From his lofty position at the ultimate heights of fashion, Karl Lagerfeld can still deliver a lesson in what makes a brilliant collection: clarity and intense follow-through. Put simply, he looked at Chanel from one angle—sideways-on—and turned that technical exercise into a show that focused all the imaginative, structural, and decorative skills of haute couture into one idea: tracing the body line from shoulder to ankle. "High profile," he called it. "Everything is flat at the front. Its all side effects."

The concept gave a linear dynamic to clothes that employed every conceivable device for piling interest into the place where side seams ought to be. In the opening series of narrow, tuniclike coat-dresses, Lagerfeld used strips of leather, moving into feather and bold tracings of pearl. Then, as he progressed into evening, there were glimpses of sequined embroidery or rills of georgette fluttering from the sides of numerous black lace, ribbon, and chiffon dresses. Tailored hunting jackets with flying peplums in back contributed to the overall sense of forward motion, as did the finale gowns, some trailing airborne capes in their wake. All this was underscored by the image of impossibly elongated women on the move, striding along in leather leggings, heads clad in abstracted hoods or futuristic feathered earmuffs.

Even the drenching weather—the show took place under canopies pitched in the Parc de Saint Cloud—couldn't dampen the energy, exquisiteness, and coherence of this collection. After nearly 20 years at Chanel, Lagerfeld has nothing left to prove, but his power to surprise and modernize is still a phenomenal sight to behold.