Chanel was up at cockcrow for a gigantic fashion romp in the hay. A huge barn had been conjured up in the center of the Grand Palais, and the models emerged from it, wheat ears clinging to their tousled blond Bardot beehives, straw stuck to their clothes, and a little smirk and stagger in their step as if just caught out at you-know-what. Naughty, naughty! Between them, the Chanel country coquettes managed to flirt their way around every rustic reference in Karl Lagerfeld's extensive repertoire of craft-y couture skills, from hopsack to basket weave and cane work to aprons, dirndls, peasant-y poppy prints, and fantastic wooden double-C clogs. It was a bumper harvest of everything that is chicly tattered, beribboned, and gloriously made about Chanel, as well as the season's sole experience to make the anxiety and earnestness around fashion evaporate, to make it seem like fantastic fun again.
Never mind the hay, Lagerfeld was on a roll. Digging into a theme can sometimes throw up some embarrassing puns, and the effort to be youthful has occasionally had off-beam results at Chanel. But with this collection, Lagerfeld's summing up of the season's tendencies—beige, ivory, and black; rough textures; transparency and lace—was spun into a collection so masterfully balanced between classicism and current fashion affairs that the whole thing felt delightfully sure-footed. The knack was that he didn't rush it—just let the thing keep bouncing out in a sustained variation of caramels, taupes, and ecrus, all logically adapted to the house's nubby tweed suits, frothy blouses, and fluttery chiffons. The editing of everything to short lengths looked sweet without being chichi—the test being that every teenage girl looked naturally at home in the little thigh-split skirts (that's what has happened to the bottom half of the Chanel suit), as well as in the mini-crinis and ruffled dance dresses.
Prince and Rihanna were competing for attention in the front row; there was a surprise turn from Lily Allen, who rose out of the floor on a hoedown platform to belt out a saltily worded country number; and at the end, Freja Beha Erichsen, Lara Stone, and Lagerfeld's constant companion, Baptiste Giabiconi, were literally rolling around in the hay together. And yet, remarkably, the clothes never became a sideshow. In a season when celebrities, concepts, and a lot of forgettable mediocrity have got in the way of seeing why luxury fashion should merit the price, this was a Chanel triumph.