"Dressed to kilt." Get real, how else was Karl Lagerfeld going to define the collection he showed for Chanel outside of Edinburgh tonight? The tweeds, the knits, the cardigans, the man-styled essence of Chanel all came from Scotland and the time that Coco spent there with her lover the Duke of Westminster. But tonight's venue was Linlithgow Palace, where Mary, Queen of Scots, was born almost exactly seven centuries ago, and her tragic life gave Lagerfeld the perfect opportunity to gloss Chanel's easy pragmatism with an element of doomed romance. It was a fantastic combination.
Maybe that's because it was kind of personal for the designer. The first French poem he ever learned, at the age of six, was all about Mary. Then there's that umbilical connection between Scotland and France, which history recognizes as the Grand Alliance. And in Lagerfeld's team tonight, he had Sam McKnight on hair and Stella Tennant on all-round fabulosity. In other words, there was something quintessentially Scottish in the air. "Barbarian romance," Lagerfeld called it.
Linlithgow's courtyard was lined with flaming braziers, spitting sparks into the snow flurries. Guests made their way up spiral stone stairs to the palace's great hall and chapel, open to the heavens since marauding Hanoverians torched the building in January 1746. After the show, they made their way back down a labyrinthine wooden construction to dinner in a tented fantasia that had hardened souls gasping with wonder. This was the irreality that a fashion show transported us to in December 2012. It sure beats coal mining for a daily crust. With impressive ease, Lagerfeld translated the sense of occasion into something that grandly allied Chanel's original Parisian proportions with Scottish tradition. Picture Stella Tennant in a drop-waisted kilt-pleated coat. But also imagine that kilt in chiffon and lace. And the tartans and tweeds, the Fair Isles and argyles that would have garbed lords and ladies of the glen reconfigured in languid knits and patchwork, layered in swingy jackets, accessorized as delightfully with jewels, feathered hats, flowing scarves, and patterned tights as one could wish from a collection that was created to celebrate the "métiers d'art" of the Chanel ateliers.
True, there were a few costume-y moments, in which it looked like the models had slithered straight off a canvas in the National Gallery of Scotland. A final passage of white wool gowns touched with lace and feathers, meanwhile, was an almost operatic exercise in pure technique. There's always the sense with Chanel that Lagerfeld shows much more than he needs to, and that was the case here. Still, this was a sterling collection of clothes for a day you can only imagine being a hell of a lot better than the one that will greet you tomorrow morning.