VERSAILLES, France - As some of the world's most glamorous women prepare for the Cannes Film Festival later this week, Karl Lagerfeld has shown again that he's a step ahead of the game on the Riviera's red carpet.
The celebrated designer rolled out a baroque-tinged cruise collection on Monday at the seat of French opulence, Versailles Palace, with film stars and other celebrities such as actress Tilda Swinton and singer Vanessa Paradis in appearance.
"The palace is the perfect place for Chanel, you couldn't imagine anything better," said Paradis, who watched as models filed by with ruffled eighteenth century tulle sleeves.
Eclectic gold platform sneakers were among the touches that broke up the historic feel, making this one of the funkiest Chanel shows in some time.
Cruise or resort collections — mid-season show, shown by only a handful of the world's fashion power houses — were created conceived to target wealthy women who travelled on cruise ships in winter.
Nowadays, they're used as a lucrative means of re-stimulating fashions in the mid-season lull, in an industry that's increasingly buoyant and bucking the global financial downturn.
Model of the moment Cara Delavigne opened the show in a velvety, pale blue denim dress, with a crisp A-line skirt.
But the rest of show felt more like Chanel's answer to a Baroque history lesson.
Beauty spots, bottom-heavy skirts, and floral chokers infused spectators with a feeling of Marie Antoinette's heyday.
Baroque-tinged wigs and ruffled, courtly hair bows in silk, meanwhile, added a splash of androgyny.
It's well known that Karl Lagerfeld is a workaholic, but in this show he seemed to have studied every reference under the sun.
One outfit dizzied: a white, double-breasted skirt suit, with embroidered gold roses and a stiff shawl collar mixed with a short tennis skirt and glam-rock platforms. The width of the skirt and shoulders matched identically, in extravagant visual unity.
Added to the mix were silver chokers with roses, a look that recalled 18th-century trendsetter Madame de Pompadour, as captured by painter Jean-Honore Fragonard.
Another look twinned a black, fitted sequined zipper jacket, with a raw-edged, silk bustle skirt which hung like petals in soft pastels of pale pink, blue and yellow.
One ornately knitted cotton top in white had a jacquard swag with decorative catkins hanging on either side — a strong nod to the Rococo period.
Was the opulence a bit too much in a country that just elected a Socialist president, who has vowed to tax the uber-rich more?
"Oh no, lightness is what France is known for. I don't delve into politics here," said German-born Lagerfeld, after the show. "Besides, I can't vote."