Karl Lagerfeld has often insisted that his collections come to him in dreams, but following his new Chanel couture show, he claimed the dream this time had been a nightmare. "No, no, just kidding," he quickly added, but there was a weight to the clothes that suggested a darker thread in Chanel this season. Compared to the glistening sci-fi whites of his Spring couture, these looks had a moody tinge. The colors, for a start: maroon, loden, navy, brown, camel. Next, the fabrics. As the show unfolded, there were velvet trims on shadow plaids, crystal trims on camel, fur trims on tweed. Dark tapestry was crusted with embroidery and beading. Imperial gold detailing against a field of navy sequins made Freja Beha Erichsen look like a girl waiting for her Ruritanian soldier.
Then there were the proportions—tiered, short-over-long. A cropped jacket with elbow-length sleeves topped a high-waisted, to-the-knee skirt—a look that combined elongation and bulk in a way that was intriguing though likely to pose a challenge to many bodies. How would it gel with the Leightons, Blakes, and Jessicas in their front-row perches? But if the collection had a difficult aspect, it also felt brave in its boldness and focus. In place of the magpie glee that can make a Chanel show such a sensory overload, there was an almost military discipline here, even as the parade grew more elaborate with each passing outfit. The combination of voluptuousness and severity could have bordered on an arch libertine sensibility, but barely brushed hair and fresh, girlish makeup added a vital lightness.
The ever-precise Lagerfeld is a textbook Virgo, but in honor of Chanel the Leo, he filled the Grand Palais with a vast and marvelous lion. Its paw rested on a huge globe—a Chanel pearl, perhaps—from which the models emerged. Befitting a collection that had the courage of its convictions, this was a fierce, awe-inspiring creature—one that could have sprung from a dream or even a nightmare.