Today Karl Lagerfeld will premiere his latest venture into film making with a 30-minute short film, The Return, on chanel.com. This featurette covers a difficult period in the life of the great Gabrielle ‘Coco’ Chanel, when she reopens her atelier and debuts her first couture collection after a 15-year hiatus in 1954.
The film features a fantastic cast, many of whom have close associations with Karl Lagerfeld and the Chanel brand. Geraldine Chaplin (the daughter of the iconic Charlie Chaplin) is a dead-ringer for Madame Chanel, while Rupert Everett plays an American television journalist, model Heidi Mount is Marlene Dietrich, Lady Amanda Harlech acts as US Vogue editor Betinna Ballard and hairstylist Sam McKnight portrays Coco’s beloved butler. Gorgeous models and a team of Karl’s very own seamstresses also star in the film – as if Karl, who imagined, wrote and directed it, needed to bring even more authenticity into the movie.
It’s hard to believe today, but Chanel’s debut show depicted in the film was not received well by the French and European press, buyers and even customers. As Karl Lagerfeld describes: “The French press was beyond horrible to her.”
So, how did Chanel triumph over the critics to become the most iconic and respected woman in the fashion industry? It was all thanks to the more open-minded Americans, one of which was American Vogue editor Bettina Ballard, who sought Coco out to congratulate her. Financial support also came from the American department store Neiman Marcus who carried the new line.
The film will be premiered prior to Lagerfeld’s Paris-Dallas 13/14 Métiers d’Art runway event that will showcase the work of Chanel’s mutli-disciplined couture workshops. Why Dallas? We know it’s a city filled with the rich and the fabulous, but it’s not normally associated with couture shows. Well, interestingly it all ties together quite brilliantly – each Métiers d’Art show is held in a place of significance to Coco’s life or the brand.
It turns out Neiman Marcus, the store that put their faith in Coco’s ‘return’ collection was based in Dallas. In 1957 Coco Chanel made her first trip to Dallas to receive the Neiman Marcus Award for Distinguished Service in the Field of Fashion. It was presented to her by Stanley Marcus, who, as the story goes, held a barbeque at his brother’s farm in her honour. He also surprised her with a fashion show of dressed cows, one of which was wearing a string of pearls…
In a fitting conclusion to the event, Karl Lagerfeld will be presented with the same award on Wednesday by the one and only US Vogue editor Anna Wintour. Bravo King Karl! It is well deserved.
If you aren’t fast asleep (it will premiere at 6:30pm Dallas time), follow the action on Twitter with the hashtag #chaneldallas
Watch the film teaser here.
Images: Olivier Saillant, R. Doisneau Rapho