“Water is the driving force of all nature,” said Leonardo da Vinci. He’s to be forgiven his error; he lived in the era b.k. — before Karl.
On Tuesday morning, Karl Lagerfeld, fashion’s own indomitable force of nature, paid tribute to that one identified by da Vinci with a Chanel collection that was all about water. It started with the set. The Grand Palais under Lagerfeld’s watch could be subtitled “The Realm of the Possible,” because he has transformed it variously into an art gallery, underwater world, posh supermarket, Eiffel Tower esplanade and rocket-launching pad. And now a majestic outdoor retreat, its 50-foot tall, 275-foot wide expanse of faux rock — sculpted, varnished polystyrene panels — equipped with six points of falling water, the surrounding trees dappling the light. It looked for all the world like a natural wonder. Never mind that it took two months to build and nine days to install. Lagerfeld could not have known when he planned it how right his mis-en-scene’s resonant serenity would feel on this particular morning.
The clothes, too, were inspired by water, though not in an obvious way. Well, not obvious except for the raindrop earrings and repellent plastics for Chanel boaters, boots (many over the knee), handbags and outwear, both functional (hooded capes and anoraks) and decorative (little tippets). But for the most part, Lagerfeld delivered the motif via fabrics — tweeds, laces, knits — shot with metallic to glisten and change with movement and subtle shifts of light; sheer, open-work constructions, some suggesting ripples, others, fishnet cellophane fringe; abstract watery prints; shaggy fringing that mimicked seaweed.
That surface glimmer imposed unity on a collection exciting in its diversity. Through 88 exits, Lagerfeld offered endless wardrobe options while playing significantly, though not exclusively, to the younger side of the house demographic. He started out in casual mode with a pair of midriff-baring fringed tops over a mini and shorts, and offered a significant denim interlude. There were snappy shifts with contrast diamond-shaped insets defining the waist and full, playful party skirts. Jackets came both sculpted and unconstructed. Pants Name your pleasure: wide, skinny, short, long. The bags — fabulous, sometimes carried in multiples: big cross-body quilted carryall; iridescent plastic totes; squishy sequined clutches, clear minaudières adored with crystals. Yes, there was a lot going on, but invitingly so, all ultra chic and upbeat. Lest it cross over to too much, Lagerfeld closed with a series of gentle white evening dresses, each one shimmering with delicate light. Perfect.