PARIS — A once-grand opera house that's now a scene of decaying rubble was the latest remarkable venue for Chanel's haute couture.
The setting saw Karl Lagerfeld carry off a dark, expressionist-tinged fall-winter 2013 collection — the glitter of embellished clothes contrasted with the faded romance of grimy curtains, a dark theatre stage and old wooden stalls.
But the nostalgia was only half the story of this strong show, staged inside Paris' Grand Palais.
When it began, an image of a futuristic metropolis beamed onto the theatre wall. When the models appeared, the first chic series of A-line skirt suit-styles were twinned with Grace Jones-style space-age hair. Intergalactic square hats that were attached at the back of the head, seemed to float like a geometric halo. It was a great anachronism.
"I presented something that was a vision from the past to the future, from the old world to the new . Fashion is the only thing that can travel between both," explained Lagerfeld, after posing for the cameras with Rihanna. She, appropriately enough, wore flappy pearls and a long, white baggy cardigan-dress that also harked back nostalgically to another era.
The 67 very wearable looks had some notable features — such as wide, often shiny, belt bands that strapped across at the hip, and mosaic patterns. Instead of boots, Lagerfeld put legs inside "stocking shoes," attached up the leg with a garter like lingerie. Jackets sometimes had strong, menswear shoulders which contrasted with tight feminine dress sleeves. And skirts were layered upon skirts to produce different directions of movement.
The creations gave the audience a 15-minute peek into the ceaseless workings inside Lagerfeld's brain.
One fantastic tweed-style gray coat was constructed with one long piece of material, half of which went down, and the other half hooped back up to create a voluminous silhouette. This was a good example of what so impresses at Chanel couture: Though the garment looked like tweed, it was, in fact, made of fastidious embroidery.
At the end, a creation perfectly showed Lagerfeld's expressionist mood. A long, black diaphanous silk dress was streaked with shards of fractured and glimmering silver. Was this musing inspired by the dark landscape of legendary filmmaker Fritz Lang?
"You know," he said. "My whole life is a Fritz Lang moment."