Many aspire; few achieve. World domination, that is. The living legend of Karl Lagerfeld at Chanel continues to grow, ever fascinating and in constant motion. We can’t keep up. We see it in the obvious global reach of the brand and in smaller, unexpected manifestations: in Loïc Prigent’s “Karl Lagerfeld se dessine,” currently running on the Arte station here, in which the designer tells his life story (or “parts of it,” he said during a preview) by doing on-the-spot illustrations at the filmmaker’s request; in the gaggle of Chanel-clad ladies — young, old, celebrity and merely rich — who on Tuesday morning exited the Meurice en route to the show like a tribe of transfixed pilgrims; in the most frenetic show entrance in Paris. And on the vast steps of the Grand Palais, there’s ample room for frenzy.
The odds are that at some point Lagerfeld will disappoint — right? Not now; not yet. Arriving under the vast glass dome, guests found a huge globe of the world, illuminated with countless points of light, 300 of which bore CC markers indicating the brand’s points of fashion distribution around the world. “You see how many flags there are in Japan and China and all those countries,” Lagerfeld said. “And what would be the luxury industry if we had not all those new fortunes in the rest of the world? That is why you should never compare today with 1929. In 1929 there was America, there was a little money in Argentina and the rest of Europe, and India had none, the Middle East did not exist, communist Russia had none. The problem is not the same now. There they have more money than us, and it’s up to us to help them spend their money, to seduce them.”
In this case, Lagerfeld wooed from afar, much of the audience far removed from the models as they circled the globe. One longed for a closer look, the better to see the intense textural goings-on. Just as the globe indicated market strength, Lagerfeld’s fashion message was a masterful statement of sartorial strength — literally — based on bold, graphic silhouettes in a myriad of different fabrics, most with major surface interest. A few concepts repeated throughout: “the one-piece suit” — actually a coat with a flange at the hips, which, when closed, gave the appearance of a jacket and skirt, and “the double skirt,” which unzipped from the bottom up revealing a second layer beneath.
Coats and jackets were mostly loose and at times bulky, yet appealingly so, particularly A-shapes that had both structure and swing over skirts that followed a similar line. Dropped-torso dresses combined fabrics in horizontal blocks of three; long coats were cut away in front. As for those textures, Lagerfeld favored unapologetically winter-weight fabrics. These were always substantial and sometimes conversational — such as a remarkable black-and-white tweed covered completely in woolly 3-D flowers.
Yet there was nothing gentle about this single winter garden, or anything else in Lagerfeld’s lineup. These clothes worked the sturdy side of allure, and only a handful of evening pieces interrupted their face-the-elements bravado. Lagerfeld even gave his girls an aggressive edge with hardware-enhanced boots and gloves. Global domination is a tough pursuit. Karl wants his brigade armed and ready to flaunt Chanel’s mantle of chic.