January 23, 2012 Paris
Hardly. The vision presented by the Chanel show was streamlined, upbeat, and forward-looking, quite the contrast with the decadent-Raj, drowned-world, and scorched-earth scenarios that Lagerfeld arranged around his most recent collections. Today's guests took their seats in a simulacrum of a commercial space shuttle flight that, during the course of the show, left the Earth's atmosphere and headed for space. Toward the finale, the Earth actually passed overhead, across the clear dome that allowed passengers a view of the starry sky outside.
But the collection was scarcely the futurist extravaganza that such a setup promised. The key point in the presentation was a new fashion attitude. It's the sort of lip service notion to which designers often tip their caps, but in Lagerfeld's case, he delivered. How? By elongating his proportion even lower than dropped waist to thigh-top, so that when the models walked with their hands tucked in slash pockets, they looked, the designer said, "like boys whose jeans are slipping off." The boy/girl thing is a Chanel staple, and Lagerfeld has found a contemporary exemplar in Alice Dellal, who today was placed in the peculiar position of watching dozens of women styled to look just like her parading past her front-row perch. Think of stretched-out necks and pushed-up sleeves on sweatshirts and you've got other key components of the silhouette.
The youthful slouchiness of the attitude was a counterpoint to the byzantine complexity of the techniques that created the clothes. "A lot of it isn't even fabric," Lagerfeld said. "It's embroidery." And if it wasn't that, it was cellophane. Or something else unlikely. And yet, there was a classic elegance about the result. The stretched-out neck was a portrait neckline, the pushed-up sleeves were a perfect bell. The long, lean length that ended just above the ankle was culture incarnate. And the cellophane shimmered like the finest silk.