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Chanel show dazzles Paris with art and color

October 1, 2013

PARIS (AP) — Karl Lagerfeld is a man of many talents: Not only is he Chanel’s lauded designer, but also an industrious artist, a sensitive colorist and a gallery curator.

At least, these were the hats he wore Tuesday at Chanel’s glorious spring-summer 2014 show at Paris Fashion Week.

With a snap of his black-gloved finger, curator Lagerfeld transformed the vast interior of Paris’ Grand Palais into his very own gallery space.

Colorful oil paintings lined the walls, one featuring an abstract rendering of “Chanel No. 5.” A whole host of curious art objects scattered the runway — like a giant-sized handbag or a surreal 1-meter (yard) perfume bottle made of marble that seemed to sink into the floor.

“It’s like the days of Andy Warhol,” Lagerfeld said backstage, raising the age-old philosophical question: is fashion art?

The question was answered here in a painterly clothes palette of some 150 different colors. There was a series of strong, colorful brush-stroke patterns on flowing and fitted dresses in dark to light hues. Then there was the large “portfolio” bags, the painted Chanel logos on handbags, and a rucksack with large wooden brushes poking out.

Although Lagerfeld doesn’t often use much color in his Chanel shows, here he reminded guests what a talented colorist he really is by using 89 tonal shades of purple, blue, pink, red, gray, black and white.

Perhaps channeling Chanel’s acclaimed Arts and Crafts show in Edinburgh last December, Lagerfeld used the black-and-white spats of Scottish pipers to inspire great stocking shoes that looked like a thick sock that went to mid-calf.

Elsewhere, he crossed traditional Chanel skirt suits with a frayed tartan pattern in cyclamen pink and black, and many of the looks sported cape silhouettes as worn by pipers. Even the diagonal crossover of tartan fabric that Scots band across their chests was evoked when Lagerfeld dropped the collar off one shoulder but rendered it in contemporary lines of diffused color.

Where does the 79-year-old find the energy to produce such new ideas season upon season?

“For me, I like this kind of life: living in evolution and in the inventive spirit all the time,” explained the designer. “For me, it it’s like breathing.”


Thomas Adamson can be followed at Twitter.com/ThomasAdamsonAP