Mar 10, 2009
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Chanel's 'Belles Brummells'

Mar 10, 2009

PARIS, March 10, 2009 (AFP) - Everything was fine and dandy at the Chanel ready-to-wear show for autumn-winter on Tuesday, where Karl Lagerfeld refused to let the global recession spoil his party.

While some designers this season have shifted their presentations to such unlikely venues as garages and warehouses in far flung parts of the capital, Lagerfeld played host as usual in the majestic Grand Palais, which was abuzz with over 2,000 press and buyers.

Lagerfeld, who knows the house DNA by heart, sent out a collection which was instantly identifiable as Chanel without being in the least retro, which industry insiders say is the best strategy in these difficult times.

Inspired by Beau Brummell, Lagerfeld kitted his girls out as dandies - "belles Brummells", he called them.

Creamy white, pleated ruffles spilled from necklines and were pinned onto sleeves, from elbow to wrist, held in place with a house camelia.

The ruffles were a moveable feast, which could be detached to reveal the clean lines of a quilted black satin parka, or a close-fitting spencer or a three-quarter-length tweed coat. Ditto for legwarmers, sometimes worn on the lower arm.

Classic black dominated, with only a few forays into colour, like a pair of jade pants and a flash of jade pocket trim on a tweed coat and candyfloss pink chunky knits with matching opaque hose.

For evening, he layered black chiffon over white for ball skirts.

Signal accessories were flat brimmed knitted hats and a unisex briefcase version of the house quilted bag, which could be worn like a backpack.

The models' male consorts strutted round in Byronic ruffled shirts and straight evening coats with long lapels.

Jean-Charles de Castelbajac's show was equally upbeat, with a live girl band accompanying his good-humoured, wacky, colourful creations.

He raided the toyshop for dozens of mini teddy bears for a top, while miniatures of the luridly green Kermit the Frog were fashioned into a micro-blouson and a muffler.

Sexy little skater's skirts had a starring role, made up in a jolly Muppets Show party print or graffiti and red lipstick impressions

His finale paid tribute to new US President Barack Obama, "King of Crisis" and Andy Warhol, "Pope of Pop", with funky dresses emblazoned with their photos, including a wig of Warhol's hallmark shock of white hair.

Models came out at the end throwing around fake one US dollar bills with Obama's head on them.

The crisis also felt far away at Valentino's show where the house's new design duo Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pier Paolo Piccioli built their first ready-to-wear collection for the label round chic frocks for the smart cocktail circuit.

To keep out the chill, little capes edged in luxurious fur or fur boleros were perched on the shoulders of sleeveless dresses with draped fronts.

Kimono coats were encrusted with jewels and more fur. Suit jackets could also be converted into capes.

"We like luxury," Chiuri said of the collection.

If there were a prize for the most challenging footwear of the week, it would surely go to the St Petersburg-based designer Alena Akhmadullina, who shod her models in clunky platform soles with three little tassels dangling where the heel should be. Their ankles were bound in what looked like bandages - whether keeping the shoes on or as a pre-emptive measure was unclear.

Fortunately the clothes were more manageable: tailored jackets and coats in tweed, boucle wool and charcoal flannel, with belts tied behind and mostly with the new season's pointy shoulders, as seen everywhere on the catwalks since Milan.

Leather leggings, also big for next winter, shared space with harem pants and culottes, with little fur vests and horsehair fringes contributing a certain quirkiness.by Sarah Shard

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