Just when you think it can’t get bigger, it does. Not three weeks after Chanel’s Brasserie Gabrielle show in Paris and less than five to go until the house’s Cruise presentation in Seoul, Karl Lagerfeld was at the Park Avenue Armory in New York tonight, restaging the Métiers d’Art collection he showed in Salzburg, Austria, early last December. Same clothes. Nearly all the same models. Same 6-year-old Hudson Kroenig in lederhosen. Lagerfeld couldn’t bring the historic Schloss Leopoldskron with him, but then Salzburg didn’t have Beyoncé, Vanessa Paradis and her teenage daughter Lily-Rose Depp, or Dakota Johnson in the front row. And in Austria, there was no after-party with a five-song set by Pharrell, complete with a cameo by a surprisingly tuneful Cara Delevingne, either.
Fashion’s biggest houses have been taking their shows on the road for encore performances for a couple of years, but until now the setting has been China or perhaps somewhere else in the Far East, not New York, and it’s usually been a big ready-to-wear collection, not a Pre-Fall line that gets the redux treatment. The extravagance of tonight’s spectacle was fairly staggering, but Lagerfeld, in typical fashion, played it cool. He compared the production and the Chanel apparatus behind it to “stock theater” or the “Ziegfeld Follies,” and pointed out that the timing of the Austria show at the beginning of December, so close to the Thanksgiving holiday, was tricky for Americans. Also: “Since then I’ve done high-fashion [haute couture], Fall in March, and I’m in the middle of Cruise. For me that [Salzburg] show is something from another life.”
Lagerfeld is right about that, the fashion cycles just keep cycling faster. Something else he was on to: The Métiers d’Art collection is one that rewards in-person viewing. Pictures, especially the ones taken in the almost too-ornate Schloss Leopoldskron, don’t do justice to the doily lace trimming the cuffs of a hand-knit dress, the edelweiss embroideries crawling up the legs of pants, the field of multicolored wildflowers blooming on a jacket, or the familiar chain link outlining the soles of the models’ flat hiking boots. But as much as this collection was about the handwork, it was also about the hotel porter jacket that Coco first spied on a trip to Austria, the one that would inspire the jackets that went on to become her brand’s signature. On stage Pharrell wore a cargo green one with his trademark shorts. “I can’t believe I’m here right now,” he said, and thumping his chest, “this is Chanel.” He wasn’t the only one in awe of the Chanel sparkle tonight.