Chanel offers a look to endure

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THE SEVEN ages of the Chanel woman were represented in the audience at Karl Lagerfield's 1999 summer collection at the Modernist Palace to French opera at the Bastille yesterday - from bouffant hair and big gilt sunglasses to Twenties flapper and chic beret-wearing mademoiselle. This collection was for all of them and more - Lagerfeld was introducing clothes for a "new" Chanel woman.

The environment, complete with a techno-pop beat, had set the scene perfectly.

This was a collection of traditional Chanel motifs - the camellia print, the slim, long skirt, the boxy tweed skirt suits threaded with gold, the diaphanous chiffon dresses, not forgetting the bags and shoes, of course - but it was all turned out with tomorrow's world in mind.

It is reassuring to see the total endurance of the Chanel look in fashion. Even the strange moulded handbag, the 2005 (designed to fit the contours of the body or to be used as a groovy pillow), was desirable in baby-pink tweed squashed under the arm of the new Chanel face, Zora Star.

The shoes, too - the traditional flat court with contrasting toe - had moulded silver heels, lending an almost luxury disco feel to the clothes.

Chanel customers will find things to adore: the dusky-rose tweed wrap skirt, for example, with glitter stripes at 90-degree angles, or perhaps the loose black trousers with the extra strip of fabric left swaying at the sides. Silk jersey long skirts with rollover waistbands were also very chic.

For the new generation, there were pretty tutu dresses in puffy taffeta, low-waisted knee-length skirts, leather shells with inside-out seams and shiny nylon pant suits with silver edging.

Once the new generation girl has bought these, with her moulded bag and moulded shoes, her look will bring the French house seamlessly into the millennium.