CHANEL: BEAUTY AND REFINEMENT

CHANEL: In a word, perfection. The observation that Karl Lagerfeld is a genius is about as enlightening as noting the religion of the Pope. What still fascinates is his ability to keep us guessing, after all the years, all the collections, all those fashion vagaries. On the way into a Chanel show, we can only wonder how we’ll be feeling on the way out — awed, amused, confounded.
At his spring presentation on Tuesday, Lagerfeld awed us, not with bells and whistles, but with a celebration of beauty and refinement. It’s tempting to say that he showed couture the way it should be, but that’s unfair, since there is no one right prescription. Lagerfeld chose calm over chaos, and the clothes were more arresting for it. On a set that resembled a boardwalk, his models strode by against the haze of a painted misty sky, while a huge gold Chanel chain ran the length of the endless runway. That chain made a point: Certain traditions merit preservation, for instance, paying as much homage to the client as to the press.
Then there are the great traditions of Chanel, which over the years Lagerfeld has lauded, manipulated, lampooned and ultimately modernized and made his own. Suits? Of course, and day dresses, with lean long-waisted torsos and slim skirts. He worked mostly in plays of black and white with the occasional nod to color — lavender, lime, blue.
Evening featured a linear but languid silhouette, with shades of Clare Boothe Luce’s “The Women.” Lagerfeld’s favorite look: a blouse and skirt, often black against white, and each one a masterpiece. One came festooned with caviar pearls, another, a frothy chiffon cascade, and still another, moody ombred sequins. Lagerfeld turned up the volume with equal elan, in a delicate embroidered organza skirt with a lace blouse, and a nouveau flamenco skirt in giant petals of perforated faille.
And let’s hear it for the extras. Lagerfeld piled them on without lily-gilding, starting with jewelry: brooches, bracelets and multiple-strand necklaces in amethyst, quartz and coral as well as pearls. For one look, he started with an elaborate necklace and designed a bodice around it. But why stop there, when you can add a touch of provocative veiling? And not just to the eyes, but the hands and feet, as well. Lagerfeld adorned them with delicately embroidered, Indian-inspired triangles of tulle worn around the wrist and ankle and falling to a point in front. We said it was perfect.

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