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Paris fashion week begins under Lagerfeld's shadow

The late Karl Lagerfeld is shown here in October with his right-hand woman Virginie Viard, who has taken over the reins of Chanel
The late Karl Lagerfeld is shown here in October with his right-hand woman Virginie Viard, who has taken over the reins of Chanel AFP/File
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Paris (AFP)

Paris women's fashion week starts late Monday with fashionistas in sombre mood after the death of the legendary designer Karl Lagerfeld last week.

His right-hand woman at Chanel, Virginie Viard, who has now taken the reins at the iconic label, will present what is officially his final collection on the last day of the shows on March 5.

It is still not clear how much of the collection was created by Lagerfeld, who died last Tuesday aged 85.

He had leaned heavily Viard, his head of studio, in his final months.

The workaholic German, who always insisted that he would design right up to his death, drew his creations by hand and then handed them on to Viard to realise.

"I understand him and I can sublimate what he wants to do and bring to Chanel," she told AFP in a 2015 interview on what made the duo tick.

Their three-decade partnership was the motor which drove the constant reinvention of the brand during the 37 years in which Lagerfeld led it.

The creator was cremated on Friday "without ceremony" -- as he had requested -- in the presence of Viard and a handful of his closest friends including Princess Caroline of Monaco and fashion's most powerful man, LVMH tycoon Bernard Arnault.

Chanel would not comment on whether next week's show will include a homage to Lagerfeld, saying only that "a farewell ceremony will take place at a later date".

Under Lagerfeld, Chanel staged spectacular shows at the vast Grand Palais in central Paris.

- Debut for Korean Hwang -

But illness stopped him from attending its haute couture show there in January -- the first time he ever missed a Chanel show -- with Viard taking the bow at the end.

At October's spring-summer show, Lagerfeld had gone out of his way to acknowledge Viard, who took the bow alongside him.

Lagerfeld's ashes are to be mixed with those of his mother and his lover Jacques de Basher, who died of AIDS in 1989, before being scattered.

Chanel's owners, the Wertheimer brothers and the brand's CEO Bruno Pavlovsky were also at the cremation at Mont Valerien, in the western suburbs on Paris, on Friday.

The Decorative Arts Museum in Paris has put on display four of Lagerfeld's most famous creations for Chanel and Chloe, which he also transformed, in the first official tribute to his genius.

Internet resale sites have reported a huge spike in interest for Lagerfeld's work since his death.

With British designer Phoebe Philo seen as a possible successor at Chanel long term, one of her former acolytes at Celine, Korean-born Rok Hwang, kicks off fashion week's nine days of shows with his Paris debut on Monday.

The London-based creator -- who grew up in a caravan in Austin, Texas -- won the prestigious LVMH special prize last year.

His designs for his ROKH label have more than a little of Philo's quiet, minimalist sophistication.

All eyes will also be on the debut shows for new designers at three major French historic labels, Lacoste, Lanvin and Nina Ricci.

Louise Trotter, from Sunderland in the northeast of England, brings a rock-solid reputation to Lacoste from her years at Joseph, Calvin Klein and Tommy Hilfiger.

She cut her teeth at the British high street label Whistles before crossing the Atlantic after being snapped up by Gap.

France's longest running but troubled couture house, Lanvin, passes into the hands of young French designer Bruno Sialelli, while the radical Dutch couple Rushemy Botter and Lisi Herrebrugh take over Nina Ricci.

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