The genius of Karl Lagerfeld is his way of whacking a topical spin into every couture collection without ever compromising the ineffable core of Chanel. This time, he had a phalanx of men roll out a giant double-C rug, and struck up the band—Cat Power, who laid into some punked-up Stones and Smokey Robinson classics. So it was with the opening volley of clothes—sixties-but-modern supershort coat-dresses and even more abbreviated jackets, all striding out on a base of leggy black tights.

His ability to compress variety into those rigorously tiny, neat silhouettes was something to behold. There was a black one with patent collar, cuffs, and pocket flaps. A navy military pea coat had bandbox-smart striped edgings. Yet more toppers with delicious sproutings of feathers or fragile tulle bows followed, until out came a gorgeous little raggedy-edged dress with a tight waist and puffed-out skirt.

Any other designer might have been satisfied to stop there, but Lagerfeld had evening to deal with. There, he changed gear, flipping between pristine military mess jackets over long, sheer-net skirts and silvery sequined streaks of vertical ribbon, let loose in the hem to whip around, car wash-style. If that gave a more random feel to the show┐s second half, well, it also succeeded in covering all occasions (and age requirements). To produce a show of this vast range and handiwork takes an army. To that point, Lagerfeld had a nice finale up his sleeve. At the end, a curtain drew back to reveal the massed Chanel workers: models, atelier staff, studio designers, and house ambassador Amanda Harlech, who all followed Lagerfeld out to share the applause.