Karl Lagerfeld sends out a hard, silvered, mirrored show that stood like a beacon of certainty in a shifting fashion (and real) world
The silver background and icy calm of the Chanel couture show was enough to send a shiver through the Grand Palais - even if the temperature in Paris was not already glacial.
Against a backdrop and a floor of converging mirrors like broken dreams, the models walked out in elegantly tailored clothes, always with some shimmering effect - from fragments in a hat to those Coco pearls. By the end of the show, the metallics were so powerful that an entire dress glistened, not just the silver shoes and the pearl bracelet around one ankle.
"Im-pecc-able - glitter, silver, something very shiny," said Karl Lagerfeld backstage, wearing a metallic jacket and everything from his gloves to the smartphone in his pocket, adding another silver flourish.
There was a further explanation - "Spoon Woman", not as in a silver spoon, but a reference to Alberto Giacometti's bronze statue from 1926 used to shape the new Chanel woman. That meant unexpected proportions, where the famous Coco tweed suit morphed into a new shape, or even into a dress, with a raised waist and a swell at the hips.
The main definition was that word "impeccable", with the small hats or hair short and plastered flat to the head, a belt at the high waist and the shiny, high-heeled court shoes. It was as if, in a shifting, uncertain world, Chanel fashion was the one thing holding its place. The effect was of an almost military precision
But it was all, of course, quintessentially and comprehensibly couture. Clients will look into the pieces and find that what looks simple is complex: not a tweed suit, but something woven by hand or shaped by folds at the front, or a fluff of pale pink feathers seemingly growing from the embroidery of a sparkling bodice held in by a wide, high belt. Another dress was apparently woven with rubber.
When I had seen the hats lined up they looked like Ladurée macaroons in their pastel colours, but Karl added a few shocks of colour: green and lilac for daytime suits or livid purple and deep blue for evening.
The fashion correctness of the clothes was the surprise. This was not Karl riffing on Coco or playing fast and loose with Chanel. It was a full-on rendition of couture at its highest and of the original designer's graceful taste. There was literally nothing that would shock clients. The show was an oasis of calm in a disruptive world - and that applies as much to fashion as the wider universe.
So what did it mean? Over his 35 year long career at Chanel, Lagerfeld's message since 1982 has swayed to and from its founder: sometimes a deliberate separation; sometimes a return to the brand's roots.
As ever, clients will be relieved to find an assortment of daywear - and Karl seems to be a rare designer who is sticking to seasons.
This is a spring/summer 2017 couture season, so there should be suits in black and white tweed or fondant pale colours. For all the metallic base, the decoration on evening dresses came lightly as frills of tulle or those wafting feathers.
Yet there did seem to be something different about this show - a return to source, a calm before the storm.
Karl does not talk politics, but he had something to say about other designers as he sat backstage, so impeccably dressed himself.
"I am a little tired of couture designers coming out in jeans and a t-shirt", he said referring, surely, to Maria Grazia at Dior.
But it remains to be seen whether at this moment of global uncertainty, women will want to go back to fashion's womb: the daytime suits, the cocktail hour, the evening gown. My guess is that Karl knows his Chanel clients and that this show will be a smash hit.