Karl Lagerfeld installed a suitably polished wind farm in the monumental Grand Palais for his show for Chanel in Paris yesterday. In terms of scale, this was the biggest production of the week – there was more floor space, more models, more clothes and a larger audience. As an exercise in sheer power, then, it was unprecedented as befits a fashion brand widely believed to be the most successful in the world, though not one generally famed for its conservative carbon footprint.
Perhaps the set was a reference to the essentially optimistic, gentle, protective and beautiful nature of the clothes. Sweet trapeze shapes, moulded sweaters and tulip dresses ensured space between garment and wearer – modesty more than in-your-face glamour appeared to be the message.
Such things are relative. If the clothes – black chiffon dresses appliqued with silk petals in faded colours, optic white columns embroidered with garlands of flowers and the Chanel suit, predominantly following a youthful and naïve Sixties line – spoke of innocence, the marketing of the money-spinning accessories confirmed experience. Lagerfeld is the most accomplished image maker in the industry, after all, both in terms of his work and glittering persona.
The Chanel quilted bag looked anything but shy, oversized and nestling in what resembled a pair of black leather hula hoops for handles. The Chanel pearls were the size of gobstoppers shimmering in clusters at slender necks and wrists, and the Chanel sunglasses went so far as to feature the house founder's own silhouette – finished with more ropes of pearl again – at one corner of their frames.
"It was a celebration of femininity," Sarah Burton said of her exquisitely judged collection for Alexander McQueen shown later in the day. And that it was, in all its guises. First came the exaggerated curve of a structured hip on a densely embroidered, wasp-waisted golden jacket that upheld the hourglass silhouette this house is known for. It was followed by crystal encrusted tortoiseshell caging and corsetry worn under and indeed over overblown organza dresses appliqued with meadow flowers. They were as sexually charged as they were sugary.
Any sweetness came at least in part courtesy of the humble worker bee: honeycomb bodices gave way to skirts woven with swarms of that insect that caught the light prettily as models walked. Black patent beekeeper hats, fetishistic neck pieces and glittering black fishnet thigh-high boots with laced seams ensured that a spicy undercurrent was always part of the story. And hopefully it always will be. The woman who wears this label is, after all, queen.