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Chanel dazzles with color, as fashions go ethnic

October 1, 2013

PARIS (AP) — Karl Lagerfeld is a man of many talents. In addition to Chanel’s lauded designer, he also is an industrious artist, a sensitive colorist and a gallery curator. These were the hats he wore Tuesday at Chanel’s glorious spring-summer 2014 show, one of the biggest at Paris Fashion Week.

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

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

Katy Perry certainly seemed impressed by the artistic musing.

The pop star watched the 89-look-strong show from the front row next to a whole host of curious art objects which 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.

“Karl has such a fantastic sense of humor. He is so self-deprecating with his styles,” said Perry, near a statue of a man kneeling down with a Chanel truck tire on his back.

“It’s good to be light-hearted,” quipped the designer.

Other shows of the day included a presentation from Dutch wunderkind Iris Van Herpen who did the impossible and made clothes play music, and collections from Alexander McQueen and Valentino who both channeled ethnic vibes but produced very different results.


The question “is fashion art?” was answered with a very literal “Yes,” in Chanel’s painterly clothes-palette of 150 different colors.

A series of strong, colorful brush-stroke patterns on flowing and fitted dresses in dark to light hues, gave way to humorous touches such as large “portfolio” bags, painted Chanel handbag logos, and a rucksack with large wooden brushes poking out.

But the true artistry in this collection came in the form of numerous designs that played subtly on the styles of Scottish bagpipers — showing the depth of Lagerfeld’s constant evolution.

Perhaps channeling Chanel’s acclaimed Arts and Crafts show in Edinburgh last December, the designer used the black-and-white spats of Scottish pipers to inspire great stocking shoes.

Elsewhere, he crossed traditional Chanel skirt suits with a frayed tartan pattern, 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.

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


If clothes could make music, what would they sound like?

This was the abstract question that Iris Van Herpen — better known for her couture creations — answered during her official debut in ready-to-wear.

Van Herpen used state-of-the-art technology to stage a performance, where models writhed against each other clad in dark, shimmering dresses with touch-sensitive electronic chips inside sinewy ribs on the material.

Caressing each other in scenes that could have been lifted from a Lynch film, the models’ touches sent out audio signals to the DJ booth in the club, producing a macabre electronic musical aria.

The atmosphere nicely complemented the darkness of the looks, which featured a great techno-fabric on a cropped jacket and cross-over dress that gave off a watery, metallic sheen.

A black skeletal sheath made of leather had the dark feel of her exaggerated couture creations.

With only 16 looks on display, next time it would be nice to see the talented designer broaden her repertoire with a larger collection.


Combative metal helmets, neck clasps and leather straps clashed with bright ethnic patterns in Sarah Burton’s show for Alexander McQueen that, while bold, moved the house in a slightly more wearable direction — away from the theatrical excess of last season.

On a minimal, geometric runway the first black looks of the 32-piece-strong collection, could have been worn by warrior queen Boudica with features such as a leather harness, a thick padded leather coat and an aggressive red layered skirt.

But the looks softened, as did the colors, as the collection progressed.

A series of black and white optical coats with cinched waists gave way to an abstract, sporty vibe in ultra mini patterned crop tops and some bouncy angular skirts in white.

The best looks seemed to channel tribal African that’s big this season, with a strapless column dress with red and black horizontal stripes.

It cut an unusual silhouette with a large black feathered peplum.


Valentino put its typical Italian aristocratic look on hold this season to channel Balkan-style ethnic patterns.

It was clear from the discordant musical mix — which flitted between arias from Puccini’s Tosca to syncopated contemporary bass beats — that designers Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pierpaolo Piccioli were determined to try something new.

With a clean white shirt and a couple of pairs of shorts, it felt like the designers were trying to loosen up their silhouette a bit to show some street cred.

But the show was dominated by patterns such as vivid blue-and-yellow lines and oval shapes on full skirts with dense, Eastern decorative patterns in dull browns and greens. It meant that the austere feel of their previous ready-to-wear collections remained in Tuesday’s show, heightened by the silhouettes’ high necks and thick fabrics.


Thomas Adamson can be followed at Twitter.com/ThomasAdamsonAP

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