Springtime in Paris, but Chanel feels an autumn chill

8th March 2011, Comments 0 comments

It's getting to be springtime in Paris, but for Karl Lagerfeld it was the moment to send a chill of autumn through the Grand Palais on Tuesday as he presented a tomboyish Chanel fall-winter collection.

In a deliberate contrast from the Parisian garden theme that framed the spring-summer show, Lagerfeld sent darker, looser looks down a wooden boardwalk the length of a venue carpeted with volcanic dust that crunched underfoot.

The soundtrack -- "A Forest" by The Cure, released 31 years ago this month in the heyday of New Wave rock, about a man in search of a woman in, well, a forest -- set the tone even if there wasn't a tree in sight.

"It's a scorched Nordic forest," Lagerfeld, 77, explained after the show. "These girls come from another world. This aspect of devastation, I find it rather chic."

The daytime outfits had a 1980s sort of quality as the show opened with a glittering black cape over a red Chanel cardigan, followed by looks built around skinny distressed jeans or loose trousers with checkered cuffs.

In lieu of stilettos were kitten heels and no-nonsense boots a la Doc Martens.

More feminine was the evening wear, such as a panelled grey dress with puffed shoulders and a delicate 1930s-ish pantsuit with embroidered lace top -- "the flapper side contrasted with lace and transparence," Lagerfeld said.

If anyone thought it was somber, and several in the audience said they did, the much-watched couturier recalled that a fall-winter Chanel pret-a-porter collection is never intended "to be worn in Ibiza".

"We're leaving summer," said Lagerfeld. "It's the 'rentree' (beginning of the autumn) and we're yearning for new things. In winter, I love the fog. I find it rather poetic."

Chanel was the biggest production of the nine-day Paris pret-a-porter season -- overshadowed this year by the sudden fall from grace of John Galliano as chief designer for Christian Dior -- which concludes on Wednesday.

In other shows on Tuesday, pop singer Katy Perry was the star turn in the front row for a characteristically visual outing from Jean-Charles de Castelbajac.

The French designer's sense of humour and love of art was as lively and surprising as ever with youthful yet intelligent outfits featuring prints of cartoon dalmatians, Man Ray surrealism and Marie Antoinette with a moustache.

Black leather gloves were restyled into a belt, a collar and a bra, and fringed red plaid blankets into flowing dresses. Body-hugging black sheath dresses with skeleton motifs closed the well-received show.

For Valentino, designers Pier Paolo Piccioli and Maria Grazia Chiuri played down the label's signature ruffled dresses and played up leather, including one trench coat in green and another in teal.

Suits came with skirts hemmed just above the knee with subtle crystal detailing, while evening wear featured elaborate yet subtle lace and full-length sleeves.

© 2011 AFP

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