For Chanel, Karl Lagerfeld took a sporty new tack, which at times was notably casual, while, in an ode to Isabella Blow, Alexander McQueen went in the opposite direction, aiming for all-out glamour.
Chanel: Why should egalitarian houses have all the fun? As Karl Lagerfeld sees it, there's no reason at all. So welcome to Chanel, lifestyle brand to the rich and fabulous. In fact, fabulous is what Lagerfeld's spring show at the Grand Palais was, in more ways than one.
Tweeds? Ingenue soiree frocks? Elegant eveningwear? Yes, yes, he'll get to that. But first, Karl proposed a broader thesis, one audacious in its simplicity: all Chanel, all the time. Now and then in the past, he has pushed the leisure side of Chanel, but here he made a concise argument, opening in sportif mode: swimsuits anyone? He worked these in a savvily familiar shade of indigo blue, the better to mix and match with his new wide jeans, the beachy blues often paired with flashy silver accessories. For tennis came racy black briefs with a feisty striped sweater and bright blue logoed racket (a girl had better have a few aces in her serve to trot that one onto the court). And he finally stopped putting boys in girls' clothes, opting for real men's wear, some of it quite appealing.
When it came to clothes more expected from the house, Lagerfeld worked a few loose themes within a diverse lineup. Among them: a star motif to match his night-sky set, long lengths of silver chains pulled through grommets to toughen polite dresses, and often, a decidedly casual attitude, notably in fluid knee-length shorts, a pair of girlish jumpers and gold cable knits worn with white pants. There were relaxed tweeds and military moments with newfangled epaulets buttoned down over the upper arm rather than on the shoulder. And when the star pattern got paired up with red-and-white stripes, it suggested a kitschy American influence, perhaps a show of support in this day of the dismal dollar. And speaking of such, did Karl's BFF Lindsay inspire his new, oh-so-practical accessory for the girl-on-the-go — a convenient little money pouch-cum-ankle bracelet?
Of course, Lagerfeld has never been a one-note Charlie, so along with the sportif, chic dresses abounded, including sheaths with contrasting spheres at the sides of the torso to emphasize the waist and a pair of lovely champagne silks. Evening was low-key and pretty, mostly graceful black dresses, subtly embellished. It all added up to a star-filled outing.Alexander McQueen: In large part, fashion is about emotion, especially when presented in its most intense form, on the runway, by as demonstrative a designer as Alexander McQueen. He called last season's show, a yarn spun around the Salem witch trials at which his ancestor Elizabeth Howe was sentenced to death, a highly personal one. At the time, he could not have foreseen that spring would bring the possibility of another such intimate motif, one all the more tragic for its immediacy: the recent death of fashion editor Isabella Blow, she of the crazy headgear and ultrasculpted style, credited with discovering McQueen and helping to develop his career.
On Friday night McQueen celebrated "Issy," using as a parallel Icarus, the headstrong winged boy who perished when he flew too close to the sun. "Pure Isabella territory," McQueen wrote in his program notes. That meant high glamour of the arch sort, sans the counterpoint of gentler romance that has typically marked his best shows. Thus, major shoulders, trussed waists, theatrical construction and, of course, a remarkable lineup of hats by Philip Treacy defined the collection, as did an aviary's worth of bird imagery.
Though one missed an obvious expression of his softer side, this was far more than a remarkably worked costume parade; McQueen is too serious about his business for that. His primary message heralded strong, womanly glamour. Thus, in a season big on floral and peekaboo fluidity, McQueen made a case for sharp men's wear suiting in some of the best, most elegant tailoring anywhere this season. Lose the waist harnesses and his floaty dresses looked divine, while his rich-hued feather pattern brought a moody sensuality to the print trend. As for the multitude of feathers, McQueen treated them conversely as armor for a bold, face-framing bodice-cum-breastplate and as fabric to shape seemingly at will, crafting two remarkable pieces — a short dress and a curvaceous gown worthy of a Henry James heroine — from miniscule black-tipped feathers with remarkable results.
McQueen took his bow in full kilted regalia with Treacy at his side, a clear nod to the notion that, in fashion, not even the brightest talents can do it alone.
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