There were an ice rink, banks of snow, and, up above, a suspended skyscape of tulle clouds, gently puffing vapor into the atmosphere under the glass dome of the Grand Palais. Welcome to Chanel, where Karl Lagerfeld picked up on the idea of cold-weather college-girl styling that's emerging as a Parisian subtheme. How can "random" and casual work for one of the great establishment names of the City of Light? Lagerfeld approached it by turning the house bouclé tweeds into colorful checks, punching them up with magenta and turquoise, and adding a load of bobbly crochet, striped sock hats, sequined rugby vests, stacks of plastic geometric cuffs, and shiny breastplate necklaces.

Since Coco Chanel co-opted Tyrolean felted jackets as one of the inspirations for her classic genre, there was a vague link between the past and Lagerfeld's references to, say, snowboarding and skiwear—like the puffer-sleeved tweed with a cowl hoodie and narrow fur skirt, shaved to look like corduroy. A sense of all this is going on in fashion at large, and it wasn't a bad device for loosening things up at a time when "ladylike" is feeling distinctly over. Still, though Lagerfeld proved yet again that he is a canny barometer of every change in the fashion atmosphere, he's eternally careful not to lose sight of the fact that Chanel is for a woman who essentially wants to feel put-together and dainty. Example: She might now want to wear one of Chanel's standard creamy blouses untucked, with a rugby-striped sequin vest over a pair of skinny pants, or make an impeccable black shift look futuristic with a flash of beige patent in the neckline. By evening, in any case, Lagerfeld had cleared the way for a plain view of little black dresses, now with draped shoulder lines, bows, and flyaway trails that looked light and lovely in movement. For the faithful, that was just enough youthfulness to keep the appeal of Chanel feeling perfectly current, even if, as a whole, this didn't quite come up to the level of one of Lagerfeld's blockbusters.