This stunning collection, Paris-Byzance, reaches back in time to Byzantium and the Empress Theodora to create modern and stylish new takes on Byzantine attire. This new collection is filled with rich, bold colors and textures, yet they retain the classic Chanel overtones. With an eye to detail, Lagerfeld brings exquisite taste and fashion alive with this Byzantine-inspired show.
By all accounts, Theodora would probably have been amused, flattered and more than a little proud to know that her own sense of style would inspire fashion centuries after her passing. Born around 500, she was the daughter of a bear trainer who worked in the Hippodrome. Her early life was not an easy one, but she managed to climb from the lowest rungs of society to the very top to marry Justinian and become empress of Byzantium from 527 until 548.
Mindful of her own humble beginnings, she became a champion of sorts for the women of her day. Using her power, she instituted the death penalty for rape, improved the divorce laws, instituted laws to try to curb the abuse of women and she enacted laws that allowed women to own and inherit property. In addition, she had hospitals and convents built to serve the population of homeless women.
One of the major events in her life was the Nika revolt, an episode that clearly illustrated her ability to lead. In January 532, two rival political groups began rioting in the Hippodrome, burning buildings and proclaiming a new emperor. Justinian and his officials were unable to control the mobs and prepared to flee the city. However, Theodora reportedly stopped them in their tracks by giving a speech about how the life of someone who died as a ruler had a greater significance than the life of someone who lived, but who was nothing. Inspired, Justinian and his officials changed their minds about fleeing and confronted the mobs. The result was over 30,000 rebels killed, but the empire remained intact.
Theodora and Justinian rebuilt Constantinople after the Nika revolt, making it one of the grandest cities in the world with aqueducts, bridges and over 25 new churches. Their most famous church, of course, was the Hagia Sophia, the Church of the Holy Wisdom. This building is considered one of the architectural wonders of the world. With a dome measuring 108 feet in diameter, its crown rises 180 feet above the ground. The largest church in the Christian world for almost 900 years, it is richly decorated with marble and mosaics unmatched anywhere.
Even though she did not have an exceptionally long run as empress, Theodora did leave her mark on the Byzantine Empire. Through hard work, mixed with quite a bit of scheming according to some historians, she attained the highest position possible. She used her power as empress not only to meet her own personal goals, but to change laws to help women. Together, Theodora and Justinian were certainly one of the more memorable couples in history. From the ancient streets of Byzantium to the ultramodern catwalks of Paris, Theodora still has the ability to inspire.