On paper, Chanel’s Métiers d’Art show is an annual capsule collection to celebrate the brand’s artisanal craftsmanship. In reality, it has become part of the Insta generation's insatiable appetite for newness, luxury and extravagant fashion shows in far flung locations, and each year we ask ourselves 'what will Karl do next?'. Last year's Salzburg show was a wholesome Lederhosen-laden nod to The Sound Of Music in an alpine setting. So what did France's favourite modern storyteller conjure up for last night's show? Well, Karl Lagerfeld took his Parisian label on a Roman holiday, plumping for the city's Cinecittà, a film set the size of the Vatican City that is the centre of Italian cinema; it's here that Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton fell in and out of love on the set of Cleopatra and where Federico Fellini filmed La Dolce Vita. Naturally, Karl seated everyone in Fellini's favourite studio, Teatro No 5 (clever old Karl).
Hollywood did a good job of taking up rather a lot of the front row too. Rooney Mara and Kristen Stewart, resplendent in a midnight-hued sequinned jacket and leather trousers, sat and watched a screening of Once and Forever in which Stewart stars as an actor preparing to play Coco Chanel at different ages in an imaginary biopic of the designer. All very meta. Guests (or should that be extras?) were seated at pavement café tables outside a boulangerie and restaurant called Le Petit Coco amid a thousand twinkling candles as models marched down a moonlit Parisian street scene. The set took a whole six weeks to construct, FYI.
Despite Italian ingredients (embroidered capes and Medici ruffles) the collection was very much a Parisian one - and, a very, very sexy one at that. Freja Beha Erichsen, Lara Stone, Audrey Marnay, Sam Rollinson and Chanel first-timer Bella Hadid emerged from subterranean Metro steps decked out in patchwork lace tights, coquettish backless mules, pearl-ribbed jackets, black ciré pencil skirts and patent raincoats. Styling was super relaxed, with knits knotted around waists and jackets loosely strung across shoulders. It was as though a Roxy Music poster-girl had gone out on the town dressed as Jeanne Moreau (the 1950s actress for whom Chanel originally designed costumes) and had yet to make it home. Some seriously smudged eyeliner and messy Bardot beehives courtesy of Sam McKnight meant this was one hell of a 'walk of shame'. Fortunately there were some pretty boys on hand to fill the set too. Chanel’s strapping newsboys in very cute baker boy hats were Baptiste Giabiconi, Sébastien Jondeau, Brad and Hudson Kroenig.
Lagerfeld's Parisian facsimile is, of course, now tinged with a different set of emotions than it would have been three weeks ago, but the Eiffel tower which glowed steadily in the background seemed a hopeful symbol. Despite the Roman setting it was a defiant and elegant love story to fashion's favourite city.