Clashes of Cultures

Events this past week in Paris remind me of my step-sister Amanda, Lady Harlech, who is usually described—much to her chagrin—as the “muse” of the 85-year-old gay kaiser of the fashion world, Karl Lagerfeld.

On Thursday—Thanksgiving Day in America—Lagerfeld switched on the Christmas lights in the Champs-Élysées.  He had been invited to do so by the mayor of Paris.  As usual, he wore black sunglasses, and black everything, including his trademark black leather fingerless gloves.  Amanda—sans doute—was somewhere nearby.  She usually is.

The color of the lights this year—which run like veins along the branches of the plane trees that line the grand boulevard leading to the Arc de Triomphe, down which the triumphant Nazis marched in June 1940—is red, the color of communism and of blood.

The color was chosen to match an advertising campaign marking the launch of a limited-edition red bottle of Chanel No. 5.  “It’s a very pretty color.  It brings to mind a red French wine, and all sorts of things,” Lagerfeld, creative director at Chanel since 1983, told French TV station France 3.

Two days later the violent protests that had erupted across France the previous weekend, in one of the biggest uprisings in years, reached the Champs-Élysées, and beneath those red Christmas...

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