Gwyneth Paltrow at the Chanel Haute Couture show in Paris today
"Zen," said Karl Lagerfeld as he stood in front of a Japanese-style wooden structure against a backdrop of blue sky after a magnificent collection for Chanel. The sense of calm beauty was also a tribute to nature, with the floor sprouting green grass and inset with channels of still water.
It created a rare moment in today's haute couture, as the clothes expressed liberty, modernity and serenity. Add to that the exquisite work of Chanel's ateliers. Yet, at the same time as that fashion sophistication, there was a feeling for raw nature, with delicately cut pieces of wood as necklaces. Such details competed with the glistening sparkles on outfits that were mostly bulbous at the top, tapering down to a slim, calf-length skirt. All that grace was laced with witty, modern ideas - like the waist bag designed for the smart phones that the audience was brandishing in front of the set to capture images of the models walking the "green" catwalk.
The wooden house backdrop at the Chanel Spring/Summer 2016 show
Even the shoes had an updated look - on a platform of cork, they were part classic Chanel, part sportswear, and had the same zest for nature as the panelled house. When, at the finale, all the windows of the wooden building flapped open to reveal the models in their light and twinkling dresses, there was a gasp from the audience, which included the usual host of celebrities and model Cara Delevingne trying to control her dog.
I have seldom associated either Coco Chanel or Karl with nature, but it is one of the strengths of the mighty designer that he captures the spirit of the time. Why wood? Because it represents a greener world. Why bee pattern jewellery and insect embroidery? Because those buzzy bees are under threat. But all these ideas would be empty without the deep collaboration between Karl and the Chanel Métiers d'Art hand-workers, who can create bees out of feathers and a wedding train that mixes wood shavings with beading.
Pallid colours in shades of sugar white, clotted cream, vanilla and beige could have seemed dull. But their variety, abundance and moonlight-on-water glitter kept things lively. So did a pair of blue gowns sweet with meadow flowers. Compared with the "casino" couture Chanel show of six months ago, the difference was chalk and cheese. But it was not just about colour, rather the elevation of thought and the delicacy of stitching.
From the hooped-up buns of hair to the rounded dress shapes, the collection seemed classic, but fresh - and the handwork magical. But even more than the subtle silhouettes and intricate details is Karl's ability to change his vision of Chanel. This season, he captured a beautiful fashion moment.