One in a series on the clothes that had a moment at Paris Fashion Week:


Chanel Spring Summer 2018 collection (Helle Moos/MCV Photo for The Washington Post)

PARIS — This season it was a cliff. With waterfalls. And trees. In the middle of the Grand Palais.

For its spring 2018 fashion show, Chanel constructed a massive wonderland in the middle of the city, as usual. In the past, there have been convincing iterations of icebergs and bistros, art galleries and grocery stores. This time, the rock face was so convincing that as models emerged from a craggy tunnel, wind generated from the plunging water blew off their little plastic rain hats.


Chanel Spring Summer 2018 collection (Jonas Gustavsson/MCV Photo for The Washington Post)

Designer Karl Lagerfeld delivered the brand’s signature bouclé jackets in iridescent shades of aqua and sea green. White fringe on a jacket suggested foam churned up by fast-moving water. The reflective fringe on another ensemble called to mind moonlight on the surface of a still lake. And, of course, there was plenty of blue.


Chanel Spring Summer 2018 collection (Jonas Gustavsson/MCV Photo for The Washington Post)

Chanel Spring Summer 2018 collection (Jonas Gustavsson/MCV Photo for The Washington Post)

Chanel Spring Summer 2018 collection (Jonas Gustavsson/MCV Photo for The Washington Post)

Film of the #CHANELSpringSummer 2018 show. See the full video on chanel.com through link in bio #PFW

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If there was any doubt about the collection’s connection to this rustic landscape, the models also wore clear plastic rain scarves, ponchos and boots, some embellished for a little oomph.


Chanel Spring Summer 2018 collection (Helle Moos/MCV Photo for The Washington Post)

Chanel Spring Summer 2018 collection (Jonas Gustavsson/MCV Photo for The Washington Post)

That extra embellishing was probably unnecessary: Many Chanel customers, the ones with the dough at least, are a bit like Deadheads in their obsessive loyalty. It doesn’t matter if the style doesn’t really change from one season to the next, or if a season isn’t particularly inspired. It’s the back catalogue and the conviviality that they love and desire.

There is nothing like a @chanelofficial guest. #pfw They are like the Grateful Dead fans of fashion.

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It’s a wonder to look around at a Chanel audience  and see guests draped in ensembles that cost the equivalent of car. At Tuesday morning’s security check point, editors marveled at the stream of Chanel bags rolling through the X-ray machines. Tens of thousands of dollars worth of quilted and bedazzled product.

A Chanel show is filled with smiling, selfie-snapping guests. It doesn’t matter that Chanel doesn’t change enormously from one seasons to the next; the house’s signature shapes, fabrics and flourishes are simply tweaked and manipulated. That’s not easy. In fact, it’s quite challenging to give people more of what they know, while making it all feel new and exciting and purchase-worthy.


There’s an unofficial dress code for Chanel fans. From left, actresses Anna Brewster and Lolita Chammah and models Caroline de Maigret and Liu Wen arrive for the Chanel Spring Summer 2018 show in Paris. (Caroline Blumberg/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock)

A dynamic set that clearly and loudly announces the stature of a brand is helpful to the cause. As one editor wryly noted, fashion customers are as susceptible to “irrational exuberance” as stock market speculators.  So it’s no wonder that the largest fashion companies here use their financial heft and cultural clout to finesse settings that leave guests open-mouthed with amazement and desire. Last week, Saint Laurent had the Eiffel Tower sparkling on command. Over the weekend, Givenchy settled into the Palais de Justice. The season opened with Dior setting up shop in the courtyard of the Rodin museum and it will end with Louis Vuitton inviting guests into the Louvre.


Chanel Spring Summer 2018 collection (Jonas Gustavsson/MCV Photo for The Washington Post)

Chanel Spring Summer 2018 collection (Helle Moos/MCV Photo for The Washington Post)

Chanel Spring Summer 2018 collection (Jonas Gustavsson/MCV Photo for The Washington Post)

The clothes may or may not be wonderful. But the grand setting argues that the brand is important, therefore it’s products must be, too. And important clothes are worn by important people.


Designer Karl Lagerfeld steps out from a fissure in the enormous rock-like set of the Chanel Spring Summer 2018 fashion show to wave to the audience. (Jonas Gustavsson/MCV Photo for The Washington Post)

This collection was not one of Chanel’s bests. It had some winning looks and some clunkers, too — especially the distressed and lace embroidered denim. But it was wholly successful in communicating the enduring glory of its place in the culture. And surely the Chanel-heads were pleased.

Also at Paris Fashion Week:

Valentino is making incredibly glamorous anoraks, of all things. Anoraks!

Crocs on the runway, and other strange signs of the time in fashion

Junya Watanabe envisions a world of happy punks in big, pretty dresses

It’s like Gumby joined a utopian cult — and created the season’s most magical fashion

Chloé’s new designer came up with a fresh idea for pants, and it actually works

Lush, timeless beauty from fashion’s normal guy

Clothes that could make air travel glamorous again. Well, almost.

Sexy and sophisticated, the Saint Laurent show was just plain glorious

Dior slaps a slogan on a T-shirt and tries to pass it off as feminism

There is just no excuse for this ugly, boring fashion

Fashion wants to put on a spectacle. Can we keep sight of the clothes?