Chanel turns 100, as McQueen turns Elizabethan

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Associated Press

Posted on March 5, 2013 at 7:04 PM

Updated Tuesday, Mar 5 at 7:07 PM

PARIS (AP) — A hundred years ago, the legendary Coco Chanel opened her first boutique in the Normandy seaside town of Deauville. Today, the boutiques number 300 and Chanel spans the globe.

Karl Lagerfeld celebrated this century's skirt-suited success story Tuesday with an incredible Paris collection that had journalists gawping at an enormous globe right under the Grand Palais exhibition hall's glass roof.

Dotting the sphere were 300 Chanel flags, each representing a boutique.

"The spirit of the show was Chanel's globalization," Lagerfeld said.

But was the fall-winter 2013-14 show also a celebration of the German-born designer? He celebrates three decades at the creative helm this year, during which he's overseen the transformation of Chanel into a truly global empire.

"I can be very happy... When I started we had three or four (boutiques) 30 years ago," Lagerfeld said. "But it's not an ego trip. Psychoanalysis kills creativity."

At a combined age of around 180 years old, it looks like there's no stopping either Lagerfeld or Chanel. "Look," he said pointing at an empty part of the globe. "There is still space left."

CHANEL

The show's 79 varied looks brimmed with ideas, classic and new, and showed that the designer in his late 70s is still a creative force to be reckoned with.

Models, including Stella Tennant, walked around the circular globe runway sporting stylish new winter concepts in tones of blue, gray, purple, pink and black.

Zippable leather leg sheaths — like leggings that start at the thigh and end at the ankle — were warm but allowed thighs to be exposed. And coat silhouettes were cut away squarely in the middle of thighs so legs are visible even on those cold December days.

"It's romantic. I loved the coats," said actress Milla Jovovich, from the front row. "It's early 20th-century Coco, but he's made it uber-modern."

Chained black biker boots also made the show fresh. Yet some great pink knitwear looks, revamped classic skirt-suits and a black tweed coat with two layers ensured the core clientele weren't left behind.

ALEXANDER MCQUEEN

Rebelling against the age of austerity, Alexander McQueen turned to the embellished excess of England's Elizabeth I.

Held in the marble interiors of Paris' Opera Comique, this show was an intimate presentation owing to designer Sarah Burton's maternity leave, with just 10 looks.

But when it's delivered with the fastidious density of Alexander McQueen, 10 creations are more than enough to have an impact.

The black-and-white dresses had regal pearl visors, and ruffs and Elizabethan furbelows and played with the hard, severe structures and cinched waists of last season's accomplished homage to the queen bee, as well as some softer voluminous ensembles.

Tuesday's show showed that Burton had read into her fashion history, with the black looks referencing the Spanish renaissance's royal infanta— and then subverting it, making pearls look like metal rocker studs.

Other pearl patterns were designed to the form of gothic stained glass windows.

But for all the excellent workmanship, much of the collection looked like costume design and sometimes lost its subversive message through sheer theatrical excess.

HERMES

Hermes pared down the energy of last season for fall-winter 2013-14 in what was a more classical, intimate ready-to-wear affair.

High waists and furs gave proceedings a glamorous edge, with models sporting Greta Garbo waves in their hair.

Long tan coats thrown nonchalantly over shoulders and rich capes slightly alluded to a mystery — evoked also in the show setting.

Guests were led up wonky stairs into a sprawling wooden library. Initially, it felt like an Hercule Poirot murder mystery. Models in the 38 looks in mainly gray, brown and black snaked in and out of the guests, who sat comfortably drinking old-school spritzers.

As ever, Hermes is synonymous with luxury — seen here in full-grain leather, cashmeres, and sumptuous linens. But somehow the vibrancy of last season seemed muted.

VALENTINO

It was the white collars and sublime colors of Vermeer's masterpiece "The Girl with the Pearl Earring" on the mood board for Valentino.

Using the Flemish masters as a starting point, designers Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pierpaolo Piccioli delivered a more varied silhouette than last season in vase, trapeze, tulip and column-shaped. It was a welcome change.

Short-skirts and some sporty looks with a cool circular edge pattern in red, pale pink, green and blue signaled a slight relaxing for the house known for its austere edge.

But this is Valentino, and the high white Flemish-style collar and frequent full-length sleeves ensured this was not forgotten.

Still, not all the looks worked. A red dress with white fur collar looked overly theatrical — but this was unimportant, given the show's rich pickings.

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Thomas Adamson can be followed at http://Twitter.com/ThomasAdamsonAP

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