Bombed out and rebuilt: Lagerfeld’s new couture

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

There is more haute couture in Paris this year than for some time. But is it relevant?

The set for Karl Lagerfeld's latest Chanel haute couture show was a ruined, razed theatre. Several front row seats were occupied by rubble. Admittedly, with that debris crafted from artfully-painted polystyrene, there were shades of Alton Towers to the edifice, erected in the centre of the Grand Palais in Paris. But mostly, it reminded you of those Cecil Beaton portraits of perfectly-poised couture ladies in bombed-out buildings. Michel Gaubert, the man who masterminds the Chanel soundtracks, had another interpretation backstage: “It's quite 'Paris is Burning', non?”

And in a sense, Paris is burning - the old Paris that was dominated by the haute couture. This week, with a couture show by Viktor and Rolf alongside Christian Lacroix's presentation for the house of Schiaparelli, there's more couture than there has been for a decade. Still, the question remains: what is couture's relevance in the modern world? Real clothes for really, really rich women? Or just fashion as theatre?

Considering that Kaiser Karl bombed-out his theatre, we know where he stands creatively. Chanel is also one of the few houses - possibly the only house - to make money through its haute couture operation. Hence, when the curtains parted under the scorched proscenium arch, it revealed a skyline punctuated by glittering modern skyscrapers, whose multi-faceted glass surfaces were in turn reflected in Chanel's sequin-crusted clothes. Square beading and paillettes generated geometric glitter on narrow column dresses and tweed suits, mosaics of decoration mottling the surface. The signature Chanel boater was tilted back to stand almost vertical, its end squared off like a shovel. It was Chanel, sharpened, like the rest of the clothes, even willowy wisps of chiffon given a new edge, scratched with angular embroideries. Low-slung belts on the hip of every other look were a slight misstep. Belt-tightening isn't what Chanel is about, and they messed with Lagerfeld's otherwise long, lean and mean proportion play.

The most interesting thing chez Chanel was the overriding focus on daywear. It's something other couture houses woefully forget. Or maybe it's wilfully: a neat suit doesn't look good on the red carpet, the environment couture seems to be bred for. By contrast, Lagerfeld can make a tweed tailleur as interesting as a beaded ball gown. Ironically, that kind of expertise is distinctly old-school.

Giorgio Armani's Privé collection is also old-school, albeit in a very different way. His school is Italian ready-to-wear, which Mr Armani practically invented in the seventies. Generally it's left his stabs at haute couture a bit dry - after all, the mass-manufactured mass-appeal of Milan was one of the forces that helped decimate the influence of couture. But this season, Armani got to grips with the sensuality that is so integral to haute couture. He called his show 'Nude', which sounds like a make-up palette rather than a fashion show. In fact, it was the cosmetic palette of taupe, blush and a flushed peach sorbet that made the show a winner, that and an unexpectedly masterful hand with a jabot and a touch of sparkle.

Sport
world cup 2014A history of the third-place play-offs
News
Tommy Ramone performing at The Old Waldorf Nightclub in 1978 in San Francisco, California.
peopleDrummer Tommy was last surviving member of seminal band
Life and Style
Swimsuit, £245, by Agent Provocateur
fashion

Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes

Sport
The Mexico chief finally lets rip as his emotions get the better of him
world cup 2014
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebookA wonderful selection of salads, starters and mains featuring venison, grouse and other game
Voices
Spectators photograph the Tour de France riders as they make their way through the Yorkshire countryside
voicesHoward Jacobson: Line the streets for a cycling race? You might just as well watch a swarm of wasps
Life and Style
lifeHere's one answer to an inquisitive Reddit user's question
Life and Style
Several male celebrities have confessed to being on a diet, including, from left to right, Hugh Grant, Benedict Cumberbatch and Ryan Reynolds
...and the weight loss industry is rubbing its hands in glee
News
peopleDave Legeno, the actor who played werewolf Fenrir Greyback in the Harry Potter films, has died
Sport
Mario Balotelli, Divock Origi, Loic Remy, Wilfried Bony and Karim Benzema
transfersBony, Benzema and the other transfer targets
Sport
Yaya Touré has defended his posturing over his future at Manchester City
News
Detail of the dress made entirely of loom bands
news
Life and Style
beauty
Sport
There were mass celebrations across Argentina as the country's national team reached their first World Cup final for 24 years
transfersOne of the men to suffer cardiac arrest was 16 years old
Arts and Entertainment
Armando Iannucci, the creator of 'The Thick of It' says he has
tvArmando Iannucci to concentrate on US show Veep
News
A mugshot of Ian Watkins released by South Wales Police following his guilty pleas
peopleBandmates open up about abuse
Sport
Basketball superstar LeBron James gets into his stride for the Cleveland Cavaliers
sportNBA superstar announces decision to return to Cleveland Cavaliers
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Fashion

    Information Security Manager (ISO 27001, Accreditation, ITIL)

    £70000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Information Security Manager (ISO 27001, A...

    C# Developer (HTML5, JavaScript, ASP.NET, Mathematics, Entity)

    £30000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Developer (...

    C# Integration Developer (.NET, Tibco EMS, SQL 2008/2012, XML)

    £60000 - £80000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Integration...

    Biztalk - outstanding opportunity

    £75000 - £85000 per annum + ex bens: Deerfoot IT Resources Limited: Biztalk Te...

    Day In a Page

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

    Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
    Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

    Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

    In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
    Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

    A writer spends a night on the streets

    Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
    Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

    UK's railways are entering a new golden age

    New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
    Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

    Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

    Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
    Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

    Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

    This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
    Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

    Why did we stop eating whelks?

    Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
    10 best women's sunglasses

    In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

    From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
    Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

    World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

    No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
    Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

    Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

    18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
    The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

    The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

    A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

    The German people demand an end to the fighting
    New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

    New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

    For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
    Can scientists save the world's sea life from

    Can scientists save our sea life?

    By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
    Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

    Richard III review

    Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice