Chanel couturier Karl Lagerfeld recently claimed that he'd rather commit suicide than choose between designing or photographing fashion. There are some who wish he would – choose, that is – since designers-turned-photographers are often regarded with considerable suspicion by an industry that prefers specialist virtuosos to self-styled Renaissance men.

Captured using Kaiser Karl's point-and-shoot camera, the Chanel campaigns are not intended as feats of technical innovation; they are records of Lagerfeld's authorship and cultural erudition. Note the full page given to a bunch of dusty wires, for example. Evoking the poster image of Turner Prize-winning Wolfgang Tillmans' 2003 show "If One Thing Matters, Everything Matters", in which a chaotic bunch of keys dangle from a grubby door, this use of expensive advertising space positions the campaign somewhere close to art photography.

The real story of these diffuse, rather claustrophobic shots is not "the return of the supermodel", as many have claimed – this is actually the second season Claudia Schiffer has featured – but her brooding characterisation. Disguised in a black, bobbed wig, Schiffer is robbed of her trademark milkmaid glow and instead resembles a cross between Serge Gainsbourg-era Bardot and Catherine Deneuve's housebound neurotic in Polanski's Repulsion. The seamy narrative intrigues the eye, as an editorial shoot might – but doesn't scream "buy me" as a commercial campaign should.

Verdict: more brooding than branding