Like Anna Wintour, Karl Lagerfeld is one of those fashion die-hards who insists he doesn't look back, stating we should only ever be interested in the future. So it was an oddly ironic surprise that Rewind by Kelela played during the finale. On hearing her melancholy lyrics - ‘I can’t rewind’ - one wondered if Lagerfeld may also have been mourning a past. Incredibly subdued for a Spring / Summer collection, it was almost as if the Karl Lagerfeld we know of – with the 21st paraphernalia of Chanel supermarket, social media friendly cat and marketing friendly feminist march – had gone. This season at Fendi, it wasn’t about playing a game. It was as if the man we know now had disappeared. This collection told the story of a woman who changed Lagerfeld’s life and career. Not Coco Chanel, this was a woman who hired him in the mid sixties; Gaby Aghion, the founder of Chloe. Her son recalls Lagerfeld being shy, and him and Aghion working together in a close bond. This season’s show was almost exactly a year ago, to the day, of her death. For S/S 16, he paid respect to her and his designs at the house from within the walls of the Roman house of Fendi.
Incredible smocked blousons and smocks, luxuriously pleated peach jackets, and blanket stitches spoke of his time at Chloe, offering a modern take on his – and the house’s - archive. Russian red play suits, apron cut out styles, constructivist hoops, snakeskin braces and folkloric footwear combined to give a distinct nod to Aghion’s communist leanings. Whilst living in Paris, her and her husband were very close to several communist writers, such as Louis Aragon, and the pair – childhood sweethearts – shared socialist leanings from an early age. Lagerfeld told the tale of the proletariat via a militant colour palette of mossy greens and red. A strikingly oversized khaki bomber worn with peasant apron skirt looked like a Tsarina had gone undercover in the Duma.
The collection never really took off; that was its intention. It threatened to crescendo by way of an embellished section featuring appliqué flowers, but levelled back to a final section that was all about olive green satin draping, which paid homage to Aghion again. She chose to leave public life many years ago, and is sometimes forgotten for what she did for fashion during the fifties. Rejecting the stiff formality of the New Look, she concentrated on creating soft and feminine clothing.
This collection payed homage to both her intellect and empathy. Lagerfeld would hate such an open display of respect for another designer, other than Coco. It might come off as sentimentality. Today, he not only stepped aside – he let a legacy speak for itself.