The audience at Chanel's spring presentation was greeted by the sight of a gargantuan computer screen and keyboard, placed at the end of the runway. It seemed like the one unifying symbol of everything Karl Lagerfeld sent out in the collection: all the high-speed information about every trend of the season, communicated directly onto a computer screen in real time. Faster than even Style.com can report it.
It was as if the ever-restless Lagerfeld, sitting in his studio at the Rue Cambon, had designed while continually hitting the refresh button on his vision of the global domain of the eternal "CC." What should the new Chanel jacket look like for spring '06? Tight and neat, and worn with Bermudas. What's the news on the dress? Nude chiffon, banded in black. There's a printy, scarfy feeling out there: Bring on a few billowy Art Deco blouses. Nail "schoolgirl" in a tweed jumper. Check off crunchy lace with a sweet white A-line T-shirt and skirt. Compress puffed sleeves and boleros into a cropped taffeta jacket. Salute "folkloric" with a Spanish-pattern black-and-white sweater and a flounced skirt. And as for the chain belt? No problemChanel owns it!
Part of the point of this is that Lagerfeld's febrile capacity for instant-uptake fashion can fill a football pitchand yet still all look like Chanel. In reality, fashion is now more about the availability of a gazillion simultaneous choices rather than the single, old-school designer diktat. With this collection, Lagerfeld broke the taboo on saying that out loudwhile also proving that a strong brand, strongly directed, can surf any trend without losing its identity. Does that mean Chanel has resigned itself to adapting to the culture of fast-fashion disposability, though? Oh, not at all. The fifties circle skirt and poufy taffeta dresses at the end of the show were pretty time-transcenders that might live in any girl's wardrobe for decades to come.