Chanel's sobriety versus Lacroix's decadence

While Chanel's Karl Lagerfeld designs "dresses that represent purity", Christian Lacroix defies the economic downturn with a collection ablaze with bright colours.


AFP - The biggest names in French fashion are putting up a defiant front against the global downturn this week with extravagant shows to demonstrate that it is still business as usual.

For Chanel, Karl Lagerfeld chose to unveil his summer couture collection on Tuesday in a former bank near the house's headquarters on rue Cambon, a more intimate setting than the usual Grand Palais exhibition hall.

But the decor was as spectacular as ever. The gilt doric columns of the salon were swathed from floor to ceiling in gigantic white cut-out paper flowers, including the house signature camelia, which apparently took the labours of 40 women to set up.

While black normally forms the backbone of the collection, Lagerfeld deliberately stuck to a palette of purely white and cream, with black reduced to a supporting role.

He went for a boxy silhouette of cropped jackets with standaway collars, often with a tiny cape resting on the shoulders, and A-line skirts with a deep kick pleat at the front and back.

The devil was in the detail, like the parallel rows of tone-on-tone passementerie emphasising the waist and edging the hemlines and picking out the inside of the pleats.

Sometimes white sequins replaced the passementerie, or even liquid black sequins like strands of liquorice.

For evening, he elongated the silhouette, even adding leggings, and waffled wools and tweeds gave way to fabrics encrusted with fantastic combinations of giant white sequins, appliqued flowers and feathers.

The models' headgear of whorls of fake flowers by Japanese designer Kamo echoed the decor.

Chanel customer Pernia Qureshi, wearing a ravishing ivory sari by Indian couturier Tarun Tahiliani, loved the collection. "White is my colour. There are at least two short dresses that I want," she told AFP, saying she wore Chanel in New Delhi and Indian traditional dress in Europe "because I like being different."

Neither black nor white featured strongly in the exuberant full-technicolour collection sent out by Christian Lacroix on Tuesday.

Models strode around the vast runway on the ground floor of the Georges Pompidou arts centre at such a pace that they were already heading round the corner before the audience had time to fully take in each complicated outfit.

As usual with Lacroix, who avoids dictating any particular look, every single one of his 39 models was resolutely different from all the others.

He struck a nautical note with jaunty blazers with rows of gilt buttons and scarlet trim, white cuffs peeping out beneath the sleeves, over low-slung trousers or even a delicate feather skirt.

A hand-painted vibrant pink puffball skirt jostled for attention with an electric blue lace bodice worn with black and white striped satin bloomers and a white silk cardigan jacket embroidered with pink carnations, the house's fetish flower.

An off-the-shoulder black and white polka dot dress with dusty pastel pink flowers nestling in the cleavage was tied with a wide scarlet sash, while a watery blue silk moire bolero topped a dramatic grass green taffeta skirt.

The mood was joyful and upbeat, a tonic in these dark gloomy times. Lacroix cheerfully raced round the runway for his lap of honour, pelted as is traditional with the carnations left on the seats.


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