Chanel Loves L.A.

Finally, couture designers come to us

Karl Lagerfeld could run a movie studio. The designer for Chanel–with his Klaus Kinski profile and signature dove-white ponytail–knows that when it comes to parties, Los Angeles VIPs are harder to please than bulimics at a buffet. Fireworks? Yawn. Cocktail shrimp as big and plump as dachshunds? Just ate. Two jets landing outside a fete and dispatching insouciant models wearing chiffon Chanel and Olsen twins to ogle?

Now, you’re talking.

On Friday night, the Chanel Cruise collection for 2007/2008 began when a voice announced: “Please be careful when opening the overhead compartments. Some quilted bags may fall out.” Indeed, more than half of the 500 attendees at the Santa Monica airport show carried interlocking C clutches, envelope bags, and totes. As a B-52’s song blared, models pranced down the rotating runway wearing sporty commentaries on stewardess get ups and chic knits that would travel well–even in coach.

Clearly, the crowd was elated to be there. Everyone from Oliver Stone to Eva Mendes to pool cue-thin ladies in their pastel boucle suits perched on the edge of white sofas to get a better view of the action. What struck me most was the collective excitement and palpable gratitude. In the past, few couture designers have debuted collections in a city known for its black tie denim and flip-flops. (The fact that Giorgio Armani showed his Prive collection here on the eve of the Oscars might have inspired Lagerfeld to come west.) One almost got the sense that the guests were thinking, “Finally. We are worthy.”

For me, the sight of floppy hats was transporting and the zigzag mini dress caused palpitations. But in the end, it was the sequined black robes that caused the biggest stir amidst spectators. Victoria Beckham looked ready to fling her Chanel wallet at the model’s head just to get the first crack at one. It made sense that a showy town like L.A. worshiped an obscenely luxe take on the most laid back of all outfits. Hell, the look will work in Malibu.

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