The veteran German creator turned the Grand Palais into a forest, with tonnes of dead leaves strewn on mirrored steps and nine tall mossy oaks planted down the middle of its vast nave.
Trees had also been chopped down to make rows of benches for his guests, including Hollywood star Keira Knightley, British pop singer Lily Allen and former French first lady Carla Bruni Sarkozy.
But the France Nature Environment group condemned the show as “heresy”, accusing the luxury brand of trying to “give itself a more green image while completely divorced from the reality of protecting nature.”
It said that whatever point Chanel was trying to prove with the show “had failed. Nature is not chopping down trees in a forest, putting them up for a few hours for a show and then throwing them into a skip.”
Chanel hit back strongly late Tuesday saying none of the oak and poplar trees it sourced from a forest in western France had been a century old.
“In buying the trees Chanel also promised to replant 100 new oak trees in the heart of the same forest,” the brand added in a statement.
Chanel raised eyebrows last year for a PVC-themed collection at a time when plastic pollution is hitting the headlines.
– Huge life-like forest –
Fashion critics had earlier praised the set, with Harper’s Bazaar declaring that the “runway may be (Lagerfeld’s) best yet”. It loved the “life-like forest” he conjured up that “seemed to extend infinitely”.
The 84-year-old creator had sent out a dark and classy collection that eschewed the bubblegum girliness of Chanel’s haute couture show in January.
The few pinks and electric blues he allowed to seep into the show were confined to handbags and the very Audrey Hepburn leather opera gloves worn with a series of black lace slip dresses.
The final Lagerfeld touch was that the gloves, like his own, were fingerless.
With his controversial wispy beard that so divided opinion at January’s fuller now, the “Kaiser” took one of the briefest bows of his career after the show, allowing photographers little chance to check its progress.
Some critics had then found it shockingly “scruffy” for the world’s pre-eminent style guru, who had not changed his look in two decades.
Lagerfeld began the show with a run of full-length black coats matched with sparkling gold tights, one coat feathered at the shoulders and cuffs which gave it more than a hint of French Empire dash.
– Burnished gold –
Earthy, autumnal colours dominated, lit up with the glint of embroidered crystals and glitter, as he ran through the gamut of Chanel’s classic tweedy looks — city slickers bringing a touch of ever-so-tasteful glamour to the horsey country set.
The whole top of one particularly striking coat with burnt orange velvet collars and cuffs was covered in a fall of delicate applique dark green and burnished gold leaves.
This was not the gold of the nouveau riche but the distressed sheen of old money.
The veteran picked up and ran with its mottled glow in a line of darkly burnished gold and copper boots, suits and skirts.
Critics and front-row stars including French actress and singer Vanessa Paradis and Iranian screen icon Golshifteh Farahani admired Lagerfeld’s new big bags and accessories. They included a “log” handbag so close to the real thing you might risk losing it in the woods.
– Impeccable Vuitton –
Chanel’s trademark long, pearl necklaces also made a reappearance, with former supermodel Cindy Crawford’s 16-year-old daughter Kaia Gerber wearing earrings featuring the brand’s double C logo.
South Korean star Hoyeon Jung and British model activist Adwoa Aboah also walked in the 80-look show.
Meanwhile, Nicolas Ghesquiere turned out another impeccable collection for Louis Vuitton in the day’s other big star-studded event, which rounded off the month-long circus of autumn-winter fashion shows that also took in New York, London and Milan.
With “The Greatest Showman” star Michelle Williams in the front row with fellow Hollywood stars Emma Stone, Ruth Negga and Jennifer Connelly, the French designer played with the idea of a modern comfortable corset and of 1970s stripes, combining leather and shearling jackets, often with knee-length wool, and shiny silk and leather skirts.
His set in the Louvre museum looked like something from “Star Wars”, and was watched over by the brand’s owner, the LVMH chief and master of the fashion universe, Bernard Arnault, who Forbes magazine declared the fourth richest person in the world Tuesday.