Fashion serves many purposes, one being a nonnarcotic mood-elevator. Arriving for Chanel at what could at this point be called Karl Lagerfeld’s Grand Palais, one experienced individual and communal glee to the point of giddiness. It happened the moment you took in Lagerfeld’s under-the-sea-scape, a wondrous, stylized environment enclosed in undulating walls and populated by giant sculptural sea life. Stingray, sea horse, shark, anemone, coral branches – all were curvaceous and in various white finishes, matte, glossy, sparkly. The effect was part Disney, part Cocteau, all magical.
Happily, the clothes lived up to the extravaganza. Lagerfeld delivered masterfully with a treasure trove of chic to keep his ladies enthralled. “Chanel makes clothes for daily life,” he proclaimed in a preview. “There are no fish, no mermaids.” By that he meant no kitsch and no fish-tail red-carpet dresses. Rather, the clothes connected to the theme via a mostly pale palette rich with iridescence, shimmer and endless new ways to employ pearls: as borders, single-strand belts, hair and face decorations, even an exoskeletal spine down a girl’s back. Suits included two new variations: one with a short, unconstructed jacket, the other, with a cutaway back. There were countless others, including a jaunty, pearl-encrusted tweed over a knit dress with fluffy tulle pom-poms and a sporty topper beaded to opalescent effect. Decorative motifs ran from spare (black lines forming random angles on dresses and suits) to girly (long, wide blue ribbons applique) to outright flamboyant (exuberant ruffles). And in seaworthy mode, Lagerfeld showed swimwear the Chanel way, all white and sometimes under the cover of plastic.
Gorgeous though the clothes looked to the audience, full appreciation requires more intimate viewing, especially because the girls, all 70 of them, walked the show faster than Lagerfeld talks. They emerged from a domelike cave lined in iridescent bubbles. Next to that opening was perched a giant clam, and next to the clam, a harp, lacquered in white. Before the show, Ingrid Sischy took note. “If there’s a harp, there’s Florence,” she said, referring to Lagerfeld’s friend, the singer Florence Welch. And wouldn’t you know, as the show navigated onward, toward the end, the clam opened, and there stood Florence, an enchanting musical Venus, ready to sing. Florence and the ingenious Lagerfeld-Chanel machine.