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Karl Lagerfeld Sails Home to Hamburg for Chanel’s Métiers d’Art

The designer returned to the German port city of his birth to show his latest collection at the new Elbphilharmonie concert hall.
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The Métiers d’Art collection for Chanel at the Elbphilharmonie concert hall in Hamburg, Germany, on Wednesday. Markus Schreiber/Associated Press

HAMBURG — Karl Lagerfeld isn’t one for nostalgia. So it wasn’t familial memories or lost childhood that inspired him to unveil his 15th Métiers d’Art collection for Chanel in the German port city of his birth.

Rather, he claimed, it was an unwavering interest in the excitement of the present, and in contemporary architecture — specifically the Elbphilharmonie, the city’s showstopping new concert hall, which became a one-night-only Chanel venue Wednesday night.

The Métiers d’Art, an annual presentation since 2002 of the intricate craftsmanship of the Chanel-owned specialist ateliers central to Mr. Lagerfeld’s designs, had previously been held in Dallas; Salzburg, Austria; Rome; and Paris.

The designer Karl Lagerfeld with a young model at the end of the show. Patrik Stollarz/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

This year, and for the first time, Mr. Lagerfeld brought the Métiers d’Art home. The event had the largest guest list to date, with 1,420 clients, buyers, journalists and celebrities (Tilda Swinton, Kristen Stewart and Lily-Rose Depp were in the front row), many wearing Chanel.

The soaring Elbphilharmonie auditorium is nestled in a gargantuan, glass galleonlike structure atop an old brick warehouse that overlooks the harbor. Designed by the Swiss architectural firm Herzog & de Meuron, it opened this year, seven years late and at a cost of an eye-watering 798 million euros, or $942 million at current exchange rates, several times the original estimate . (Mr. Lagerfeld is similarly known for ignoring financial limitations when putting on memorable shows.)

As for the clothes — all 89 looks — they were a nod to place and history: rooted in the sights and sailors of the Hamburg port, with a particular nod to the Swinging ’60s, when The Beatles called the city home. With blue chunky cable knits and cashmere thigh-high leg warmers to bejeweled Elbesegler sailor caps, long smoking pipes and side-slung quilted duffel bags, the models were transformed into a merchant mariner. Ahoy.

This year, and for the first time, Mr. Lagerfeld brought the Métiers d’Art home. Markus Schreiber/Associated Press

Accompanied by rousing original music from the Resonanz orchestra, led by the composer, conductor and cellist Oliver Coates (who took center stage in a hoodie), the maritime references continued to flow thick and fast.

There were gray, officer-ready belted pea coats with gleaming silver buttons, flared and cropped pants, and a bright white bouclé sailor skirt-suit finished with a bow and red piping. With nautical braids in their hair and gauzy net head scarves, the models Kaia Gerber and Grace Elizabeth traversed the hall’s tiers in rusty-hue jackets and sweaters imprinted with knotted ropes, or shimmering with multicolor metallic mosaics, à la … shipping container. (Really. Designers find inspiration in the most unexpected places.)

The final battalion of textured evening wear in myriad glittering blues intended to mimic the waves of the sea drew gasps from the crowd, with most members peering through mini Chanel opera glasses that had been left on their seats.

Lily-Rose Depp, left, and Kristen Stewart at the show. Patrik Stollarz/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

“It was so moving tonight, more than usual I thought, to see Karl back here in the city he was born,” said Ms. Depp, the face of a number of Chanel advertising campaigns.

“So much of the spirit and energy of this city was clearly woven into the clothes, the emotions were buoyed by the music too, and this space,” she said, waving at the hall’s white vaulted dome and gleaming organ pipes, arrayed like a waterfall on one wall.

Later, everyone navigated over to a vast warehouse on the harbor docks that had been transformed into a momentary den of iniquity. A “drunken’” sailor choir lined the rickety metal staircases of the venue, belting out songs as diners dipped into local fish dishes passed down long wooden banqueting tables via giant pulleys suspended in midair.

There was a tattoo parlor, gallons of flowing grog — C champagne, this is fashion — and plenty of dancing before the crowds made their way onto the cobblestones and into the darkness, beckoned by their own voyage home.

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