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Chanel AW17Photography Lillie Eiger

Ten of Karl Lagerfeld’s most #extra Chanel show sets

Giant Scandinavian icebergs, an airport, a supermarket, and even a rocket launch – here’s all those OTT, IG-worthy moments from the Parisian house

It goes without saying that Karl Lagerfeld was fashion’s ultimate showman, flexing his creative muscles the most at Chanel during his 36-year tenure as creative director.

Mainly taking place in Paris’s Grand Palais – with the exception of the mid-season Resort and Pre-Fall shows that saw the designer transport fashion guests to the likes of Cuba, Rome, Salzburg, Dubai, and even Dallas, Texas – Chanel shows have taken place in a series of wildly inventive settings, including a supermarket, an airport, and even at the launch of a double-C branded rockt. 

King Karl – as he’s more commonly known – was out here creating Instagrammable moments before the ‘gram even existed, going all the back to his shows in the 80s and 90s where he sent dogs, surfboards, and models on roller skates down the runway (more on that here).

Following the designer’s death – which was announced earlier today – we round up ten of Chanel’s most brilliantly #extra show sets.


For SS10, Karl Lagerfeld was thinking about getting down and dirty in the hay, so naturally created a gigantic barn with a straw-strewn catwalk at its centre. Two thirds of the way through the show, the ground opened to reveal Lily Allen (complete with guitar players, a drummer, and models as backup singers) who performed “Not Fair”. Jigging their way throughout the song, the platform disappeared again for the finale, which was led by a sexy throuple made up of a barefoot Freja Beha Erichsen, Lara Stone, and Baptiste Giabiconi, who stumbled out of the barn arm-in-arm. The show also gave us this amazing pre-meme era meme of Sasha Pivovarova posing with a Chanel phone, so there’s that too.


Though Lagerfeld was renowned for jetting the fashion set out to exotic destinations around the world when it came to show season (with the likes of Mumbai and Cuba among them), even he realised dragging them all the way to the Arctic might have been a bit of a stretch. So what did he do? He brought the Arctic to them, obvs, and transported huge chunks of an IRL Scandinavian iceberg to the Paris’s Grand Palais. Unsurprisingly, the collection was made up of shaggy (faux) fur coats and yeti-esque jumpsuits, chunky knitted sweaters, and fluffy snow boots, as worn by some of the 00s’ most iconic models: including Freja Beha Erichsen, Coco Rocha, and Lara Stone.


SS12 saw Chanel’s guests head underwater, with the show space transformed into the (cleanest) ocean with giant coral and seashell sculptures dotted around and transparent bubbles lining the walls. Models emerged with wet hair, sculpted into buns, dotted with pearls like they were mermaids. As the show went on, the largest seashell opened to reveal Florence Welch (of Florence + The Machine) who sang the appropriate “What The Water Gave Me” with an accompanying harp player. What did the Chanel water give us? Well, life TBH.


Maybe the longest Chanel runway ever, for SS13 models walked along a catwalk made of solar panels, dwarfed by giant wind turbines that were at least 50 feet tall. The wind and sun are free,” Lagerfeld said mysteriously post-show to Vogue Runway. The collection itself featured oversized pearl necklaces, and the house’s signature tweed recreated in glittering sequins. If all of that wasn’t enough, though, this was the collection that gave us the giant hula hoop-like bags worn by Gia Gunn for her entrance on RuPaul’s Drag Race season six. Werk!


For his AW14 show, Lagerfeld went all out to create an enormous grocery store inside the Grand Palais. Shelves were stacked high with all the items you’d usually find on your weekly big-shop list, only they’d naturally been given an uber-extra, Chanel twist: tubes of Pringles, washing powder, cereal boxes, and even rolls of toilet paper all featured the iconic double-Cs, while half-full trolleys lined the runway. The collection itself featured leather tracksuits in bold pinks and purples, crop-tops bearing the label’s distinctive logo, and metal basket bags strung with pearls and chains, with models forgoing the usual up-and-down the runway and instead milling around and helping each other with their shopping. As the show came to a close, the temptation was too much for some attendees, as they looted the shelves of the ‘store’. Supermarket Sweep, but make it fashion.


If you’d ever wondered what it might be like to stride past the economy airline check-in desks and head straight for the VIP lounge, Chanel’s AW15 show gave you at least a small glimpse as to how the other half live. Taking place, as always, at the Grand Palais, Lagerfeld transformed the space into an uber-luxurious airport terminal, complete with a departures and arrivals board, a seating area, and ‘staff’ wearing Chanel uniforms (what else?). On the runway – no, not that one – the likes of Kendall Jenner, Binx Walton, and Molly Bair paraded tweed two-piece suits and tunics featuring printed destination lists, wheeling CC-branded suitcases behind them. This is your final boaridng call, etc.


Chanel’s SS17 show saw Karl Lagerfeld looking to the future, specifically through the lens of technology. Turning the Grand Palais into a hub of computer mainframes. The show begins and two models in all-black and all-white tweed suits emerge. They’re not just models though, they’re Chanel-wearing robots. Another model appeared holding a tiny robot handbag. With Brexit, Trump, and climate change all making the future look like a gloomy place, the least we can hope for is getting upgraded to a Chanel bot.


OK, so we know that all of the above are pretty extra, but AW17 definitely has to be top three. Upon entering the show space, guests (obviously) noticed the giant Chanel-branded rocket that made up the set. Impressive, sure. Then it got even better, with the rocket taking off in a cloud of smoke and sparks – all soundtracked by Elton John’s “Rocket Man”. IRL astronaut Buzz Aldrin wasn’t that impressed, though – “It looks realistic but it doesn’t look big enough to really get to orbit,” he said at the time – but we were! And if we decided we actually wanted to travel to space, it’d definitely be on a Chanel rocket.


Given most Chanel shows take place in Paris, you’d think that, had Lagerfeld wanted to debut his latest collection in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower, he’d have just organised a show nearby. Right? Wrong! In what was possibly the most extra move of all time, the designer opted to recreate the iconic landmark inside the Grand Palais (where else?). Models wearing 1930s-inspired tweed suits and bowler hats made their way round the runway, while attendees sat on traditional bistro chairs: so far, so Français. It made sense then, that this was the show at which the French Mayor presented Lagerfeld with the Grand Vermeil medal for his contribution to fashion during his three-decade-long career at Chanel.


As with the iceberg that made up the centrepiece of the AW10 show, the thinking behind Chanel’s SS19 presentation seemed to be: if you can’t take the audience to the beach, then you should bring the beach to the audience. In this instance, the Grand Palais played host to a huge, tropical sky and sea backdrop, complete with actual sand and even gently lapping waves, which prompted guests including Simon Porte Jacquemus and Pamela Anderson to take off their shoes and dip their feet while posing for photos for the ‘gram – obviously the latter has had plenty of practice in this area circa her Baywatch days. Finishing things off was a lifeguard, who sat atop a look-out point overseeing proceedings, and a tiki hut, from which Michel Gaubert spun the equally tropical-inspired soundtrack.