“Le Corbusier goes to Versailles.” The great god of midcentury minimalism let loose in the shrine of gorgeous, gilded excess. Oh, the possibilities therein!

 

No one is better at realizing possibility than Karl Lagerfeld at Chanel. A Chanel supermarket of a million parts, done. A Chanel art gallery, a Chanel undersea paradise, a giant Chanel globe — done, done and done — voila! When Lagerfeld envisioned the unlikely pairing above, it led to no small measure of sartorial juxtaposition.
That wasn’t all it led to. Even inspired by Le Corbusier’s digression into surrealist whimsy for the roof garden of the famed Beistegui Apartment, invocation of the great architect of austere called for a starkly minimalist set, all pristine save for a pair of decorative mirrors and rococo fireplace surrounds against a white concrete wall and blue sky. Whether Alain Wertheimer appreciated the respite from Lagerfeld’s typical zillion-euro installation, who knows? But there was one unmistakably clear result: The spare surroundings focused the attention of the intimate audience (380 at each of two shows) acutely on the clothes.

 

They were sublime. The contrast at work emerged in the overall mood: polished and chic — regal, even — as befits the couture milieu but shown in a manner that demystified the haute, with hair spiked for a soupçon of edge and feet comfy, not in sneakers this time out, but flat thongs fastened at the ankles with ebullient bows.
A Chanel runway is never a one-note affair — too many ideas colliding in Karl’s cranium for that — but often a single motif prevails. Here, it was a somewhat courtly silhouette — short fit-and-flare — over cyclist’s shorts crafted in exquisite hand-worked tweeds to match coat, jacket or dress. The textures were endless and inventive, from almost-flat to thick and artisanal. Embellishments swung two ways, clean and graphic or with enough curlicued opulence to reflect grandly in the mirrors of Versailles. Either way, they incorporated Lagerfeld’s latest obsession: concrete. In tiny, smooth squares, the stuff of sidewalks and modernist temples made for an offbeat addition to the lavish textures, sometimes worked into embroideries with relative discretion and at other times, mocking crochet as a full-on bolero.
Evening — divine! A “linen blue” cloud of endless feathers trapped inside tulle. A cardigan-gown combo in shimmering liquid silver embroidery. A volume of lace fused to rubber. A finale of white Neoprene with precise but jeweled accents. Le Corbusier met Versailles. They got along famously.

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