Pencez pink! Karl Lagerfeld sure does. It’s the traditional color of the jeune fille, of gentility and femininity. Lagerfeld celebrated all three in the Chanel collection he showed on Tuesday morning, and it looked fabulous, a breathtaking celebration of discreet chic. From the strength of the haute couture collections here this week, you might think that someone had convened a conclave of couturiers to deal with the pressing question, What now? How do we disprove all this ranting about couture’s demise? While no such gathering occurred, it seems that designers came to similar conclusions on their own. Step One: Work the publicity machine that has been grinding on overdrive since Yves Saint Laurent announced his retirement. Couturiers are, after all, showmen; they love the spotlight and play to it with gusto, none more brilliantly than Karl.
But instead of staging a madcap, over-the-top romp while the world watched, he went a different route. Remember when pretty used to be a positive? Karl’s on a campaign to make it so again. He showed under brilliant blue skies in the Tuilieries Gardens (the weather gods love Lagerfeld), in a clear tent over a soft gray set and fabric-covered benches, all covered with 20,000 big pink press-on camellias. The message: Pretty is as pretty looks. And on Lagerfeld’s watch, pretty looks divine. But those new Chanel shoes that leave a girl’s heels floating on air were more difficult than ingenious.
These days, Karl thinks that women should dress up on a daily basis, a platform that flies in the face of commonly held notions. But then, the whole point of couture is to laud the uncommon, mais non? So forget the masses’ increasing penchant for dressing down. In haute mode, Lagerfeld even seems to think that the tweed suit looks a tad casual — unless it’s a coat and dress shredded into finely beaded fringe. His preferred look for day: a superbly fitted coat over a soft skirt or filmy dress. Of course, he worked scads of options into that single theme: a coat with dangling beaded fringe flirting with the wrists and knees; a cardigan-cut peppered with crystal camellias; another, a coat unadorned but for a bow closure on one hip. And yes, the preferred color was pink, the gentler the better. Sometimes it stood alone, and sometimes a frothy hemline peeked out from beneath a coat in black or gray before a second trip down the runway revealed the airiness of pleated or tiered chiffon.
Lagerfeld’s point was to breathe interest into that old, cliched notion of “day into evening,” not by gussying up the banal, but by working overtly feminine clothes for daytime. Nevertheless, some events call for pure evening. Then he showed a stunning lineup with something for everyone, or at least every rich one, from the ingenue to the grand sophisticate. For the former: a trio of frothy party frocks, each intricately detailed, under the veil of sheer, matching coats. For the latter: a siren smoking gown with a plunging back and pale shredding masquerading as feathered trim.
Lest you think all this gentility has turned Lagerfeld soft, however, think again. Outside the tent, a security guard kept watch with a rather angry-looking dog sporting a telling canine accessory — a muzzle. That awaited the PETA people, just in case. “Those people love animals,” Lagerfeld quipped backstage. “Well, I’ve got one for them.”