Editor’s Note: Ahead of the opening of “Karl Lagerfeld: A Line of Beauty” at the Costume Institute, we are celebrating his talent by adding five newly digitized archival shows he designed to the Vogue Runway Archive. This one, for Chanel couture, was shown in July 1996 in Paris.
Vogue deemed Karl Lagerfeld’s spring 1996 couture outing for Chanel so spectacular that “Ode to Coco,” a stand-alone Irving-Penn portfolio, was dedicated to it. It wasn’t just that the collection included a record-making dress that required 1,280 hours of work chez Lesage, the show marked a sea change in fashion. As Anna Wintour wrote in her editor’s letter, this collection” moved daringly and definitively away from the plain, minimal, and vulnerable look that has characterized so many clothes over the past five years” of the 1990s.
Beyond the exquisite embellishments, the news here was the attenuation of the silhouette. “Elongated to death,” is how Lagerfeld put it to a reporter from Reuters. That meant longer hemlines, of course, but what made things streamlined and relevant to a fast-paced modern lifestyle was that almost everything was worn over what the designer called a “stiletto body [stocking]” made of a Spandex with a light sheen. Peeking out from under long coats they created an on-the-go feeling; and they breathed new life into classic 1930s silhouettes featuring the handkerchief-hems and/or black lace that Coco Chanel herself favored back in the day.
Speaking of Coco, the Coromandel screens she collected provided the inspiration for the pieces that brought down the house: two red-and-gold and two black-and-gold sequin-embroidered coats with Asian motifs. A number of these were included in the “China: Through the Looking Glass” exhibition at the Costume Institute in 2015; look for them also in “Karl Lagerfeld: A Line of Beauty.”
This article was originally published on Vogue Runway.