PARIS — On the penultimate day of Paris Fashion Week, Karl Lagerfeld built an airplane terminal in the Grand Palais, complete with boarding gate No. 5, departure screens (to Shanghai, New York, Moscow and Rome), metal waiting-room seats and male flight attendants, the better to frame his flight plan for Chanel. As one does.
Or at least, as one does if one is Mr. Lagerfeld, who has also built (for Chanel) a casino, a cafe, a supermarket and the Rue Cambon. And, as it happens, another airplane, back in 2012.
Admittedly, then he created the inside of a jet (first-class seats, bien sûr), and it was for the couture show, but still. You’ve heard of shopping your closet? This was like shopping your prop room. Well, socialists are on the rise in Europe and Britain. It may not be the time for profligate extravagance. This was the Chanel equivalent of budgeting.
(Plus a smart way to sell a host of carry-on luggage.)
There’s a lot of recycling on the runways at the moment. At Hermès, Nadège Vanhee-Cybulski offered up yet more versions of the brand’s essentials: scarf dresses, supple leathers, blanket plaids. At Sonia Rykiel, Julie de Libran trotted out such Rykiel-isms as one-shoulder cocktail frocks in tiered pleats, sequined cape dresses, leather fringes, swallow prints and silk sweatpants.
That’s not necessarily a bad thing: A house has to create a baseline of recognizable, and reliable, products to identify itself. Besides, as the truism goes, there have been no new stories since the Odyssey. The difference lies in the telling.
As Mr. Lagerfeld and Hedi Slimane of Saint Laurent know well. They are both masters of the highly commercial megacollection disguised as some sort of fashion performance art. It’s a formula.
On Monday night, Mr. Slimane built an enormous rotating robotic cube at the end of the runway in his cavernous warehouse space, over which strip lights ran in vertical patterns like so many alien space beams, until the cube split in half to frame a flood of jackets.
Evening jackets (tuxedos, fur chubbies, silver-dusted shaggy rainbow knits), work jackets (trench coats, matte snakeskin) and weekend jackets (patchwork denim capes, lion’s head bombers, distressed leathers). Jackets worn by Mr. Slimane’s usual stomping hordes of strung-out, morning-after denizens of the clubbing underground in tiaras. Plus an assortment of small lacy slip dresses, which presumably will come lined in the store, or at least offer the option, and will hopefully fit better than the ones on the catwalk. They often seemed two sizes too big for the concave-chested semichildren within (hopefully that was a styling trick, if a distressing one, as opposed to just lazy tailoring).
There were also long bias-cut screen-siren gowns in black and silver, delicate stiletto sandals, and wellies. Sorry, “Saint Laurent Festival Boots” as they are officially named, a string of words that seems excruciatingly antithetical to the whole ethos of festivals but which will probably be wildly successful. In the end, though, jackets. As basic, and product-oriented, as that.
Just as in end, Mr. Lagerfeld’s Chanel is about bouclé jackets and hip-yoked pleated silk skirts; lightly ruffled and feathered chiffon party dresses and quilted bags. You can cool-it-up, as he did, with matching backward baseball caps and huge aviator shades, light-up luxe Birkenstocks (practical footwear is a trend) and silver driving gloves; you can create a fit-for-flight wardrobe of loose knits in red, white and blue Air France colors and airline prints; you can change the silhouette, so it is jacket-and-skirt straight and strict, without pockets or collars, or layered-up (midcalf dresses and skirts over loose pants in matching prints). But the building blocks don’t really change.
Mr. Lagerfeld’s great skill is the ability to produce these kinds of endless variations of a basic itinerary. If it was hard to get on board with some of the ideas (oily black trousers under a matching skirt with a blinding crystal and black bow vest: a cavity-inducing pink ruffled dress-over-pants combo), you can always head back to ground control.
As Ms. de Libran did at Sonia Rykiel, framing the familiar Rykiel coquette in the cozy environs of the brand’s flagship on Boulevard St.-Germain. There, a sparkling jet runway had been laid, cocktails with such names as “Bluebird” and “Nymphea” were passed around, and the singer C.A.R. (a.k.a. Chloé Raunet) installed in a small black booth and a Rykiel sequined top, to provide the live soundtrack. It had an alluringly deceptive intimacy; a sense of snatching a stolen peek at girls psyching themselves up for a night out. Which made it easy to overlook the fact there wasn’t much daywear.
It wove a good story, not just a good crochet minidress, a narrative hook that is still missing from Ms. Vanhee-Cybulski’s work at Hermès. Though her second collection was lighter and looser than the first (and more flattering), on a spare white runway the checkerboard rompers in silk twill, calfskin and silk pleated sleeveless dresses, and long blue-black waistcoats appeared ineffably (and expensively) appropriate, but bland.
Hanging in the store, among the other ineffably appropriate Hermès wares, the timelessness and extraordinary fabrics will most likely rise to the fore. But under the klieg lights, they washed out — all except for the giant slices of agates and other minerals made into necklaces and belt buckles, or encased in blobs of resin cuffs at the wrists, which were terrific.
And which will probably take off.