"Live from Paris, Chanel Line No.5. Please be careful when opening the overhead compartments. Some quilted bags may fall."
With these words on the soundtrack, Chanel's cruise show kicked into high gear Friday with a tour-de-force extravaganza orchestrated by Karl Lagerfeld. To start, two customized "Chanel Line" Challenger 601 jets pulled up to hangar number eight at Santa Monica Airport. Their doors then popped open and the models stepped out in a collection tailor-made for the jet-set kind. The 60 or so looks were a lighthearted take on the private travel theme, which included Chanel's version of a pilot getup.
"It has a sportif touch," Lagerfeld said before the show. "It's the idea of flying, which is a nightmare today, and the make-belief it still could be divine. I like the idea."
So did the likes of Demi Moore, Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen, Victoria Beckham, Lindsay Lohan and Jessica Alba, who took in the show from the front row inside the hangar, which had been transformed into a cool Seventies airport lounge with three levels of white banquettes and giant arrivals monitors on two sides announcing Lagerfeld's landing in Los Angeles. The 500-plus crowd seemed enthralled from the get-go, when male models in white jumpsuits walked onto the runway, lifting floor panels to unveil moving conveyer belts on which the models paraded Lagerfeld's designs in still motion.
"That was so cool, no?" gasped Diane Kruger, who, like a few others guests, had just jetted in from the Cannes Film Festival.
Lagerfeld said he wanted the collection to feel like a puzzle, which meant plenty of separates, from colorful little sweaters and Daisy Dukes to luxe floor-length cardigans, sequined pants and classic Chanel jackets, some beaded with camellia motifs. Like the setting, the clothes often had a glamorous retro feel, as in floaty dresses, flared jeans and bohemian blouses sometimes finished off with head wraps and floppy hats. And there were ample witty references to aviation: a ruffled blouse with "No Smoking" sequined across its back, sleek silver sunglasses with mini windows cut into their arms and clusters of brooches in the shape of airplanes.
It all made for a major spectacle, which is exactly what Lagerfeld wanted for cruise. "Should editors and buyers be bored to death in showrooms?" he asked. "We live in a world where a company as big as Chanel needs four collections a year. The customers want new things. They don't want to see the same things on a hanger for six months or else they'd think it was a markdown."
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