“Darling, it’s a fitting.” So said Karl Lagerfeld in response to Amanda Harlech’s unsolicited opinion that a particular look worked better without sunglasses. Ultimately, Lagerfeld agreed, and au revoir, eyewear.
A preview chez Chanel is like no other experience. Lagerfeld conducts fittings in his studio on Rue Cambon, where he sits at his desk cluttered with books, jewelry trays, perhaps an iPad or two, a glass of water in Lalique stemware. All of his team involved in producing the show bustle about, variously escorting models from the dressing room; suggesting sunglasses; adjusting hair and makeup; presenting a range of colorful leather glove choices; retrieving handbags from a vast grouping on the floor. Lagerfeld receives you in the midst of it all. What he doesn’t do is disrupt the process for the visit. Rather, he welcomes guests into it, fashion’s most accomplished multitasker alternating focus from model to staffers to interloping journalists. Hence, his quip to Harlech, followed by a reference to his most recent take-your-breath-away set: ”It’s a forest. You will see.”
With the Chanel supermarket, art gallery and casino in the rearview mirror, recently Lagerfeld has been getting in touch with his inner Thoreau and embracing the natural world. He’s gone under water, into the garden and, now for fall, deep into the forest. The Chanel woods featured 21 oak and poplar trees soaring high toward the glorious blue sky beyond the glass dome of the Grand Palais, the late-autumn time frame telegraphed by their bare branches and the forest floor covered with a thick bed of leaves and moss. (Among Karl’s talking points: The trees hailed from a licensed felling company and will be recycled into planks. The leaves, in storage since October, have a future as compost.)
While one can’t reasonably suggest that leaves and bark inspired the show’s mottled textures (I mean, who got there first, nature or Chanel?), there was a certain dappled-sunlight effect to oxidized leathers, and the palette — deep, earthen greens and oranges — felt very new for Lagerfeld. He utilized these for a primarily linear silhouette, going long and lean in a multitude of ways that should dazzle house devotees. (At a Chanel show, client-watching provides a show-within-a-show: a multigenerational brigade, some in head-to-toe runway mode, others, audaciously DIY, most gleeful to Instagram that selfie by a tree.)
Lagerfeld focused primarily on coats and suits. Coats came ultra lean or with languid volume, some with interesting shoulder treatments – feathered epaulets; a gracefully sloped flange. Such details addressed the broader fashion moment without succumbing to Eighties overstatement. Suits were similarly diverse – short, long, the occasional peplum. But why stop there? Lagerfeld showed pants as well, cut wide and often worn with a short jacket.
Evening was on the calm side, with a series of beautiful black dresses, shown with vibrant opera gloves. Occasionally, Lagerfeld added nighttime’s hottest outerwear piece — the parka.
There was both classicism and currency to the mood, right down to the shoes — flat boots and brogues. Because for a chic nature walk, the right footwear is crucial.