In a season where the best collections seem to have been all about designers going with their gut and returning to their roots (oh will we ever tire of that phrase?) Karl Lagerfeld's offering for Chanel was always going to shine. After all, has Lagerfeld ever forgotten Coco's roots for one moment in almost thirty years at the house?
Today certainly wasn't going to be an exception. As ever, Lagerfeld delved long and deep into the house archives, pulling out the codes of bouclé tweed, monochrome, piles of jewels and camellias. This time, the camellias were brightly-printed on gossamer-fine fabrics, the bouclé frayed and shredded in pastel shades, and all that monochrome helped add up to an Oriental feel, not least in the set - half Hong Kong Garden in immaculately-raked gravel, half Le Nôtre's box-hedge arabesques at Versailles, with fountain, swirling boiseries and full orchestra to boot. Think Coco Rococo in Tokyo - that was Lagerfeld's Chanel message for spring.
That's not to say this collection felt like a rehash, or that it was out-of-kilter one iota with the mood of the time. Kaiser Karl makes it his business to be perfectly of the moment - neither forward-thinking nor backward-looking. He thrives on the here-and-now, which is just what fashion needs. Hence, Lagerfeld hit all the right notes - the Orientalism of his Geisha platforms, bamboo parasols and kimono cuts chimes with spring's feel for the exotic; he oscillated between the new, longer lengths and sassy hotpants; he caught onto fringing, fraying and feathering, the latter exploding into flurries of wild ostrich-fronded cocktail frocks at the finale.
But Lagerfeld pumped out ninety or so outfits in this Dam Buster of a collection, so of course he's going to hit some of what everyone else is doing, right? Well, perhaps, but he managed to make each his own, riffing off half-a-dozen outfits on each theme, exploring, expounding and, indeed, pounding each idea until it had nothing left to give. It was an aerobic, acrobatic fashion display - add a dad-and-toddler couple in matching tweed cardigans and former house models Stella Tennant and Coco-alike Inès de la Fressange back on the catwalk, and this all could have overpowered and overwhelmed. It's a sign of Lagerfeld's skill that somehow, it all stayed perfectly balanced in the realm of the sublime rather than the ridiculous. That's a balancing act that takes some practise. Lagerfeld has fifty years under his belt, Coco had sixty. They're pros when it come to these games, and in an assured, astute and astounding performance like this, it shines.