By  on December 8, 2006

MONTE CARLO — For the restless Karl Lagerfeld, fashion is a movable, unstoppable feast, and he — along with a Chanel entourage of 80 — touched down here this week for a show of the house's luxury pre-fall collection and a whirlwind of social functions attended by members of Monaco's royal family.

It was all in a day's work for Lagerfeld, who on Wednesday evening was doing final fittings, gleefully snipping silk Wolford pantyhose right out of the package and styling the slices as wrist and neck cuffs — "I love DIY," he said — while fielding questions from a rotating pack of journalists, including John Colapinto, who is profiling him for The New Yorker's next style issue.

"It's a bit of couture without being couture," the designer said of a collection he started presenting in 2002 as a way to showcase the savoir faire of the seven couture ateliers Chanel owns, including the embroiderer Lesage, the shoemaker Massaro and the costume jewelry house Goossens. The collection has evolved into a significant business for Chanel, fanned pre-collection mania throughout the industry and brought five-digit price tags to the boutique floor.

"Did you see this necklace?" Lagerfeld asked, motioning toward a spectacular breastplate of articulated glass flowers lying in a tray on his desk. "It's something like 30,000 euros," or about $39,900.

Bigger sums are won and lost at the main casino complex here, where the show took place Thursday morning in a gilded 1878 theater for an audience that included local and international clients and press; a clutch of French actresses; Princess Caroline of Hanover; her daughter, Charlotte Casiraghi, and Caroline's son Andrea's girlfriend, Tatiana Santo Domingo. Santo Domingo is among the leading figures of Europe's glamorous young social set, and she confirmed she's moving to New York in January to study art history at The New School. She said she's already found a place to live on Washington Square Park. "I'm very excited," she added.

To be sure, the Chanel collection looked the money and then some, with about half the outfits showcasing embroideries, some spectacular, some cunningly minimal, as if the wearer's jewelry had been sewn into the garments.

Titled "By the Blue Train," the show referenced the beloved 1924 ballet costumed by Gabrielle Chanel and choreographed by Vaslav Nijinsky's sister. It was an apt moniker given Thursday night's Nijinsky awards gala, which was presided over by Princess Caroline, honorary president of the Monaco Dance Forum. Like the ballet, the fashion show breezily referenced some Twenties obsessions, from retro swimsuit prints (here transformed into a lush, bejeweled cardigan) to the movies, via a suite of glamorous, long black evening dresses.

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