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Sunday, July 15, 2012

Get tomorrow's 'vintage' today at Chanel couture

With elongated silhouettes, skirts cut "a hand above the knee" and slender dresses slashed open or cut low at the back, Karl Lagerfeld dubbed the look "New Vintage" in a nod to the fashionista appetite for collector Chanel.

Models walk the runway during the Chanel Haute-Couture show as part of Paris Fashion Week Fall / Winter 2012/13 at the Grand Palais on July 3, 2012 in Paris, France.

Bohemian belles in feathers and sparkling faux-tweed glided past the white wicker tables of an old world spa as Chanel put its own spin on the vintage craze at the Paris haute couture shows on Tuesday.

Chanel's designer Karl Lagerfeld took over a disused wing of Paris' Grand Palais exhibition hall -- his venue of choice -- with a decor of black-and-white sketched doors and a giant fresco meant to suggest a genteel thermal resort.

British style icon Alexa Chung and top model Laetitia Casta were among the famous faces at the early morning show, with the director Sofia Coppola and the actress Diane Kruger due at a second seating.

Bejewelled crochet snoods on their hair, Chanel's women stepped out in daysuits of glittering faux tweed -- virtuoso creations each some 3,000 hours in the making, crafted from wool, tulle and pearls.

With elongated silhouettes, skirts cut "a hand above the knee" and slender dresses slashed open or cut low at the back, Lagerfeld dubbed the look "New Vintage" in a nod to the fashionista appetite for collector Chanel.

Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images

"My own suits from 30 years ago, you can buy them like vintage now," the German designer told reporters after the show, white hair in his trademark ponytail, black suit and shades, and clutching his iPhone in one hand.

"'New Vintage' is a proposition for something that could last -- at least I hope so," he said. "This is the same attitude, the same spirit, the same name, same concept -- but something for our time."

"Vintage -- but it's not vintage yet. You can have it before it's vintage!" quipped the spirited designer. "Plus, 'New Vintage' has a nice ring to it!"

Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images

So tomorrow's collector, Tuesday's show suggested, would pair his Chanel suits and gowns with glittery silver tights, metal-tipped heels, leather-like sheaths covering the wrist and cupping the hand by way of gloves.

For the day, Lagerfeld played with shades of grey lifted by touches of pink "but never 'shocking', I leave that to other houses".

Come cocktail time, his palette turned darker, introducing glossy blacks and flashes of mat silver, like on a metallic-looking gown with fuchsia pink highlights at the neck, waist and hem.

Wispy ostrich feathers adorned a sheer white blouse, tucked into wide-leg white pants, the feather embroidery repeated on a full length cape over a black-and-white dress.

The skill of Chanel's craft ateliers was on ample display in feather-light pastel evening gowns, embroidered with fluttering feathers, cupped flowers or in one case dozens of little rabbit-tail pom-poms.

Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images

And for the finale, the bride -- as per the couture custom -- stepped out in a fully feathered gown, a pale pink bow at the back of its sweeping skirts, and a ruff of feathers softly framing her face.

So how long before the new collection can be stamped as vintage, with the prestige and premium that applies? Ten years?

"In fashion the future is six months," Lagerfeld mused.

He also let slip a few comments on the debut collection of Dior's new designer Raf Simons on Monday, which itself mined a retro seam inspired by the "architecture" of Christian Dior's iconic 1950s silhouettes.

While the look "could have done with incubating a little longer," Lagerfeld said Simons was, in his view, the best candidate for the top design job, where he succeeded the disgraced John Galliano.

Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images

"There is simply no one else out there," he said. "So it's a good thing."

Catering to no more than 200 of the world's richest women, haute couture is a protected appellation in France, awarded based on strict criteria such as the amount of work carried out by hand and in-house.

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