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Flight of Fancy

"Live from Paris, Chanel Line No.5. Please be careful when opening the overhead compartments. Some quilted bags may fall."

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“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.”

To wit, some women in the audience proved his point about the necessity of wardrobe options. “I was all set to wear pants, and then I changed my mind 10 minutes before,” said Riley Keough.

Lohan’s last-minute change of heart was much more dramatic. “I got this long dress and chopped it off, like, an hour before,” she said of her black sequined spring Chanel dress. She and stylist Johnny Wujek took it to West Hollywood’s House of Tailoring to have it altered. “I’m always in long, and I think short is better. But I’m sort of wishing I hadn’t, since it’s so cold.”

The audience also included Milla Jovovich, Camilla Belle, Elisha Cuthbert, Jamie Tisch, Colleen and Maria Bell, Kristen Bell, Dita Von Teese, Ever Carradine, Eva Mendes and Keisha Whitaker. And at least one guest set her heart on Lagerfeld’s his-and-hers black sequined robes — perfect for “Hollywood producers and people like them at their swimming pool,” according to the designer.

“I can just see us walking around in our new house in those robes,” said Beckham, who is relocating to Los Angeles with husband David this summer. “I would also wear them out at night. They’re too good to be kept just at home.”

Unlike Beckham, Claudia Schiffer professed to being quite the homebody these days, noting she only leaves her London base for work projects “that are amazing.” The woman who shot to fame as the face of Chanel in the late Eighties is featured in the press kit for this collection, photographed, of course, by Lagerfeld. “But Karl,” she explained, “is one of those people I’d fly around the world twice for.”

Maureen Chiquet, Chanel’s global chief executive officer, also will take to the friendly skies for Karl — and at least one other person. She left the postshow party early in favor of an immediate return to New York to celebrate her daughter’s 11th birthday. But Chiquet did not board one of the two Chanel Challenger jets. “I’m on United,” she said, “unfortunately.”

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