PARIS: While most other fashion designers may settle for the usual trappings of their business – a dark room, straight runway and phalanx of bored-looking models – Karl Lagerfeld likes to have fun.
For Chanel’s haute couture collection in Paris this week, creative director Lagerfeld presented no less than an orchestra, a revolving stage, two curving staircases and over 60 suits and dresses in sorbet shades for Spring/Summer 2014.
Under the soaring ceiling of the Grand Palais, the rapt audience was treated to a frothy and oh-so-chic spectacle as models in sparkly sneakers skipped down the stairs to musical accompaniment.
“To give to very expensive, handmade, beautiful crafted clothes ... an attitude of something everybody wears in daily life, that brings couture, in a way, to reality,” Lagerfeld said after the show, explaining the choice of footwear.
Silhouettes were cinched at the waist – no overeating for Chanel wearers this season – with corset skirts under cropped jackets in creamy pale ivories, lavenders and even a shocking Pepto Bismol pink.
A tight waist of black sparkles dramatically separated four tiers of pleated ruffles in metallic dove gray silk on the bodice of a dress from another ruffled cascade at the hem.
In pairing sneakers with the highly embellished haute couture looks, Lagerfeld gave a nod to the prevalence of sportswear and displayed his trademark sense of humor.
Models emerged from an entrance at the crest of the double staircase wearing silver elbow – and kneepads – presumably to fend off the hoards of women willing to kill for such an outfit.
The Paris shows, which run until Friday, are a prestigious showcase for a select group of couture houses whose garments are meticulously hand-sewn by highly skilled artisans.
Haute couture – which due to its prohibitive cost is worn by only a few hundred of the richest women around the world – has a minimal effect on a luxury brand’s sales, but it is a major marketing driver for the $275 billion global luxury industry. Privately owned Chanel does not disclose financial results.
The tried and true design motifs from the House of Chanel such as Peter Pan collars, black bows at the neck, crisp white cuffs and knubby fabrics all made an appearance this season, but there was not a pearl in sight.
Lagerfeld interrupted his decidedly pretty collection of elegant looks for Spring/Summer with a dose of show-stopping dresses that managed to be both avant-garde and beautiful.
Combining turquoise, purple and black plumes with glittery tulle and thickly embellished fabric, the spiky, sparkly dresses turned their wearers into psychodelic punk hedgehogs – very glam ones, of course.
Another featured an iridescent sheer man-made fabric that resembled chic Saran Wrap.
Hair was spiky and worn in a tuft above the crown.
“I like the idea of something wild,” Lagerfeld said. “There’s a kind of fantasy up there.”
Lagerfeld played with lengths and fabrics, offering a long narrow pink jacket with tiered bands of sequins worn with skinny trousers, mid-thigh hotpants paired with a gamine and modest long sleeved top and a series of sheer dresses.
“There is a second dress, all embroidered and sequined, under the first dress. They look completely naked. But they’re not,” Lagerfeld said.
Paris fashion week has already seen a crisp, clean and elegant Dior show, punctuated by oversized eyelet silk, while Atelier Versace gave a nod to 1980s singer Grace Jones with hoods and draped silk jersey dresses in chartreuse and purple.
But the most eagerly awaited ticket was Monday’s debut collection of Marco Zanini at the head of the resuscitated Schiaparelli, the couture house of the 1930s doyenne of Paris fashion, Elsa Schiaparelli.