Chanel: Competition among couturiers — one of the delightful amusements of the milieu. Perhaps prodded by Valentino's upcoming Roman festivities, those staying in Paris have certainly gone the extra kilometer this season venue-wise: first, John Galliano, who took Dior to Versailles, and on Monday, Karl Lagerfeld, who showed his Chanel collection at the beautiful Parc de Saint Cloud (ironically named, as it turns out, as it poured rain). Another amusement of couture is that it doesn't really have to make sense, at least in an obvious way. Neither Lagerfeld's chosen locale nor the bucolic Fragonard painting that inspired it seemed to have anything to do with his clothes — that is, at first glance. But wait, that clever Karl. In printing an image of the painting for his invitation, he nixed the original vivid colors in favor of a slightly toughened-up black and white. A mini hint? Of course.

Whether or not Lagerfeld deliberately plotted a dramatic antidote to what was sure to be ample retro romance elsewhere, that was the effect of his stunning collection. It featured a wealth of day clothes — remember those? — infused with a racy attitude and a hint of Eighties futurism delivered in linear shapes exaggerated by crusader-like helmets and more of the boot leggings with which Lagerfeld seems to be obsessed. The clothes were beautiful sans gentleness, save for a few delicate evening gems. Rather, Lagerfeld opted for the allure of power, strong clothes for strong, unquestionably modern women.

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