Since Chanel laid claim to the Grand Palais as the home for all it's fashion shows the house has been on a seasonal oneupmanship with itself in terms of the "go big or go home" set designs. Culminating it seems with the massive Chanelified supermarket backdrop from the last ready to wear collection. With this fall/winter 2014 haute couture show Karl Lagerfeld decided to turn the volume down from 11 and give a very select happy few a more intimate and rather austere setting. Just a fireplace resplendent with a faux feu and a gilded French mirror placed above its mantel delineated each end of the catwalk. Clearly the designer wanted the guests to focus on the impressive sartorial workmanship being displayed rather than any mise en scene bells and whistles.
So dramatic was the change in spirit that the house slipped a note into each invitee's commemorative press packet saying that the decor was a homage to Le Corbusier. An architect whose clean urban esthetic played a central role in the modernist movement. The founding code of which were starkly apparent on the Chanel runway.
As the models meandered back and forth across the central stage (a popular presentation style this season) there was a rational and functional beauty about the designs. There were tiered shimmering tweeds with cut away coats leading to sculptural skirts worn with practical matching knee length shorts and flat ankle tied footwear. Lagerfeld also explored the power of substantial shapes. Crafting gowns that played with stiff straight lines via plasticized lace or sharp shoulders. He crafted rounded out skirts pregnant with delicate metallic beadwork. And he also reinterpreted the brand's famed quilting though an impression amount of crunchy crystal embroidery on a number of trapeze shaped ensembles.
There were elements of this show that felt like echoes of the brand's apocalyptic couture collection a year ago. Not the least the sharp billed shimmering hats, this time shrunken a bit and worn backward that sat at the back of the models spiky-haired heads. But also in the frosty reserve this collection evoked. Pristinely beautiful. Untouchable. Even when worn with Lagerfeld's very chic tongs.