When a reporter asked Karl Lagerfeld about a retrospective of his work in Paris years ago, he said, “I don’t want to see all those old dresses.” This quip of his has resurfaced recently because he was the theme of Monday’s Met Gala, and the accompanying Costume Institute exhibit has put many of his oldest dresses on display. On the red carpet, a number of his muses wore pieces pulled straight from the Chanel archives. But Gisele Bündchen didn’t just want to wear any “old dress.” She wanted to wear one that she had already worn.
“I wore this dress for a photoshoot I did with Karl at his home in Paris 16 years ago. We had so much fun on that shoot and wearing it again after so many years just brought back so many good memories,” she tells me about her look for the evening. The ethereal piece was cut from white silk tulle and embroidered with vertical sequin stripes, worn under a featherly cape like enormous angel wings. It was the bridal look for Lagerfeld’s spring 2007 Chanel couture show, worn originally by Freja Beha Erichsen. Shortly thereafter, Bündchen wore it for the editorial she mentions to me, for Harper’s Bazaar.
In it she is twirling in Lagerfeld’s home, emerging from an ornate pair of long French doors. She looks like a bird descending from flight, feathers floating above her head and at her sides. On the red carpet she mimicked the same movement, this time allowing her face to be joyful instead of keeping it locked in a stonelike smize. This euphoric moment, captured by the hundreds of photographers that lined the carpet, feels like the ultimate homage to Lagerfeld’s work. He transformed Chanel into something women desperately wanted to wear because it gives them access to a posh world of sophisticated glamour; and it makes them grin and twirl like Bündchen.
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While Lagerfeld’s accomplishments have been widely documented, and most of his famous Lagerfeldisms collected in a 2013 book, The World According to Karl, Bündchen is one of the only people in the world to have known him intimately. One of her fondest memories is a seemingly humdrum one. “After shooting all around Paris barefoot at night, we stopped to drink a tea at a café that had stayed open for us. He noticed I got a little cold and told me about this secret French natural medicine that I needed to take to feel better. As soon as I got to the hotel I had a note from him, saying ‘Get well,’ and the medicine. He was so thoughtful.”
She remembers his kindness from the moment they met at a casting for the Chanel show in the late ‘90s. “As soon as I walked into the room, he said my full name out loud and started to speak German with me. I said my last name was German but unfortunately, I couldn’t understand what he had said because I didn’t speak German!” He immediately stopped speaking and with a big smile switched to English and say, “I am so happy to finally meet you.”
“Karl was a true gentleman and one of fashion’s biggest contributors and he was a fashion icon,” Bündchen says. So when it came time to decide what exactly she would wear at this celebration in his honour, she knew it would have to be an old dress—but it feels fair to say it’s one Lagerfeld would have very much loved to have seen.
In Conversation With Gisele Bündchen
Three adjectives to describe Karl Lagerfeld?
Kind, daring, groundbreaking.
What is your best memory with Karl Lagerfeld?
I can’t think of only one moment. But he always made me feel so special.
The most amazing CHANEL fashion show under Karl Lagerfeld you’ve ever attended?
I think it was my last Chanel show in 2015. I wasn’t doing shows anymore for a long time, but Karl asked me to be a part of this show he was doing; a march to celebrate women empowerment. It was such a different show than anything I had done before because it felt like it had a bigger purpose.
Part of this article originally appeared in Harper’s BAZAAR US.
- Gisele Bündchen