A Cavernous Space Turns into an Alpine Town for a Chanel Fashion Show
TOP PHOTO: DPA PICTURE ALLIANCE / ALAMY STOCK. BOTTOM, COURTESY CHANEL
“Oh, it's like walking through a painting.”
–The late Karl Lagerfeld, on his vision for Chanel, in an audio recording played as part of Chanel's A/W 2019 show
Chanel fashion shows regularly grab international headlines. But what some might not realize is that the attention is just as much thanks to the brand's ambitious events project management as it is the clothing design. For recent events at the Grand Palais in Paris, France, project teams have been tasked with building a 30-foot (9-meter) waterfall that cascaded past caves and over rocky cliffs; designing and launching a life-size rocket ship; and re-creating an indoor version of the Eiffel Tower.
As with any event, project deadlines were inflexible—and required meticulous upfront schedule management. To execute one project, the team trucked in a 265-ton, 30-foot (9-meter) iceberg from a neighboring country, timing the transportation to minimize both melt and storage costs in advance of the show.
For the brand's most recent show in March, the need for upfront planning took on an emotional dimension. Project sponsor Karl Lagerfeld, who joined the French fashion house in 1983 as art director, died in February. Yet advance communication meant his vision was consistent throughout. The team reimagined the cavernous space as an Alpine town complete with a thick dusting of snow, chalets puffing smoke from their chimneys and full-scale pine trees. And on each guest's chair sat a printed sketch Mr. Lagerfeld had made years before. The picture was his own silhouette alongside that of Coco Chanel's, with the scrawled words that captured his own approach to fashion and the brand's future: “The beat goes on.”
Chanel's A/W 2019 fashion show
Grand Palais, Paris, France
In 2018, Chanel contributed nearly US$28 million toward the French government's planned US$613 million renovation of the Grand Palais. The project is slated to begin in late 2020, with completion slated in time for the 2024 Summer Olympics in Paris.