I wanted something impeccable, clean. I wanted the girls to look like walking fashion drawings,” said Karl Lagerfeld, adding, “And I must say, I love feathers!” It sounds contradictory, but this was a calm and stripped-back Chanel couture show by Lagerfeldian standards. There was no immersive set, no overt theme, and an absence of jokey accessories or visual puns. Once one had taken in the fact that the mirrored circular runway reflected the famed Art Deco mirrors of Coco Chanel’s stairs at her atelier on the Rue Cambon, there was nothing to distract from the contemplation of the essence of haute Chanel-ness itself.

At the beginning, Lagerfeld put a sustained emphasis on tailoring—a neglected art in womenswear these days. The Chanel suit, in myriad candy colors—mint, checkered pink, peach, lavender, yellow—got an emphatic shoulder and a wide, contrasting belt; un peu ’80s, perhaps (that decade, after all, is being referenced everywhere). From then on, it was all about silver sparkle and silhouette—the segue being an elegant narrow, ankle-length beige checked coat, subtly flecked with glitter and finished with an iridescent sequined collar and cuffs.

As the show progressed into evening, slim, elgonated lines alternated with pretty ballerina-length crinoline skirts—and the silver sparkle showcased the maximum capabilities of the Lesage embroiderers. Here came Lagerfeld’s feather obsession; poufs of peach ostrich and marabou trimmed the hems and sleeves of glittering columns—indeed, with the spontaneous air of doodles dashed off his sketch pad. Couture is at its best, always, when it wears the fruits of its labors lightly. When a dove gray chiffon crinoline with individual white feathers wispily hand-sewn to it by the thousand passed by, it somehow managed to outshine all its sparkling sisters.

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