As she transitioned into her next song at the intimate after-party gig, Florence Welch spoke softly into the microphone, “It’s incredible: Karl and I met this summer for a photoshoot, he told me about the runway show in October, his inspiration and the all-white underwater decor, and he said, ‘You should come and perform at the show’. I never thought it would happen, and I certainly didn’t imagine that I’d be standing singing in a white seashell in front of 2500 people."

"What The Water Gave Me" just so happens to be the name of a hit track on the new Florence and the Machine album to be released in late October. As far as Karl Lagerfeld was concerned, this coincidence was reason enough for him to style himself a modern-day Lohengrin and set the tone for the show’s soundtrack.

Florence performed as the closing styles paraded across the runway. With her incomparable voice, there was no question of preceding her act with another singer. The music was instead conceived as an integral part of the collection, complementing the idea of an imaginary underwater world, graphic styles and aquatic colors, bodies dripping with pearls and faces softened by the wet-look hairstyles of models gliding across under-the-sea decor that seemed to belong on some strange unfamiliar planet.

Although we will never know the true mermaid’s song, and haven’t really tried to know it, the build-up to the show was marked by a yearning for mythology. Hence the eclectic selection of electronic and orchestral renditions of Wagnerian works: Ride of the Valkyries (subtitled "nervous") was heard in a version by experimental musician Curd Duca, and in a more classical interpretation by Herbert Von Karajan and the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra. But the Grand Palais is no concert hall. A runway show needs a certain energy, which is why an album by Gui Borratto, an electronic music producer from Sao Paulo, was chosen to provide the rhythmic backdrop for this ostensibly unnatural marriage that came together like a match made in heaven. A flurry of harp glissando – resurrected from an old B52’s CD! – announced Florence’s emergence from a giant gleaming seashell like a true Lorelei, her voice and hair charming the spectators and putting a spring in the step of the models.

The soundtrack was produced exclusively for the Grand Palais show, thus preserving the magic of the moment.

Photo © Olivier Saillant