Karl Lagerfeld took over Marie Antoinette’s playground–the palace of Versailles a short drive from Paris–for his annual Chanel cruise collection on Monday. One could imagine the pint-sized Queen playing along with Karl’s punk princess theme–a similar mood to the one Sofia Coppola explored so well in her film on La Reine in 2006.
Lagerfeld brought along his entourage (model Brad Koenig, assistant Sebastien Jondeau, and muse Lady Amanda Harlech dressed in white couture and striped sneakers) and a parade of the world’s top models for a romp around one of Versailles’ restored fountains. It was a sight fit for royalty–a line of black cars depositing approximately 400 press, Chanel clad clients and celebrities (Vanessa Paradis, Inès de la Fressange, Tilda Swinton with Haider Ackermann) at the end of the Boulevard de la Reine.
After tiptoeing through the dusty courtyard and walking up a trail of towering hedges, guests came upon the first fountain and the “runway” which led up to a second fountain. Boxed seats–what one would imagine for a medieval jousting match–were set up around the garden’s edge. After almost a month of rain in the area, the grass was vibrant green, the sky was vivid blue – perfection. I’ve been to five Chanel cruise shows (from Miami to St. Tropez) and the weather is always flawless.
Karl deftly mined Versaille’s historical past and mixed in Chanel’s signatures and current fashion trends. Few can spin such diverse inspirations with such a sure hand. Similar to historical courtiers, models wore candy-coloured short wigs over long ribboned ponytails. Eye shadow was dark pink and Chanel logo-ed tattoos became beauty marks. Antoinette details came in tightly stacked rows of ruffles down bodices and at elbows, and with pannier-style poufs at hips. Breech-style denim trousers or wide tweed culottes (many with exaggerated hips) were paired with the all-important cropped Chanel jacket.
Pastel knit dresses were wrapped with pearl belts, denim dresses flared out over the hips, corseted frocks flounced with ankle-length overskirts. One might have expected buckled Louis court pumps but instead models wore transparent booties or metallic white rubber-soled sneakers or slip-ons. Mini “Boy” handbags and gobs of jewellery (chokers, cuffs, chandelier earrings) completed each look. The mash-up mixed punk with princess with Chanel in a high-strung package. And as odd as it sounds–and may even look at first glance–it hit the mark the majority of the time.
The after-party moved–via a trolley ride through the historical Versailles gardens–to the Bosquet des Rocailles where a temporary hot house (sweltering in the late-day sun) was decorated with chandeliers and towering floral arrangements. Inspired by the gardens, the salad bar was a flower bed. Model-worthy waiters offered flutes of champagne and macarons. Chanel’s current “face”, Alice Dellal banged away on the drums while her friends performed a punk set. Karl nodded to the beat in approval snapping shots on his iPhone while sipping on a Diet Coke. (A white jacketed server was always one step behind him with his drink.)
It was another over-the-top spectacle – pure theatre, the kind one would imagine Marie Antoinette and her friends would delight in. And judging from his 25+ year track record at the house, it will be money in Chanel’s bank.
Watch Now: Chanel’s Resort 2013 collection
Watch Now: Karl Lagerfeld on Chanel’s Resort 2013 collection