Chanel conjures aquatic underworld

4th October 2011, Comments 0 comments

Karl Lagerfeld created an aquatic underworld for Chanel on Tuesday complete with coral reefs and a giant stingray, sending out a spring-summer look in weightless whites, pastel and silver under the vaults of Paris' Grand Palais.

Singer Florence Welsh of the British outfit Florence and the Machine provided the live soundtrack as Chanel's models filed past in a vast, dazzling all-white decor of coral, seaweed, seashells -- even a three-metre seahorse suspended in mid-air.

Classic Chanel with a twist, there was a roll-call of knee-length dresses and skirt suits in shades of white, pastel pink, ice blue and seafoam green, with lots of layering, flounces and ruffles.

Who says underwater thinks mermaids, right? Not at all, the silver-haired, grey-suited Lagerfeld corrected reporters after the show, on the penultimate day of Paris' nine-day ready-to-wear fashion marathon.

"I especially avoided mermaids! Because for a start mermaids don't exist," he said from behind dark shades. "The inspiration is more underwater plants, seaweed, fish, that kind of thing."

Weightlessness was the watchword in the choice of fabrics, secret mixes of polyester, glass fibre blended with nylon, "all of it retreated, reworked, with paper," Lagerfeld explained.

"Doing this in classic, heavy fabrics, would have been just horrible," he said. "All these things weigh three grammes."

A tweedy jacket was reworked like a shirt front, leaving the back bare, over a knee-length layered skirt that swished and fluttered as if underwater.

Several dresses had seashell-like stiff neck ruffs, while iridescent silver on dresses, coats, ankle boots and rope-sandals evoked the glint of fish scales, as did a slick raincoat-like fabric used on pantsuits in shades of jade green or salmon pink.

Three black patterned see-through raincoats stopped at the waist, worn over a bikini: "Perfect for the beach, no?" quipped the designer.

Only three long dresses? "That's quite enough. For long dresses, I can give you lots of addresses," Lagerfeld joked.

Black lines running across a white tweedy-looking dress or a skirt and short-sleeve jacket suggested Chanel's classic trim, otherwise conspicuously absent as were several other house "codes" such as the interlocking C motif.

"Everyone is doing fake Chanel in tweed, with the buttons, the trimming. So I don't need to," Lagerfeld explained.

So in the same spirit, the classic Chanel waist chain was replaced with a rope of pearls, with pearls also dotted in the model's soft chignons, or running down the nape of the neck.

"It's a displacement, and a diversification and an elimination all at once," Lagerfeld said. "An elimination of all the things I have done too much."

Uma Thurman was among the famous faces who turned out see the show.

"Utterly extravagent to the extreme -- and beautiful," was the US actress' verdict. "A pristine, heavenly show."

© 2011 AFP

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