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The Charity Ball Game

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In the end, it’s lamb, vegetables, and a dark-chocolate cake topped with a white-chocolate camellia—Chanel’s other signature flower. “Anna said, ‘Fabulous,’ ” Driscoll says.

Karl Lagerfeld is known for his outspoken declaratives when it comes to fashion, so the most nerve-racking thing for Harold Koda and Andrew Bolton, the curators, was approaching the designer with their idea. “He’d always said, very clearly, that he wouldn’t want his things in an exhibition, that runway to retrospective is not his idea of fashion,” Koda says. Part of what smoothed Lagerfeld’s red carpet to the Costume Institute was that Olivier Saillard, the stylist who’s been wowing Paris with his fashion exhibitions at the Louvre—he’s just put one together on Yohji Yamamoto—should design the show. He’s worked quite a lot with Chanel. And, says Koda of Saillard, “He’s a poet.”

And besides, Lagerfeld is a superhero on a massive scale. The lines outside H&M last fall when he designed a cheap collection were a serious turn-on for the Met. As Lagerfeld puts it, “Can you think of another brand that is more popular?” He didn’t think so.

“What we wanted to do was to present the modernism of Chanel as something that is a living legacy,” Koda explains. “So many of Coco Chanel’s ideas have become the lingua franca of contemporary dress that they’re invisible to us at this point. The way that we wanted to establish that is to draw the affinity of the original Coco to avant-gardist architecture of that time.” They settled on a ratio of two Cocos for every Karl.

Once Saillard got to the museum, he proposed two ideas. Koda calls the winning design Chanel City: a gridded plan of interlocking square modules. “He’s looking at Le Corbusier, he’s looking at the White City,” says Koda, “all of which Karl encouraged us to think about.”

Where Lagerfeld did get extremely involved was with the catalogue. “At ‘Dangerous Liaisons,’ he was upset that there wasn’t any color to the mannequins, so at one meeting he took out some colored pencils and did a sketch on a photograph of a thirties dress,” Koda says. “Everybody got very excited.”

“It was a nightmare,” says Lagerfeld of the work he did on the catalogue. “I had to get up at four in the morning for weeks to do this. This technique has never been done before. It is something only I can do, and it gives a new idea to old clothes.”

At an 8 A.M. meeting on April 21—in fact, the regular 8 A.M. meetings, given Wintour hyperefficiency, are often over by 8 A.M.—Anna Wintour sat flanked by Emily Rafferty and Wolkoff, the three of them answering questions from the various representatives of Monn, Driscoll, and Chanel in rapid-fire succession. There’s some concern that two trumpets—used to signal the end of cocktail hour and the beginning of dinner—won’t be enough.

“Well, then let’s have four,” says Wintour.

Next?

“There’s some sort of nuclear protest in the park on Sunday,” says David Monn. “It’s blocking my access to the loading dock.”

“Well, then, we’ll get you in on Saturday,” says Wintour.

“We can put the carpet in the Temple of Dendur,” says Rafferty.

“Ooh,” says Monn. “You’re giving me chills.”

Additional reporting by Sarah Bernard (food), Melena Z. Ryzik (fashion), and Alexandra Wolfe (society).


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