Chanel after Karl Lagerfeld is looking blah despite a Paris runway invader

After Karl Lagerfeld's death, his former right hand Virginie Viard stepped up as creative director. She presented her spring 2020 runway collection on Tuesday at the Grand Palais in Paris.
After Karl Lagerfeld's death, his former right hand Virginie Viard stepped up as creative director. She presented her spring 2020 runway collection on Tuesday at the Grand Palais in Paris.PHOTO: REUTERS

PARIS (WASHINGTON POST) - Karl Lagerfeld made it look easy. His version of Chanel, typically presented in runway shows against an elaborately designed mise-en-scène, was an avalanche of ideas.

The models, sometimes almost 100 of them, marched along so fast that it was a challenge to the senses just trying to sort it all out.

Lagerfeld was a master at making you curious. Popular culture flowed through the Chanel atelier, infusing the collection with urgency - or at least awareness.

After his death earlier this year, his former right hand Virginie Viard stepped up as creative director. On Tuesday (Oct 1), at the Grand Palais, she presented her spring 2020 runway collection.

The new Chanel is less frenetic. The music was rather stodgy instead of energising.

Instead of a set that includes an iceberg or a rocket, hers depicted the rooftops of Paris.

The biggest jolt to the system was when a civilian dashed from the audience to join the models' final walk.

But, first, to the collection. The star of it all was, as always, the classic Chanel jacket.

It is elongated. The shoulders have got broader. It has been adorned.

There are also ruffly skirts and balloon-sleeved blouses.

There were hats because there are almost always hats at Chanel.

And there were oddities such as tight black bloomers paired with sparkly tops.

Occasionally, something quite lovely would appear, like a long black skirt with a white blouse whose fabric seemed to swirl around the body.

A red plaid jacket and skirt looked especially cool and enticing on the runway, but when you gave it more than a moment's thought, you realise that what made the combination seem so modern was not the cut or the fabric but rather the model who was wearing it.

Lagerfeld's Chanel was fashion as improvisation: "Yes, and ..."

Viarad's was a collection defined by "maybe".

One longed for something luscious to evoke desire or something outrageous to set your tongue wagging.

The clothes were wearable but not particularly memorable. If this was just another fashion brand, one without the history, stature and a passionate customer base, this blah aesthetic would not nearly be enough.

But at Chanel, it very well might be - at least for a while. It will take a bit of time before the customer relationship with Chanel fades from obsessive to a shrug.

As the models paraded one last time around the rooftop set, a woman in a black and white houndstooth suit and black hat dashed from the bleachers and clambered onto the runway. She adjusted her jacket, glanced over her shoulder and strutted along with the models.

She was identified by Women's Wear Daily as Marie Benoliele, a comedian whose YouTube channel includes a video of her crashing an Etam runway show.

In a statement, Chanel confirmed that the stunt was not planned.

The gatecrasher was escorted to the exit - after an encounter with model Gigi Hadid. Apparently handcuffs were not involved.

While security should really do a post-mortem to figure out how someone was able to leap from the audience onto the runway, the Chanel brand should mostly be worried about how easily the gatecrasher's checked suit and hat blended into the new collection on the runway. They did not look a wit out of place.

That is not a maybe - that is definitely not good.