Chanel casts off crumbling old world at Paris fashion

Chanel casts off crumbling old world at Paris fashion

Chanel designer Karl Lagerfeld on Tuesday conjured up his vision of the future in a dilapidated life-size theatre where the curtain rose to reveal the gleaming skyline of an imaginary city and a modernist couture collection.

German fashion designer Karl Lagerfeld (C) acknowledges the public with models at the end of the Chanel Haute Couture Fall-Winter 2013/2014 collection show, on July 2, 2013 at the Grand Palais in Paris.

At a time when couture houses are increasingly looking to Asia, in particular China where they are winning new, deep-pocketed customers, Lagerfeld said he wanted to stress "the contrast between the old world that is crumbling and the new one".

Celebrities including pop singer Rihanna, "The Great Gatsby" director Baz Luhrmann and Taiwanese model and actress Lin Chi-ling picked their way past piles of rubble to reach their seats in Lagerfeld's "old world" theatre built specially for the show at Paris's vast Grand Palais.

With smashed columns, peeling plaster, mould-streaked walls and twisted metal all around, the sound of opera faded away and the tattered stage curtain rose to reveal Lagerfeld's brave "new world".

Looks for autumn 2013/winter 2014 came in a palette of mostly grey, black and white with lots of tweed suits woven with metallic thread, short skirts with layered hemlines and wide belts. For evening, meanwhile, there were dresses in geometric prints.

Asked about the clothes, the German couturier said it was difficult to explain. "I had a vision. I put it on paper and made it, you know...."

But he highlighted hair arranged to look as if the top of the head was square, "stocking shoes", fixed like stockings with garter, and jackets with "shoulders like men's jackets but tight like dress sleeves".

Commenting on the collection's sparkle, he added that it was "not glum glitter... more stardust glitter, I hope".

Styles were comfortable and easy to wear, he added.

"I hate uncomfortable clothes... but they can be impeccable, clean, classic (and also comfortable). You don't have to be sloppy to be comfortable," he said.

Other celebrities at the show included French former Chanel model Ines de la Fressange. US actress Kristen Stewart was also at a second show held later in the day.

Lagerfeld's latest collection comes as the Chanel couture house marks the 100th anniversary of the opening of Gabrielle 'Coco' Chanel's first shop in Deauville in the summer of 1913.

Today the label, whose founder died in 1971, has 300 outlets including 185 boutiques in cities such as Sao Paulo, Calgary, New Delhi, Istanbul and Brisbane.

Haute couture earns its exclusivity from its status as a protected appellation with strict criteria governing the amount of work carried out by hand and the number of pieces produced.

It exists only in Paris and is sustained by a small number of the world's richest women.

In recent years, however, it has been attracting customers in countries with newly-wealthy elites from Brazil to China via Singapore and Russia.

Christian Dior chief Sidney Toledano on Monday told AFP haute couture was continuing its recent expansion in many countries.

"The Americans are coming back strongly and the clientele is getting younger," he said after the Dior couture show by designer Raf Simons.

Simons' collection was full of multicultural looks that clearly acknowledged the geographical shift in couture's customer base.

"Haute couture is no longer something for old women. We are selling to lots of women in their thirties," Toledano added.

According to recent market research by the Digital Luxury Group, Chanel recently displaced Louis Vuitton as the most sought-after brand in China.

Four days of haute couture collections will wrap on Thursday.

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