Paris Fashion Week: Chanel's tasty menu of French chic

Chanel at PFW: black-and-white, masculine and feminine, bourgeois madame and spunky mademoiselle

The French may be famous for their cuisine, but if you want a meal, even breakfast, in under an hour in Paris, good luck. You really want to know why French women don’t get fat? Because the service in restaurants is so slow they couldn’t possibly. I had a dinner over the weekend at Les Climats, a newly Michelin-starred restaurant, that stretched past the three-hour mark. As it got closer to midnight and I told the waiter that he needed to move along and bring the check, he seemed bewildered. It was a Saturday night in Paris and I was with a group of friends. Maybe what I really needed was a reality check.

Because when Karl Lagerfeld transformed the Grand Palais into Brasserie Gabrielle for the Chanel show on Tuesday morning at Paris Fashion Week -- with bars, banquettes and waiters serving coffee and croissants -- maybe it wasn’t just a theme on which to hang a collection (complete with plate-shaped handbags, naturally). It was a suggestion that the only real luxury today is time. So why not do as the French do -- pull up a chair, put down the iPhone and really enjoy a meal with friends.

That’s what the models did: After strolling the runway, they took seats at the bar, on banquettes and in bistro chairs, ordered coffee from waiters and enjoyed the show themselves.

The clothes were black-and-white, masculine and feminine, bourgeois madame and spunky mademoiselle. Some of the fall season’s trends turned up, namely the bomber as the new jacket silhouette -- in quilted leather, or with intricate folds and tucks, topping A-line skirts. The new Chanel lady suit.

But there was also plenty of casual. Red-and-black buffalo checks were cut into a quilted coat and flared skirt. A mohair cardigan was worn over flared denim trousers with the tried-and-true Chanel accessories, which were back like old friends. With a rope of pearls around the neck, a gold chain medallion belt and beige-and-black spectator sling-back pumps, it was as chic as a Saturday morning gets.

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There were a lot of skirts over pants, which Lagerfeld has tried before, but never so successfully. A knitted, multicolored zigzag wrap skirt over burgundy leather sweatpants, under a houndstooth turtleneck sweater, was a particularly great look and hinted at fashion’s obsession with dressed-up comfort wear, known as the athleisure trend.

Evening wasn’t about gowns so much as going-out-to-dinner or cocktail-party attire, some of it inspired no doubt by the waiters. A beautiful black perforated leather jacket with lattice sequin detail was worn with a white tuxedo shirt and black bow tie over a ruffly black maxi skirt and slim black trousers. Also with pants, a layered pink tulle peplum blouse with frilly collar peeked out of a black jacket like cream out of pastry.

When all was said and done, the models lingered at the tables, creating a selfie opportunity par excellence for show-goers, and a chance to see up close such scrumptious treats as a Chanel bag with a silver spoon for a clasp, twirled around strands of pearls. A real-time and social-media moment to savor.

The collection was a full menu of French chic, from the stuffy but eternally elegant women of a certain age, to the cardigan-clad bohemians, everyone came to the table. Chef de Chanel Lagerfeld did it again.

I've got the latest tweets from seats -- and more -- @Booth1

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