Maybe it's because he speaks so fast that there always seems to be a slight undertow of scorn in Karl Lagerfeld's aperçus. "In fashion, the future is six months," he practically spat after Chanel's Couture show today. That could be why he took New Vintage as his theme. "Vintage is depressing," Lagerfeld clarified. "But 'new vintage' is something to come. It's preparation for something that could last."

The show was staged in the Grand Palais, as has become custom, but this time Lagerfeld used the Salon d'Honneur, a space that had been closed off for 70 years. The walls were painted, the ceiling and door surrounds customized to an interior design concept that Coco Chanel used in her original salon de couture. But here it was refreshed. "A renovation of the existing spirit for our time," Lagerfeld said.

Renovation wasn't, however, the thrust of the actual collection. It was far less jeune fille than it's been of late. When Jamie Bochert and Stella Tennant stepped out on the catwalk, they looked like substantial women of character. Their clothes had a 1940's line—broad shoulders, swingy coat, cape backs—in a color palette of black, gray, silver, and dusty pink that spoke of film noir interiors. Their hair also had a forties flavor, with a Rosie the Riveter snood. In other words, there was nothing new about this particular vintage. But it worked, in a gutsy, grown-up way. Lagerfeld's portrait of Chanel adorned the invitation and, in keeping with that nod to heritage, the spine of the collection was suits. Except that the classic tweed was actually embroidery on tulle. Thousands of hours of handwork. Couture in excelsis.

Lagerfeld paired the suits with sparkling hose and wove silver through his "tweeds." There was gilding galore. "These clothes are for a world of privileged people," he said, with a hint of resignation (surely not scorn). And it was a wide world of clothes on display: an ethereal gilet spun from what looked like thistledown followed hard and less than coherently on the heels of a tracksuit in dégradé sequins. But that wayward abundance has always been the rule with Lagerfeld's Chanel. And who knows how that tracksuit will look on the block at Sotheby's in 50 years?