With his sharp knack for synthesizing the mood of the moment into the spirit of Chanel, Karl Lagerfeld came up with a couture statement that might neatly be labeled "mod medieval." In a short, leggy collection shown entirely with thigh-high boots, some in distressed denim, he compressed a tough vibe into a sequence of abbreviated suits and tunic dresses marched out at high speed around a stark-white runway.

The skinny-leg device showcased Lagerfeld's deft handling of new proportions. It started with a narrow, molded shoulder line falling to dresses with a slight flare in the hem, or to short, belled skirts articulated to swing underneath tweed jackets. One outstanding cardinal-red duchesse-satin coat with a huge bubble collar was a succinct reply to the vexed refrain of whether volume can be truly desirable—no question, if it looks that gorgeous.

Still, for all the rigor of line, there was rich Chanel craftsmanship in every piece. Jeweled buttons and belts, embroideries of exploding stars, pearl and diamond hair decorations, dense patches of appliqué and stones, and smotherings of black satin bows conspired to give a fleeting impression of armor and heraldic pageantry—that's where the sense of futuristic medievalism came into play. It all passed at such relentless velocity, though, the details were difficult to catch, at least until the very last moment. When the girls finally stood still, the audience, watching from seats on a central dais, suddenly found itself revolving, carousel-style, at leisure to inspect every look. Great trip, in every sense.