Hole-ridden tweed suits that looked like they'd been devoured by generations of moths opened Chanel's spring-summer 2011 ready-to-wear show today with what seemed like a sly commentary on the French heritage house's amazing staying power.
Today's Chanel, designer Karl Lagerfeld seemed to suggest, remains as timeless as it was decades ago under Mademoiselle Coco: Just dig in your grandmother's trunk, pull out her classic Chanel skirtsuit and you'll look just as hip as the packs of It Girls — like Keira Knightly, Lily Allen and Vanessa Paradis — who flock to the label's shows.
"My grandmother didn't wear Chanel, unfortunately," said British VJ Alexa Cheung, wearing a Chanel dress in blue tweed with a midriff-baring lace panel at the waist. "But hopefully my granddaughters will be able to wear this — though they might be scandalized that their grandmother went around with a bare belly."
Chanel's shows are always a grand spectacle, but today's production — which saw Paris' steel and glass Grand Palais transformed into a chic black-and-white Versailles style garden — was even grander than usual. The models meandered among the fountains and the black hedgerows, their black and navy skirt suits or hotpants contrasting with the crushed gravel in blinding white they crunched underfoot.
Lagerfeld also served up A-line dresses in chiffon with beaded black curlicues that echoed the rounded forms of French gardens. A series of floaty dresses in saturated watercolor print silk injected the collection with a dose of colour, and the ostrich feathers that dangled from hemlines gave it an airy lightness.
Novelty models have been a hot commodity on Paris catwalks, and never to be outdone, Chanel sent out a few — a dashing blond man in a white tweed jacket and jeans with his mini-me, a little boy in a matching outfit, as well as French '80s supermodel Ines de la Fressange. The mother of two teenage daughters said it was the first time she'd walked for Chanel in 21 years.