The Only Photographer with a Chanel Backstage Pass Remembers Karl Lagerfeld’s Biggest Spectacles
If there ever was a symbol of escapism in the fashion industry, that title would have to go to the monumental Chanel shows, as imagined through the genius brain of Karl Lagerfeld. The late fashion designer was responsible for decades of trailblazing in a lot of different ways. One of the most significant things Lagerfeld achieved in his long and fruitful career was the reputation of the ultimate fantasy thinker, always using that one hour he’s given per season to take the attendees of his catwalk shows into a land of make-believe. Rocket launches, waterfalls, supermarkets and tropical beaches – each legendary set of Lagerfeld’s Chanel show presented that one moment everyone could rely on disappearing into a virtual reality. And has there ever been a better time to recreate the same notion of escapism?
Simon Procter; Chanel Beach, Ready-To-Wear SS19, Le Grand Palais, Paris
Coming into our lives with just the right timing is Lagerfeld: The Chanel Shows, an exhibition by the only photographer with a backstage pass to those spectacles, Simon Procter. As one of the late designer’s most trusted lensmen, Procter had the opportunity to capture the essence of all the wonderful moments the fashion world will remember for the rest of time. As a unique glimpse into the inner sanctum of the French maison, his photographs are currently on display in an intimate environment of the Four Seasons Hotel London at Ten Trinity Square. The exhibition, set up in collaboration with Art Photo Expo, shares the name of and brings to life Procter’s Rizzoli-published photobook revolving around Lagerfeld’s career highlights, but also includes some never-before-seen artworks. But with the current situation in mind, we’re bringing you a virtual tour of the show, with personal annotations of the artist himself. Wherever you are in this world – a healthy dose of Lagerfeld’s Chanel fantasy, as told through the eyes of Simon Procter, can help you cope with reality a bit better.
On the wildest situations he got into with Mister Lagerfeld…
Simon Procter: “There were many. Our big New York shoot for Harper’s Bazaar was pretty full on. We didn’t have permits to shoot in Grand Central station, so we gave a restaurant on the mezzanine 100 bucks and Karl just walked through the centre of the great hall one time, before anyone realised it was him. He was game for most things. Top gent.”
Simon Procter; Editorial for Harper’s Bazaar; NYC (2006)
On his favourite image in the exhibition…
SP: “It’s hard to pick one… I loved the rocket show – It was just so much fun and really well done. A countdown, smoke, sparks, and a full size rocket launching in the Grand Palais…”
Simon Procter; Chanel Rocket, Ready-To-Wear AW17, Le Grand Palais, Paris
On the best advice he’s ever been given…
SP: “Well I’m a completely a self-trained photographer (I studied fine art) so nobody really ever gave me any advice, which has a lot of advantages and disadvantages. I think my point of view comes from my background. I’m not really documenting, I’m always there to create a piece of my own work. I remember [reading about] Francis Bacon saying that the work – be it a portrait of someone else or anything else – is always about the artist.”
Simon Procter; Portraits of Àstrid Bergès-Frisbey No.7, V magazine, Fall 2012
On the difference of shooting campaigns and shooting backstage…
SP: “Different worlds completely. It’s not for me to say backstage is easy to shoot, but you’re in a space literally with the most beautiful women in the world, with the best hair and make-up in the history of the world, being decked out in million dollar fashion… It would be pretty tough to make a bad picture. Advertising photography is a lot of responsibility and the actual photographic image is only a small part of the process – there’s a lot going on that is invisible to most people.”
Simon Procter; Chanel Thousand, Haute Couture SS17, Le Grand Palais, Paris
On his favourite memory of Mister Lagerfeld…
SP: “My team and I were waiting to shoot a portrait of Karl in the Grand Palais. We expected to greet him at the Palais hall entrance but his chauffeur – Rolls Royce of course – just drove right into the Grand Palais and parked in the middle! This huge empty space and Karl getting out of his luxury car, was pretty gangster.”
‘Lagerfeld: The Chanel Shows’ is an exhibition currently on display at the Four Seasons Hotel London at Ten Trinity Square, running for three months. Top image: Simon Procter; Chanel Cambon, Haute Couture SS10, Pavillon Cambon Capucines, Paris.
Simon Procter; Karl Lagerfeld above the Chanel logo during the Haute Couture AW04 show at the Ateliers Berthier, Paris
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