On June 20, the vast nave of the Grand Palais in Paris will be wallpapered with 56 towering portraits of Lagerfeld and decked out with three giant LED screens, vast custom carpets, two Steinway pianos, two large bars and a main stage that will welcome a rotating cast of top film and music stars, all with ties to the late designer, who died Feb. 19 after an unprecedented fashion career.
The tribute, named “Karl For Ever,” has been organized by the houses of Chanel, Fendi and Karl Lagerfeld and conceived by theater and opera director Robert Carsen.
“I wanted to celebrate him in the fullest way possible,” Carsen said in an interview Friday, revealing details of the decor and the 90-minute spectacle, which will intersperse video footage with live performances. The cast will include musician Pharrell Williams, dancer Lil Buck, violinist Charlie Siem, and actresses Tilda Swinton, Helen Mirren, Fanny Ardant and Cara Delevingne.
Carsen corralled 60 people to speak on camera in Lagerfeld’s photo studio tucked behind his 7L bookstore and stacked with his extensive collection of art and literary tomes. This who’s who of Lagerfeld’s life spanning fashion, business and the arts is headlined by Alain Wertheimer — who is as famous for being one of the main owners of Chanel, along with his brother Gerard, as he is for never, ever, ever giving interviews.
“I didn’t get the first interview. Karl got the first interview,” Carsen demurred, alluding to the designer joining Chanel back in 1983. As for Wertheimer opening up on camera, he told Carsen: “I’m doing this for Karl, for this occasion, for Paris.”
Other speakers in the film include a host of famous designers, such as Nicolas Ghesquière, Maria Grazia Chiuri, Haider Ackermann, Clare Waight Keller, Jonathan Anderson, Simon Porte Jacquemus and Kris Van Assche. There are also models Gigi Hadid, Claudia Schiffer, Carla Bruni and Natalia Vodianova; actresses Carole Bouquet, Vanessa Paradis and Anna Mouglalis; business figures Bernard Arnault of LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton and Bruno Pavlovsky of Chanel, and a melange of cultural figures including Princess Caroline of Hanover, artist Jeff Koons, filmmaker Baz Luhrmann and industrial designer Marc Newson.
The audience — some 2,000 invited guests — will be surrounded by images of the German-born designer throughout his life.
“This whole thing is all woven and sewn together with Karl in mind, aiming to get the sense of proportion and detail he was so good at,” the director said.