Karl Lagerfeld dressed up the Grand Palais as the world's largest – and probably most expensive – chemical garden for the Chanel show. Clusters of crystals the size of old London phone boxes sprouted from a sparkle-dusted floor.
Chanel is privately owned by the Wertheimer family and reserves the right to ensure any financial figures remain under wraps. But its spectacular revenues are a given. It should come as no great surprise, then, that the clothes, too, were not for shrinking violets.
Models with glossy, slicked-back ponytails and huge glittering eyebrows wore boucle wool parkas with jewel-encrusted hoods, skinny cropped trousers and striped knits, layered one over the other. Here was a grey flannel cap-sleeved ankle-length gilet decorated with what looked like a map of the solar system, there the iconic little black dress, with a bodice finished with hard-edged tiles of mirrored plastic. Some of the accessories were equally striking – even including, in one notable case, a three-year-old child.
If last season, Lagerfeld's message was one of sweetness, for the autumn a tougher aesthetic came to the fore. Colour was almost invariably dark: bottle green, navy, plum, black and shades of grey; embellishment was loud and proud as opposed to fragile and more than a nod to the Eighties came in the form of Lurex and an oversized silhouette.
Then, of course, there were the money-spinning accessories: heavy metal cuffs, the famous quilted 2.55 bag dangling from gilded chains and necklaces finished with lozenges of semi-precious rock all made an appearance. Later in the day, Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pierpaolo Piccioli, designers of the Valentino label, also hardened up the prettiness of their summer collection in favour of something more austere.
Theirs was a subtle shift, however, and a lovely one for that. Soft black leather was finished with frogging and braiding – a nod to the military mood that has been seen elsewhere – but executed with restraint. Cotton dresses in black and Valentino red and with youthful scalloped edges were similarly refined.
If the idea behind employing new talent to reinvent old names is to draw future generations into the fold, then this show was a brilliant demonstration of that. Suffice it to say that all of those young, beautiful and, of course, rich enough to invest in high-end designer fashion would do well to spend their money here.
This autumn's must-have accessory
Everyone knows cute kids can make great accessories, and the three-year-old boy who graced the Chanel catwalk yesterday was no exception.
Despite knowing the dangers of working with children and animals, designers often do – they know it's a surefire way to grab headlines and extra column inches, not to mention lull their audiences into a broody swoon.
For autumn 1999, Alexander McQueen punctuated his autumn snowstorm show with a pair of young, red-headed twins, who only added to the other-worldliness. Last September, the London-based label Meadham Kirchhoff had a troupe of pre-teen ballerinas pirouette along the catwalk before models returned for a finale.
And Jean-Paul Gaultier, always one to take things to extremes, had models walk different breeds of dogs for autumn 2006, as they showed off his priceless pieces.
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