Chanel takes its first steps on the British catwalk

The result was truly mesmerising. Carola Long reports

Roll out the black and white carpet. The iconic fashion house Chanel, famed for its monochromatic colour scheme, held a catwalk show in London for the first time ever yesterday.

The Maisons d'Art collection was marked by a party on Wednesday night, attended by Kylie and Claudia Schiffer of Monaco, and followed by two fashion shows yesterday. After this week's glamorous events, that famous interlocking C logo could easily stand for champagne and celebrities or, given the prices of the label's designs, credit cards.

All these ingredients were in play at the show yesterday, where a blow-dryed and manicured crowd clad mostly in Chanel and virtually all in black and white sipped champagne and nibbled Laduree macaroons before watching Karl Lagerfeld and Naomi Campbell sweep inside.

The Maisons d'Art collection was established in 2002 to celebrate the decorative craftsmanship of the couture ateliers bought by Chanel in the same year. Until they were acquired by the iconic Paris fashion house, these workshops were struggling for survival and their expert technicians, known as les petites mains, were at risk of vanishing forever.

Lagerfeld's masterfully restrained opulence proved why he has become such a legendary figure since assuming the top job at Chanel 25 years ago. True, the jewelled crucifixes adorning shoes and coats looked as if they could have been looted from the altar of an ornate church, but against the signature Chanel palette of monastic black and white, they struck just the right note of drama. The gothic-romantic feel of the show was enhanced by model, and former girlfriend of Pete Doherty, Irina Lazareneau's haunting live soundtrack. Goth-rock garments, such as long leather skirts, trenchcoats and ropes of black and white pearls, were lightened by romantic pieces such as a softly voluminous cream silk tunic with star-patterned lace trim.

The "Paris-Londres" show, as this collection was called, acknowledged the influence of "English chic," on Coco Chanel, and featured Union Jack-design handbags with the label's signature chain handle.

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