'It was about the old world meets the new,' said Karl Lagerfeld following the Chanel haute couture show staged - quite literally - at the Grand Palais in Paris yesterday. 'Only fashion can move between the two.' And only Chanel and Karl Lagerfeld can move between the two so well.
The set told the story. A dilapidated theatre complete with crumbling masonry and studiously basic rows of wooden seats met guests upon arrival. The romantically worn curtains soon opened to reveal a high-rise backdrop, however: it was ten different sky lines merged, M. Lagerfeld said.
Of course, the clothes themselves were the focal point of this over-arching theme. The Chanel suit in what looked like tweed was in fact predominantly embroidered: this has become a lovingly created trompe l'oeil signature of this great French name's couture collections by now. Skirts were ultra-short or ankle-length and pencil thin, worn with jackets with a masculine shoulder and tightly fitted dress sleeve. That structure is far from easy to achieve. They looked as chic as they did comfortable. 'I hate uncomfortable clothes,' said Lagerfeld. 'They have to be comfortable. That is Chanel.'
Once again the couturier maintained all signatures while moving things forward. Proportion was key where that was concerned. Wide belts worn loosely at the hip ('not in a Sixties hippie way, they're very refined,') and full ballerina skirts in crumpled organza shot through with metal thread were layered over columns that reached almost to the floor. Both had the effect of elongating the body and giving an impression of slenderness. Skyscraper couture.
As for accessories... Suffice it to say that Chanel's is the boot of the couture season. But 'don't call them boots' Lagerfeld insisted. 'They are stocking shoes'. And so they are. With mid-height block heels and laced up the back, they were crafted in such supple leather they would simply puddle around madam's ankles were they not discreetly held in place by suspenders. And how brilliantly luxurious not to mention sexy is that?
Such is the buoyant nature of its haute couture collections, Chanel recently opened a fourth atelier at its Rue Cambon headquarters. Double-digit growth was cited for Lagerfeld's spring collection though Chanel's President of Fashion, Bruno Pavlovsky, told Women's Wear Daily earlier this week that was not the sole aim. 'We want to maintain a very exclusive service,' he said.
That service combines with imagination, sophistication, knowledge and technical skills that are the envy of the entire industry, ensuring the haute couture customer is in the best of all possible worlds here.
Look at the collection in the gallery below...