The Spring 2019 season of Paris Couture Week kicked off on Monday, which only means one thing to a significant amount of those in attendance on Tuesday: that the lavishness of Chanel's latest couture outing was nigh.
Case in point: This season, there wasn't just one show, but two. Both, of course, followed Karl Lagerfeld's prototypical formula for Chanel couture: dozens of tweed and tulle looks, modeled by a cast that included Kaia Gerber and the latest of the house's requisite couture brides; a front row studded with Kristen Stewart, Tilda Swinton, Pharrell Williams, and a roundup of the designer's latest muses in the making; and an over-the-top set that transported guests far away from snowy Paris, this time via a Mediterranean garden installed in the midst of the Grand Palais. True, it appears that Lily-Rose Depp was absent from both the front row and runway. Not that it mattered by the end of each spectacle, when another rather momentous absence became apparent: that of Lagerfeld himself.
But particularly for a house as large as Chanel, the show must go on. (In fact, the news only served to make this season's even more of a spectacle.) Whereas Lagerfeld usually accompanies the couture bride, this time, it was his right-hand woman, Virginie Viard, who appeared alongside the model who closed things out in a one-piece bathing suit made haute couture. The denouement, however, came via an announcement that the house made in both English and French: "For the traditional greeting at the end of the show, Mr. Lagerfeld, artistic director of Chanel, who was feeling tired, asked Virginie Viard, director of the creative studio of the house, to represent him and greet the guests alongside the bride." At 10 a.m., the statement concluded with a promise that the designer would be able to rouse himself in time for the following show set for noon.
But alas, Lagerfeld did not appear. Instead, there was another statement from the house—perhaps following a couple hours of reflection on the fact that their original phrasing made it sound like Lagerfeld would rather throw a tantrum than make his 10 a.m. wakeup call. While this time, they once again explained that Lagerfeld was "tired," the announcement ended on a note of intrigue: "We wish Mr. Lagerfeld to recover quickly."
Yes, Lagerfeld is all of 85 years old—an age that, for many mortals, would mean that strolling around a Mediterranean garden is no walk in the park. But Lagerfeld, of course, is not just any mortal; the only time he's remotely hinted at taking a rest from the industry, not to mention life itself, is when he responded to the question of whether he'd rather spend his life on a deserted island with Simon Porte Jacquemus, Jonathan Anderson, or Virgil Abloh with a promise that he'd kill himself first.
Plus, this wasn't the first time that Viard made an appearance at one of the show's finales. Increasingly, she's been there right alongside Lagerfeld on the runway as he makes his bow. And if Lagerfeld were looking for a way to show Viard just how much he trusts and appreciates her, this would be it. In some ways, however, it feels wrong to make light of the situation—particularly as the industry is still feeling the loss of another name-brand designer, Kate Spade, as well as Azzedine Alaïa, one of its most storied greats. (Alaïa proved fresh on the mind of Paris itself, too, just 24 hours ago, when the city hosted an emotional ceremony to unveil an official plaque commemorating the couturier.)
And yet, foolish as it may be, if we were to believe that anyone on Earth were immortal, Lagerfeld, not a hair in his signature white ponytail out of place, would be right at the top of the list. (Accompanied, of course, by his almost equally omnipotent cat Choupette—and Peter Thiel.) In many ways, it's already felt as if Lagerfeld has helmed the house for eternity; he's been with Chanel for more than three and a half decades, practically putting him on par with Coco Chanel herself. No wonder he's tired! Give the man a break. (If that's even possible, seeing as the dates of both Fendi and Chanel's Fall 2019 womenswear shows are now less than two months away.)