"The world is a dark place," acknowledged Karl Lagerfeld after the latest Chanel spectacle, which took place amid a fog-shrouded forest on a bed of still-smoldering scorched earth. There was some of the apocalyptic grandeur of German artists Caspar David Friedrich and Anselm Kiefer, and a bit more of the post-apocalyptic grit of Cormac McCarthy's The Road, but, as Lagerfeld himself noted, the models walked into and out of huge glowing squares of white light at each end of the catwalk. And isn't going into the light usually the way out of the dark place? At least it was in Poltergeist.
The dramatic setting and Michel Gaubert's thundering orchestral revision of the Cure's seminal goth classic "A Forest" were matched by Lagerfeld's designs. He elaborated on the audacious theme he established for Spring, where jackets and coats looked moth-eaten or tattered. Here, many of the looks had the ashy appearance of clothes that had weathered a natural disaster (a volcanic eruption, perhaps?) because they'd been packed tightly in a trunk. The denim leggings carried over from Couture were distressed. The way Lagerfeld doubled a classic Chanel dogtooth over a substantial double-vented man's jacket (they were actually attached as one piece) or a cropped tweed over what looked like a combat jacket hinted at the hasty expediency of dressing any which way in a hurry when the lava's on the way. It was also one of the most striking instances yet of the boy/girl thing that is a major Fall trend.
The palette stayed shadowy throughout, the proportions slightly man-sized, with rounded shoulders. Even the more overtly "feminine" pieces looked like damaged goods, say a skirt of spectacularly shredded chiffon or a pair of full-length knit sheaths that dissolved into loose strands of wool at the back. The tunics, capes, and tabards added a neo-medieval twist to Lagerfeld's grunge-y fairy tale. Then the whole story took a left turn into gothic with the black lace eveningwear. The jumpsuited models could have been twenty-first-century brides of Dracula. Stella Tennant wore an option that was in keeping with the crepuscular heart of the collection: a sequin-encrusted jacket over a shawl-collared tux. Plus, she was sporting bike boots.
Aside from the mesmerizing scenario, the collection's genius lay in Lagerfeld's supernatural prescience about the way a lot of young women want to dress now, mixing the street with enough high fashion fantasy to make the result seem rich and strange. The proof? After the show, Karl's coterie of bright young things—Lily and Leigh and Jen and Poppy and all the others—couldn't wait to surrender to his dark vision.