In Monte Carlo, a .234-square-mile city ascending from the azure waters of the Mediterranean, extravagance is an evergreen existence. The hotels are all five-star. The cars? Bentleys, Bugattis, Ferraris, of course. And that salad you want to have for lunch? That’ll be 32 euros.
But even in this land of luxury, there’s one night that stands above the rest: Bal de la Rose.
Held in March each year, Bal de la Rose is the pinnacle of the Monegasque social calendar. The gala started in 1954 as a kickoff for the country’s party season. After Princess Grace founded the Princess Grace Foundation in 1964, it became a charity fundraising event.
Over the past decade, Bal de la Rose transformed into one of the most prominent galas in the world due to its high-profile host (Princess Caroline of Hanover) high-profile guest list (Prince Albert of Monaco, Charlotte and Pierre Casiraghi) and most importantly, its high-profile creative collaborator: Karl Lagerfeld. His involvement began in 2009, when he lent his imagination to the Jubilee of Prince Rainier. In 2013, the Princess of Hanover asked Lagerfeld to come up with a theme for that year’s ball. His idea? A “Belle and Pop” ball (a play on “Belle Epoque,” the visual art and architectural style that defines Monaco).
His artful visions kept on coming: in 2014, there was the “Constructivist” Bal de la Rose, in 2015, the “Art Deco” Bal de la Rose, in 2018, “Manhattan” Bal de la Rose. For 2019, Lagerfeld dreamed up “Bal de la Rose Riviera”—a soiree evoking the era of To Catch a Thief, embodying the Italian idea of la dolce vita. With his passing this February, he didn’t see the fruits of his fantasy.
But what a fantastical finale it was. On March 30, royalty, aristocracy, dignitaries, and film stars fluttered into the Salle des Etoiles, Monaco’s premiere event venue. French illustrator Monsieur Z created step-and-repeats and stage sets of playful Riviera scenes: think sunshine yellow chairs at the Monte Carlo Beach Club, and a rosy-hued rendering of the Prince's Palace. Tables were adorned with pastel-striped table cloths and umbrella-shaped napkin holders. Bouquets of roses were artfully arranged as centerpieces—just some of the 14,000 flowers that adorned the room that night.
Guests enjoyed a rollicking performance of retro swimsuit-clad dancers, some who shimmied down to the stage on a waterslide or hopped off a diving board. Champagne was plentiful, as were aperol spritzes and bellinis.
But the party really got started with Alessandro Ristori and the Portofinos. The Italian Elvis crooned and grooved on stage, electrifying the dance floor for young and old alike. Afterwards, DJ Melody spun a set, and eventually, the party headed to Jimmy Z’s, the iconic Monte Carlo nightclub.
It is customary, in Monaco, to stand when royalty enters the room. At the 2019 Bal de la Rose, the crowd stood twice. Once, when the familie princiére arrived. And again, when a black and white photograph of Karl Lagerfeld was projected across the Salles des Etoiles. A tribute, read in French, brought everyone—those from Monaco, America, Russia, Egypt, and too many other countries to count—to their feet. They all clapped and cheered; one woman wiped away tears. It didn’t matter where you were from, or what language you spoke. The message was clear: Thank you, Karl.