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Karl Lagerfeld’s final Fendi collection was filled with his personal style tics

Karl Lagerfeld, who died on Tuesday of this week, was named creative director at Fendi in 1965. That’s four years before man first landed on the moon. Five years before the Beatles broke up. Sixteen years before Prince Charles married Diana. Nineteen years before Steve Jobs invented the first Macintosh computer.

Models present creations during the Fendi women’s Fall/Winter 2019/2020 collection fashion show, yesterday in Milan. –AFP photos

While Lagerfeld is synonymous with Chanel, which he transformed from a dusty brand into a multi-billion dollar company (total sales for 2017 were $9.62 billion), he is also an honorary Fendi. The ultimate mentor to Silvia Venturini Fendi, who currently heads up the house, she also considered him flesh and blood. “I first met him when I was five years old,” she said, in an interview last year. “In a lot of ways, Karl is family. Here is the kind of magical place where these values are very strong.”

That meant that today’s Fendi slot in Milan, for its autumn/winter 2019 show, was Lagerfeld’s last. Small cards had been left on each seat, inscribed with Karl’s signature and 19.02.2019, the date of his passing. “In his perpetual search for beauty and innovation, Karl’s commitment to his craft never waned,” read the show notes. A quote attributed to 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.”

The atmosphere was sombre. “Love KL”, in Lagerfeld’s florid script loomed large over the catwalk, while a calligraphic F, apparently also in his hand, had been stitched into the taupe catwalk that comprised the runway. Then a piano started up and Fran Summers walked out in a vague approximation of what Karl might have worn had he been a woman: a giant snowy white bow at the throat crowning a sharply tailored mushroom-coloured double-breasted jacket. There were more starched white collars, frock coats, a flash of yellow patent, and of course, ponytails – all memento mori for one of fashion’s last kings.

As an emotional Silvia Venturini took her bow, David Bowie’s Heroes boomed out over the audience. Lagerfeld, who had a uncomplicated way with words and wasn’t afraid to roast celebrities grand and ignominious, was famously complimentary of Bowie. When he died, Lagerfeld told the Associated Press that Bowie was “a great artist and a timeless fashion icon… who will remain a reference.”

A video then flashed up on a screen above the catwalk: “54 years together”. It was Karl, being asked to draw a sketch of himself as he was when he arrived for his first day at Fendi. “Well that’s prehistoric,” he joked. “You know, in the Sixties, we didn’t hold back.” He begins drawing himself with a black sharpie: Cerruti hat, long hair, dark glasses, a printed lavallière tie, Norfolk jacket in Scottish tweed in red and yellow, French culottes, boots, and “a bag I found in Milan.” As he said of Bowie – Lagerfeld will forever remain a

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