#SuzyCouture: Chanel looks to the South of France – but Karl stays home

After nearly four decades at Chanel, Karl Lagerfeld did not appear to take his bow after his show at the Paris Grand Palais.

Virginie Viard, Chanel’s Creative Studio Director, who has accompanied him at the end of recent collections, appeared briefly in the doorway of the grand building created in the set of a collection named ‘Villa Chanel’.

An announcement was made that Mr Lagerfeld “was feeling tired” but that he would be present at the second show for clients. However, he did not attend that show either.

I had visited the Chanel studio on Sunday, when Karl told me he was having difficulty with his feet.

But he had no problem creating a gracious and luxurious collection, which he said to me – with the French ‘gilets jaunes’ protesters still growling in the streets – was meant as an oasis of calm in a violent world.

On the runway, the models walked slowly around a still pool in a garden of cypress trees washed by blue sky. The clothes were classic Chanel, except for a curve at the necklines and the lightness of materials. Hair stood up in a bold curve, the better to show earrings and flowers.

A year ago, Karl produced a set resembling a classic French garden for Chanel summer couture. This time, the focus was unquestionably on the south, with the still, small voice of calm.

“It’s a very fine party round the pool – not young people pushed into the pool,” said Karl. “And every detail is refined.”

The focus was on tailoring or close-fitting dresses, but with intense details worked into the fabrics or a cloud of fluffy feathers – marabou rather than peacock. A cascade of pink twisted fabric, as soft and light as feathers, broke out at one side of a slim black dress.

No bags were visible, and the shoes were little, high-heeled ankle boots, but cut away at the back where flesh heel met high heel.

There are so many pundits announcing that every Lagerfeld show for Chanel is his last. But there was no sign of weakness or casual effort in this collection, in which every piece could be described as exquisite and faultless.

One dress cut in a curving A-line shape had every imaginable version of the house’s signature camellia in sapphire, cherry red, amethyst, earth brown and scarlet. It was indisputably a work of art.

Then there was the quiff, the upswept abstraction of an 18th-century look that hair stylist Sam McKnight melded with visual images of David Bowie.

“Timeless, serene beauty,” said Karl, who oversaw every single outfit presented to him at the Chanel studio during the weekend. “But there are very new shapes, like a boat neck that becomes a bolero. “

“It’s for the privilege of the privileged – and they should have the luck to own this kind of house – and to behave like that, listening to Mahler,” said the designer, for whom the fashion world hopes and wishes a speedy recovery.