What happens when an iceberg collides with a titanic fashion ego? It shows up on the Chanel runway at the Grand Palais in the heart of Paris, where it garners applause from a packed-to- the-rafters audience. A blurry sketch of a wan white bear, drawn by Mr. Lagerfeld himself, decorates the invitation, but any polar-size tears you may be shedding over the demise of these glorious creatures are soon replaced by a combination of incredulity and rage when you become privy to the latest fashion gossip: Chanel had to ship this 265-ton glacier in from Sweden and, because of French laws about importing water, has to transport its meting carcass back to Scandinavia, resulting in the biggest carbon footprint ever rendered for a twelve-minute runway show.
The emphasis, no surprise, is on fur, as in furry wide pants, furry maxi coats, furry shorts, and many pairs of high furry boots hugging that persistent winter-fashion incongruity, the bare leg. Frigid fumes are pouring over the front row (for once I’m glad I’m not sitting there) and the melting water forces the models to slosh around on the runway. The whole thing is so dopey and over-the-top that you can’t help but be slack-jawed, if appalled, at the spectacle. (At least some of the garments are made from what Karl calls “fantasy fur,” provoking a major debate after the show about which garments are real fur and which are fake.)
Call the paramedics! Perform the Heimlich maneuver! I’m gagging on an overdose of beige, choking like a cat with a hairball, only this time the hair is camel hair. The squeaky-clean ladies on the runway at Chloé sport dos bouncy enough for a high-def TV shampoo commercial, and they are wearing every color as long as it’s tan, configured as polo coats, turtlenecks, wide-legged trousers, and, arguably my least favorite fashion item, a satin blouse with a pussycat bow, like Lily Tomlin wore in Nine to Five before she started hanging out with Dolly and Jane.
If it wasn’t for all the racism and sexism, it sure would have been fun to live in the fifties! At least Marc Jacobs seems to think so. At his show for Louis Vuitton, which takes place under a clear plastic bubble encasing a square adjacent to the Louvre and brings to mind the similarly afflicted town in Steven King’s Under the Dome, virtually every model is dressed in stunning mid-calf-length frocks with full skirts. Sometimes these are topped by a little coat (if you’re really old, you might remember that this garment used to in fact be called a topper); sometimes they have low square necks with bodacious boobies hanging out. It’s a one-note samba but a compelling one, especially since the belles poitrines are provided, at least in part, by a gaggle of veteran models, including Laetitia Casta and Elle Macpherson. “Look at all those old girls!” I overhear an attendee exclaim in wonder. “I feel like I’m at a Victoria’s Secret show.”