x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Frosty Lagerfeld rides the polar express

Why the Chanel show is the coolest of the season.

Karl Lagerfeld chose a polar landscape to set off his Chanel collection in Paris.
Karl Lagerfeld chose a polar landscape to set off his Chanel collection in Paris.

He might be the most powerful designer in Paris, but it may be pushing it to suggest that Karl Lagerfeld somehow stage-managed the weather before his autumn/winter show at the Grand Palais. Yet the below-freezing temperatures could not have been better suited to the ice-themed set he presented. (Guests had received text messages warning them to wrap up warmly, which, with the polar bears on the front of the invitations, gave a strong clue as to what they should expect.)

Not for Karl a common or garden catwalk. This season, a frosted white cube occupied the centre of the glass-roofed hall, his customary venue, and as the show began, the walls were raised to reveal an arctic scene, with icebergs eight metres tall sculpted from real ice, and a floor covered in water, from which a group of male and female models wearing thick, long-haired yeti boots, trousers and coats stared challengingly at the audience.

The set blasted cold out into the room, making it even chillier than outside, but for once the fashionistas weren't complaining: they were entranced by the icy synth soundtrack, the radiant light and, above all, the clothes. For Lagerfeld, when designing Chanel, is one of the few designers capable of putting on a groundbreaking show - indeed, the most eagerly anticipated of the season - while still producing utterly covetable and wearable pieces in the spirit of the brand's history.

While the faux fur trousers and skirts may have been an animalistic step too far, the close-fitting jackets, bell-skirted dresses and highly textured and fringed tweed coats and wraps were highly desirable - especially to an audience huddled up for warmth. Most desirable of all were the white, cream and ice-blue knits, which ranged from oversized cardigans to 1960s-style dresses, kitten-soft and so highly textured they looked like fallen snow. Jewellery of crunched-together quartz crystal and pearls glistened like icicles.

At Chloé, an altogether different reaction to the weather was presented by Hannah MacGibbon, now on her third collection for the brand. Here winter was all about cosy, casual warmth, with the designer's trademark butterscotch-coloured suits, coats, dresses and shirt-and-trouser combos. As ever, the shapes were clean and simple, devoid of obvious detailing (except for one quite extraordinary pair of velvet-appliquéd jeans, which seemed to have been transported in from a different show), the glossy-haired models carrying themselves with the sophisticated nonchalance of the well-to-do globe-trotter.

While a little more variation on colour (camel, stone, beige, caramel: call it what you will) would not have gone amiss, the buttery bags and boots, silken blouses, poncho and smock shapes and polished tan leather belts chimed well with the late-1970s soundtrack: chic at its most glossily bourgeois.