As the season winds down, fashion seems stuck in the midst of an odd transitional malaise invigorated by only the rare bright spot.

The oddity of it all reared its head at no less renowned a bastion of bravado than the Chanel runway, where on Friday morning Karl Lagerfeld showed a perplexing collection. It was black and white and spare all over, save a rare flash of pink or yellow, and bore hints of having been put together in a hurry.

To open the show, Lagerfeld’s girls sauntered by in perfectly tailored white lab coats, the better to flaunt their stacked bangles and plasticized, metaled platforms. The clothes that followed were about the legs, starting with Lagerfeld’s newest notion of a springtime suit: tweed jacket worn over twinkling sequined swim briefs. True, he has gone for such sight gags before, and everyone knows that when Mrs. Big Bucks hits the boutique, every jacket will have found its partner skirt. But this time the shtick fell uncharacteristically flat, lacking the joie de farce that typically makes a Chanel show a funfest.

Nor did the tricks end with the short-shorts. With all the glories of Lesage at his command, Lagerfeld went for untraditional embroideries this time out: sprinkles of colorful pills and capsules, as if Damien Hirst had whipped up a little black dress for Neely O’Hara.

Of course, there were good ideas, especially bare, short dresses in meaty tweeds and tulle-veiled jeans, an apparent outgrowth of the designer’s ongoing men’s wear fixation. But overall, this outing lacked the depth and imagination that typically take Lagerfeld’s audiences to an altered state of fashion rapture. Then again, perhaps that’s what the pills were for.

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