Karl Lagerfeld's couture stands out because he thinks about modern life. A train may be more romantic or a two-in-hand more picturesque, but the true twenty-first century mode of transport is the plane. And that's exactly where his latest Chanel haute couture collection took place. These clothes are made for the modern jet set after all - for women who thinks nothing of chartering a plane to bring them to their next haute couture fitting, disregarding the irony of that combination of old world and new school.
What do that chartered jet and Lagerfeld's haute couture have in common? They're both about ease. Chanel's Spring/Summer 2012 haute couture collection may not have been ready-to-wear, but it was easy to wear, all straight lined and stand-away collars, pockets sliced in the front of everything from strict little skirts to beaded evening dresses. Lagerfeld wanted everything to have the simple wearability and nonchalance of 'les bleu jeans' - blue was indeed the colour that proliferated, hence the airline theme. Not airline uniforms (although it's worth noting that Balenciaga did a natty line in those, and there's more than a touch of the trolley dolly to some of Chanel's more matchy-matchy numbers), but the shades of the atmosphere as glimpsed through jet windows.
Only Lagerfeld has the skill and imagination to spin that kind of idea into a sixty-odd piece collection. When you really consider it, this collection really did come out of thin air, the oxygenated shades of the atmosphere whipped up into slick plastic embroideries, feathery froths and nubby tweed suiting dotted with pearls in every shade from cerulean through cobalt to darkest midnight. That all sounds terribly atmospheric - the wedding dress, granted, was white, but even then with a pearly, metallised sheen, a cumulonimbus whorl of grey tulle bustling about the rear. It was knee-length too, expressing that need for speed.
Indeed, movement was omnipresent - a contrast, perhaps, to the critiqued hobble skirts of Lagerfeld's last Chanel couture. This time, the models breezed down the catwalk-cum-cockpit in everything from evening wear to sleek sixties suits. There was absolutely nothing you couldn't board this plane in, nor withstand a long-haul flight in absolute comfort. That's flashing back to those blue jeans - not just the colour, or the nonchalance, but the absolute comfort that is a true hallmark for haute couture, clothing engineered to the body with the same precision as a jet fighter: clothing so perfectly made that it seems like a second skin, and you hardly notice how perfectly it is doing its job. The models' pace was only accentuated by attenuated hair streaming backwards, giving a sense of perpetual motion. It was streamlined beauty - what's more, it felt like true haute couture for a truly twenty-first century clientele.