What price Armageddon? Probably a cool million or so, at least when orchestrated for Chanel by Karl Lagerfeld, whose highly stylized, bleak-chic set looked like the post-apocalyptic fallout wreaked upon the gorgeously surrealistic gray garden of rocks he planted for spring. Here, an endless stretch of barren planks embedded itself into a layer of dark gray ash, its flatness interrupted by ominous hunks of stone. If the terrain required some tough negotiation by guests arriving at the Grand Palais, well, Karl likes them to live in the moment.
And a moment it was. While the set unintentionally played to the dark mood still weighing on Paris, its true purpose was a fashion clue: Say au revoir to chichi, ladies! At least for fall. Because in its place is something rarely dominant at Chanel: a collection based on men’s wear. And not of the dandified or tuxedoed variety, but one that found its attitude in a toughened spirit and its savoir faire in those fabulous tweeds.
That said, retailers may mourn the lack of color. Save for a rare flash of red or dark green, the collection was virtually all black, gray and white, in various tweed configurations, often with jolts of pizzazz supplied by glittering silver metallics. The jackets looked new and savvy: what appeared to be two, a Chanel classic layered over a mannish version, was actually a single piece. Ka-ching! These were worn over pants, as Karl made a major statement with trousers either cuffed above or bunched at the ankle.
But he didn’t stop there, embracing the onesie in the sturdiest of incarnations — utilitarian jumpsuits in thick tweeds, quilted handbag leathers and other fabrics, some made tougher with the addition of bold leather thigh pockets. Lagerfeld loved the look so much he carried it into evening, sometimes delicately, sometimes not. Even his gowns mocked the notion of evening delicacy; two tweed stunners were equal part audacity and allure.