"Billion-dollar babes." Karl-ette Caroline Sieber nailed the essence of the Cruise collection that Lagerfeld showed for Chanel tonight. The venue—the Hotel du Cap, in Antibes on the French Riviera—is, as the designer himself pointed out, possibly the most expensive hotel in the world, and he booked out the whole joint a year ago for however many days it took to get this show on the runway. Plus, he'd flown in a cast of top models and glamorous front-row horseflesh. Plus plus, he accessorized his looks with real jewels, diamonds, and pearls, like the comet of sparklers that traced the armhole on Karolina Kurkova's top. "Too much may not be enough," Lagerfeld mused at show's end.
He was reflecting on the world of difference between Saint-Tropez, where he showed his last Cruise collection a year ago, and Antibes, which is a few hours down the coast. "This is the other side of paradise," he said, meaning that the Hotel du Cap defines a degree of extravagance that former fishing village Saint-Tropez doesn't aspire to. But, diamonds aside, quite how the notion of a schism of excess crossed over to the clothes Karl showed wasn't as clear. He claimed he was inspired by Rita Hayworth and Aly Khan, former hot-blooded habitués of the Hotel du Cap, but the lean silhouette he opted for was more cerebral than sensual, even if the opening hits of broom yellow and lilac did suggest local summer flora and the soundtrack was pumping red-hot Prince. Jackets were seamed close to the body, skirts ended below the knee in a kick pleat. Then the collection expanded into an almost-infinity of options. "I saw everything from a day at the beach to a wedding," said the actress Rachel Bilson.
Which meant that this collection lacked the focus that made Fall's ready-to-wear, for instance, such a dystopian tour de force. Kristen McMenamy in a bathing suit and dramatic black and white wrap shared runway space with Stella Tennant in a pleated mid-calf dress in navy crepe that was topped by a long, sleeveless vest. Such variables are a smart commercial move, given that Chanel's Cruise collection stays in stores longer than any other of the collections that Lagerfeld designs each year for the label. Judged as a series of stand-alone items, it was easy to extract some immediate winners: the full trousers slashed up the calf, the floaty three-quarter-length dresses with the shirred midriffs, Natasha Poly's white beaded sheath. Elsewhere, Lagerfeld's claim that it is his "job to challenge" produced a hard-to-get-around oddity like the hybrid thong-boot footwear. Perhaps that could be rationalized as the shoe for someone who has everything else her heart could possibly desire, in keeping with what the designer saw as the spirit of the locale. But there are some desires that are clearly better left unsatisfied.