SALZBURG, Austria — Karl Lagerfeld flicked through the camera roll on his iPhone 6 and flashed a picture only recently unearthed: The German designer as a boy dressed in lederhosen.
“As a child I wore nothing else,” he shrugged.
The leather breeches inspired a cheeky new Chanel handbag: the drop-front fly transformed into a zippered pouch that can make fishing for a lipstick a blush-inducing activity.
“You must admit it’s quite funny, on the border of dirty. But it’s quite logical,” Lagerfeld said gleefully during a preview of his latest Métiers d’arts collection, called “Paris-Salzburg.”
By giving new life to an Alpine style, Lagerfeld carries forward the legacy of house namesake Gabrielle Chanel, who found the inspiration for one of her most enduring designs in a contrast-trim, four-pocket jacket worn by the lift operator of Salzburg’s exclusive Mittersill hotel. Its then proprietor, Baron Hubert von Pantz, was Chanel’s lover in the Thirties, and her return to the establishment two decades later was extremely fortuitous.
“In the Fifties, she came back here, that’s how she saw this jacket and that’s in fact how the Chanel jacket was born,” Lagerfeld explained on Monday as he put the finishing touches on the collection. “You look at Chanel in the Twenties and Thirties and there was nothing like this.”
Lagerfeld paraded fetching new versions of the Chanel jacket — and a blizzard of frothy sweaters and blouses — during three runway shows at the Rococo palace Schloss Leopoldskron. The spectacle catapulted typical Tyrolean elements, luxed up for the modern age, onto the international fashion stage.
“I might as well forget about paying off my mortgage,” said Lily Allen after the show. “It makes me want to feel like being warm, cozy — and chic.”
The English singer has been touring for months and has one more gig to go, on Dec. 12 in London. At the Chanel show, she wore a new hair color — sort of. “It goes from orange to pink to dark orange,” she mused.
“It’s so well done, how they mix tradition from a specific place with the Chanel spirit,” said actress Àstrid Bergès-Frisbey. “There’s a look for every kind of woman.”
Before the show, VIPs and editors snapped photos of the grand salon with its hulking marble fireplaces, wrought-iron balconies and a terrace overlooking a still, gray-green lake. Woodsmoke from the garden leaked into the room, adding to the wintry decor of tables laden with cookies, clove-studded oranges and fruit arrangements reminiscent of 17th-century paintings.
“It’s beautiful, and very detailed,” marveled Bergès-Frisbey, who is gearing up for her next role as Guinevere in a Guy Ritchie adaptation of “Knights of the Round Table.”
“We start filming in February, mostly in England,” she said. “It’s pretty intense. I’m prepping.”
German actress Mavie Hörbiger, who lives in Austria, said the Chanel invasion was quite an event: “To have fashion in Salzburg, it’s not that normal for Austrian people.”
Amira Casar said she’s not surprised Gabrielle Chanel was attracted to Salzburg. “She was where the culture was,” she said. “I come here often as I’m an actor and I’m interested in music. I’m probably a frustrated opera singer.”
Casar plays a fictional character in the British-American series on Louis XIV titled “Versailles” and noted filming would take her right up to Christmas Eve.
Lagerfeld’s show helped ignite the pre-fall season with a hyper-embellished take on conservative chic: crystal flowers sparkling on a prim, ivory cardigan in boiled wool; edelweiss embroidered onto suede leggings, and ribbons transformed into grand, ruffled sleeves on a dramatic coat made of feathers, a nod to falconry practiced by Austrian aristocrats of yore.
“It’s chic on her, no? That’s the nearest you can get to a dirndl,” Lagerfeld said as Lara Stone entered a fitting clad in a flaring black taffeta dress with an apronlike flap edged in ruffles. “I don’t want it to look like ‘Little House on the Prairie.’” (Although later, the model could be spied in the garden on a wooden swing suspended from a tree branch, her infant son squealing with delight in her lap.)
There were winks to the Austro-Hungarian empire, too, Lagerfeld noted, when extra trimmings of lace, ruffles and ribbons were à la mode. “I like the spirit,” the designer said. “I don’t want to do anything folkloric. This is more of a fantasy. It has to be modern, it has to be right for today, the proportions, everything.”
Thus, Heidi braids were wound into quirky earmuffs, while those breeches were mostly interpreted as kicky denim shorts, stitched with curlicue embroideries.
The show opened with a series of flaring, capelike jackets with gilded braid or velvet trims. Lagerfeld applied similar cape effects to turtleneck sweaters and tiered party dresses, along with dramatic full-blown capes pavéd in exotic feathers.
Lagerfeld’s ode to Mitteleuropa swung between homespun — needlepoint flowers right off the embroidery hoop plunked where Chanel’s braided pockets usually sit — to sleeker fare, such as handsome flannel trousers with braided stripes and enveloping shearlings speckled with gold or silver.
The eveningwear was exceptional, with butterflies and feathers alighting on pale blue chiffon, and puffed bishop sleeves adding a romantic touch to austere black satin dresses with deflated dirndl volumes.
During his bow, Lagerfeld plucked a pretzel off a table and handed it to Cara Delevingne, who took a bite and then held it aloft like a football after a touchdown.
About 220 of Chanel’s best clients, including a sizable contingent from German-speaking Europe, descended on this picturesque city, prized for its historic center, fairy-tale scenery, opera and palaces like the Leopoldskron.
“It’s very beautiful. It’s one of my favorite places in Europe. I love the garden. If there’s no fog, you can see the mountains,” Lagerfeld said. He noted that 26 years ago, he shot a Chanel campaign with model Inès de la Fressange at the palace, one of his first for the French house.
“I used to come here a lot,” the designer related. “I even rented houses in this area. I love Salzburg, I love this area.”
On Monday night, guests attended a lavish dinner at St. Peter Stiftskeller, billed as the oldest restaurant in Europe and tucked into a monastery. Before everyone settled in for a seven-course meal that opened with tartare of fawn, potato rösti and plum chutney, the designer unveiled a seven-minute video clip featuring “Happy” singer Pharrell Williams as that ultrachic lift boy and Delevingne as a reincarnation of Empress Elisabeth of Austria, popularly known as Sisi.
“Could she be the girl to help me see, see (CC) the world,” Williams croons in an original song he penned as a duet with the model, who is segueing into acting and music.
Optional side attractions during this Alpine excursion included Salzburg’s famous Christmas markets and concerts of music by the city’s most famous son, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.
Guests at the fashion show left with a tote bag containing a reprint of “Der Rosenkavalier,” a comic opera by Richard Strauss based on the original German libretto by Hugo von Hofmannsthal, along with its English translation and a beribboned portfolio of sketches by Alfred Roller of costumes and sets for a 1910 production.
Ever the cultural ambassador, Lagerfeld even coaxed guests to sample trays of local delicacies, including Kaiserschmarrn, a shredded pancake named after Austrian emperor Franz Joseph I, whom Williams reincarnated in the show’s accompanying film.
“You should taste it: It’s the best thing in the world,” the designer implored.
The Métiers d’art collection, clocking double-digit gains, represents the fastest-growing part of the Chanel business today, according to Bruno Pavlovsky, president of Chanel fashion.
“There’s a lot of content, and our customers love all this imagination around the brand,” he said. “It will soon be more or less of the same importance as an October or March collection.”
Introduced in 2002 to exalt the specialty ateliers Chanel owns, including the Scottish cashmere specialist Barrie and the French tweed company A.C.T. 3, its newest acquisition, the annual Métiers d’arts collection is now backed by a dedicated ad campaign — the Salzburg one is to feature Delevingne and Williams — and is carried in all of the French firm’s 189 boutiques, as well as in about 100 select specialty stores.
For the frothy sales, Pavlovsky credited the early delivery — in mid-May to America first, followed by Europe and then Asia by mid-June — and the strong narrative behind the collection, each bringing to life a new chapter in the colorful career of the house’s namesake. Chanel has traveled to Dallas, Shanghai, Edinburgh and Tokyo to parade the new line.
“Our customers, they’re used to seeing new silhouettes and novelties in the boutique every two months,” Pavlovsky said. “Every time, there’s a lot to say about her life — real and imaginary. This content is to build the Chanel of tomorrow.”
Interviewed in a wood-paneled room overlooking a lake that was once the office of Max Reinhardt, the noted theater director and cofounder of the Salzburg Festival, Pavlovsky noted that ready-to-wear is the fastest-growing product category at Chanel, and that renovated and enlarged shops, all by architect Peter Marino, are to accommodate wider selections of fashions.
Chanel recently relocated its Vienna store, its only Austrian outpost, for this reason, and recently did the same in Hamburg and Frankfurt. Düsseldorf is up next.
While the Métiers d’art range has pushed prices into new zones — coats can easily run up to $25,000 — Pavlovsky noted there are affordable items, too. “It’s not a question of price, it’s more about the value of these products,” he said.
Asked if Métiers d’art collections — typically inspired by a locale such as Russia, India or Turkey — resonate in those particular markets, Pavlovsky replied: “Honestly, we don’t even check. The Dallas storytelling was as powerful in China and Japan as it was in America.”
Yet Lagerfeld’s presence in Austria, front-page news in papers including Salzburger Nachrichten and Kronen Zeitung, and his Chanel collection are sure to popularize the region’s fashion and cultural legacy.
Lagerfeld, who donned a loden blazer during his stay, summoned a quote from the past: “Generations come and go, but lederhosen will always stay.”