with a fur jockeys’ cap. Before Silvia Venturini Fendi bravely took her bow - to smile, grimace, weep and shake her head, underneath a panel that in Lagerfeld’s handwriting read “Love Karl.”
“The bond between Karl Lagerfeld and Fendi is fashion’s longest love story, one that will continue to touch our lives for years to come. I am profoundly saddened by his passing and deeply touched by his constant care and perseverance until the very end. When we called just a few days before the show, his only thoughts were on the richness and beauty of the collection. It’s a true testament to his character. He shall be so missed,” said Silvia in her program notes.
As the applause slowly faded, Karl reappeared on a large video screen, speaking in French and describing how he remembered sketching his first look for the house in 1965, his hands in his signature black leather mitts working a black marker furiously.
“That’s pre-historic. In the '60s we didn’t hold back. I had a Cerruti hat; long hair; dark glasses; a printed Jean Lavallière tie and an English hunting jacket, with panels. A Norfolk jacket. With French style culottes and boots and a bag that I found in Milan. Voilà, that’s it. A Scottish tweed printed yellow and red. I remember it very well. That was my style, disreputable, in 1965,” he shrugged, as he tore the beautiful sketch out of his notepad.
Karl famously invented the reverse double-F logo of the house, often jesting that he was never paid royalties for the branding. They reprised his 1981 curling "Karligraphy" version this season, using it on tights; pointy collared silk shirts, buttoned way up high in Lagerfeld’s inimitable manner; and appearing to great effect on cabochon buttons and intarsia fur cabans. The beige, deep-pile catwalk boasted the logo in one-meter-high letters.
It was an excellent show with which to exit the catwalk; including some beautiful waxed leather blousons; supremely well cut mannish blazers and a series of remarkable perforated leather suits, several worn with similarly perforated Peekaboo bags. For chilly evenings, a rather divine elongated brown mink grandfather shirt, piped in daffodil yellow; for grand soirées several stunning pagoda-shouldered, diamond-shape gowns.
And a dénouement done with a soupçon of humor, which Lagerfeld would surely have appreciated. The opening track was Small Town by Lou Reed and John Cale.
“When you’re growing up in a small town, you realize no one famous came from here,” sang Reed. Lagerfeld was brought up in Bad Darmstadt, a small town of some 3,500 people.
Pre-show, a gang of anti-fur protestors darkened the mood, as the audience of 1,500 entered Fendi’s Milan show-space. Their angry yelling so out of place on a day of mourning. Had no one ever taught them the idea of a little respect for the dead?
When one considers how much joy Lagerfeld provided with his exquisite designs and bon mots, and how much employment Karl Lagerfeld’s creativity provided for Italians and fashion workers worldwide it seemed particularly wrong.
And a failed attempt to distract from a somber adieu to a great artist.
Macte virtute sic itur ad astra. As the great Roman poet Virgil wisely wrote: Those who excel, thus reach the stars.
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