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A glamorous, big-budget short film of the silent variety will premiere in Paris this week, and it’s all due to Chanel and Karl Lagerfeld, who donned a director’s hat and let rip his encyclopedic knowledge of Gabrielle Chanel’s early years.
The 10-minute movie — in all its flapper glory, as these stills illustrate — will be screened at Le Ranelagh theater on Wednesday night, along with a showing of Chanel’s Paris-Moscow, a luxury pre-fall ready-to-wear collection embellished by the couture ateliers Chanel owns.
“Today, people are ready for silent movies again, as they spend time — hours, I would say — looking at text messages and e-mails,” says Lagerfeld. “I always loved silent movies.”
This story first appeared in the December 1, 2008 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
The designer gathered some familiar members of his entourage, including model Brad Koenig and his bodyguard/private secretary Sébastien Jondeau (mustachioed and surly as a Russian nightclub owner), for the cast, along with model Edita Vilkeviciute, her gamine allure, jutting chin and ramrod posture creating a beguiling portrayal of the young Coco from 1913, when the legendary designer first set up shop. As reported in WWD Nov. 17, Tallulah Ormsby-Gore plays a Chanel model who has to sell her real-life mother, Lady Amanda Harlech, a hat in the film. Even the workers in the Chanel atelier got to play parts as workers in the fashion house. “I cannot take extras,” Lagerfeld notes. “They don’t know how to touch the clothes.”
The second part of the film takes place in 1923, when Chanel was already established, and is interspersed with newsreel images from the First World War. The plot, conveyed with title cards, involves a fascinating cast of characters, many tied to Russia, including Chanel’s lover the Grand Duke Dmitri Pavlovich, from whom she borrowed the pea jacket and pelisse, giving them a feminine touch. “It’s a funny movie, unpretentious,” says Lagerfeld. “Chanel was a charming woman, at liberty to seduce men. Everybody this year has decided to make a movie about Chanel, and you know their historical worth is not always too exact.”
Lagerfeld’s mini movie took two days to shoot in a studio on the outskirts of Paris, and was “made like a Hollywood production,” the designer says. “I had every image in my head.” As for the collection he will show, he says it will be “constructed,” incorporating elements of imperial Russia and Russian folklore.