Milan Fashion Week: Fendi Celebrates Karl Lagerfeld in Emotional Farewell Show

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Gigi Hadid closes Fendi

The final collection from Lagerfeld, who worked with Fendi for 54 years (the longest collaboration in fashion history), was unveiled by the brand on Thursday.

Karl Lagerfeld’s last Fendi show is one that will go down in history as an emotional tribute to the man who defined the Roman house for 54 years.

The designer, who died on Tuesday at the age of 85, had worked as the creative director of Fendi since 1965. He was reportedly working on Fendi’s fall-winter 2019 collection up until his death.

The set decoration was somber, with Lagerfeld’s handwritten signature “Love KL,” reigning over the runway flanked by Fendi’s classic Pequin stripes.

Lagerfeld’s influence could be seen throughout the final collection. High-necked starched white shirts with pointed collars and silk foulard detailing paid tribute to his own signature daily uniform. Every model wore a low, slicked-back ponytail to mimic his trademark white hairstyle.

His 1981 “karligraphy” rococo FF logo was visible throughout, stamped on bodysuits, hosiery and overcoats, as well as the carpeted runway. Model Kaia Gerber wore a full bodysuit covered with the logo under a two-tone camel and brown coat, with 1970s tailoring and the Lagerfeld pointed collar.

From high-waist straight-leg trousers to flowing overcoats and blazers, the collection pulled from Fendi’s historic menswear influence while keeping everything modern and wearable. Laser-cut leather coats and shirt-dresses flowed like mesh activewear. Giant bow sashes (a detail that Lagerfeld reportedly insisted on just prior to his passing) and softly pleated skirts brought a touch of femininity to the the sharp tailoring.

Fendi’s famous bags were on full display with new twists. Some models carried multiple bags, featuring a perforated Peekaboo bag or an embossed patent pillowtop Baguette in pastel shades.

The Hadid sisters closed the show with Bella wearing a sheer cream dress and matching fur hunting cap, and Gigi in a marigold chiffon dress, both over patterned “karligraphy” bodysuits.

Both sisters, of whom Lagerfeld was a strong champion, struggled to hold back tears as they walked the finale. During the ending catwalk parade, David Bowie’s song “Heroes” played, nodding to one of Lagerfeld’s favorite musicians. Guests including Olivia Palermo, Joey King, Emma Mackey and Olivia Culpo in the front row were visibly moved.

Small cards with Lagerfeld’s signature, as well as copies of his last sketches for the brand, were waiting on each seat in the house as a gift for guests.

A note from men’s and accessories creative director Silvia Venturini Fendi read: “The bond between Karl Lagerfeld and Fendi is fashion’s longest love story, one that will continue to touch our lives for years to come. I am profoundly saddened by his passing and deeply touched by his constant care and perseverance until the very end. When we called just a few days before the show, his only thoughts were on the richness and beauty of the collection. It’s a true testament to his character. He shall be so missed.”

Fendi took a bow at the end of the show, unable to hold back her tears. The show concluded with a recent video of Lagerfeld drawing himself on his first day of work at Fendi in 1965.

“You know in the 60s, we didn’t hold back,” he announced in the video while sketching himself with long hair, a Cerruti hat, dark glasses, a printed scarf, a tweed bag from Milan, a Norfolk hunting jacket and French culottes and boots – classic Lagerfeld.

Throughout his long collaboration with Fendi, Lagerfeld helped to bring the brand into the spotlight with poetic wardrobes as well as over-the-top romantic events. In 2016, he celebrated Fendi’s 90th anniversary with a historic show atop Rome’s Trevi Fountain entitled “Legends and Fairy Tales,” with models appearing to walk on water. His 54-year contract with Fendi is the longest collaboration in fashion history.

Backstage there wasn’t a dry eye after the show. Makeup artists, executives, models and assistants let their tears flow, both for the great success of the respectful last show from the legendary designer, and for the huge loss that has cut deep into the fashion world this week.

Chanel will show Lagerfeld's final collection for the brand on March 5. They have also announced a farewell ceremony at a later date. He will be laid to rest in a private ceremony.