CHANEL: C’est magnifique! Quite simply, it took your breath away.

When Karl Lagerfeld is on for couture, his collections deliver a very specific kind of magic — the magic of perfected reality. The collection he showed on Tuesday radiated just that, from start to finish. It was remarkable in a number of ways — its breathtaking beauty, its powerful restraint and its sexual drama, no less potent for its subtlety. But then, the collection was about contrasts. "Serenity and frivolity, vice and virtue, sacred and profane," Lagerfeld wrote in his program notes. He knows that, with a nip here and a tuck there, a nun’s habit suits a French maid. And he knows that, with a dazzling vision and impeccable execution, the same clothes can dazzle client and press alike.

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