It didn't exactly come to Karl Lagerfeld in a vision—more of "an electronic flash in my head at five o'clock one morning. Silver and pastel," he said. "It's the first time in my whole career I've done a collection without black or navy. There's not one gold button."

From the heart-shaped cartoonish hair to the rococo-heeled silver booties, the show was a mix of romanticism, space age, and incredible eye-tricking handwork—as hard to fix in one place as the mercury that seemed to be running through the seams. The clothes ranged from shorts suits to shifts, from frothy, cocooning bubbles to liquid togas. In some places, the embroideries looked like smashed glass or molten metal; in others, jewelry itself became part of the structure: A halter dress was suspended from a crystal choker, and a shoulder strap became almost indistinguishable from a diamond necklace.

How to define it, though? Someone backstage suggested futurism. "I hate that," Lagerfeld shot back. "I don't believe in avant-garde clothes for a future that will never happen. Fashion is always now."

To fully describe a single technique—say, the horizontal bands of mille-feuille chiffon frills, minutely frayed at the edges, each layer hand-tinted in a dégradé way so that they almost look like fur from a few paces—requires an essay, not one of the sound bites Lagerfeld's so adept at tossing out. Chanel now produces six shows a year, and since last October, Lagerfeld has run from beige-y rustic ready-to-wear to khaki and red chinoiserie in Shanghai to this latest declaration that gold is out, silver in—and on with the iced fondants.

If it's hard to keep up, it's a method that certainly works in favor of couture customers, who would rather not buy anything that could be confused with clothes found hanging in a boutique. In its multifarious ways, this fleeting fantasia of prettiness—which in practice takes thousands of craftsperson hours to realize—fulfills that brief. While Karl Lagerfeld hurtles onward into the constant now.