Fashion emperor's new clothes

Click to follow
The Independent Online
ONE MORE step for mankind; one more giant step for Karl Lagerfeld. The king of Paris fashion never does things by half: no fewer than 80 models tramped down what seemed like a mile-long catwalk at the Chanel autumn/winter 2000 show in Paris yesterday.

The clothes were no less expansive than the show's setting, from ultra- sharp modernity to country-estate chic to lavish eveningwear. Lagerfeld faced the millennial issue head-on with metallic leather skirts, outsized silver chain belts and knife-sharp seaming details on that most modern of fabrics and the season's favourite - felted wool.

As ever, he encompassed the trends of the moment: shearling was cut into neat waist-length jackets; a cape-coat appeared in chocolate-coloured leather and butter- soft tan suede, along with fine colourful tweed, were given the all-important modern Chanel spin, in body-sculpted shell tops and body-skimming skirts. Lagerfeld knows his customer through and through.

He is also obviously aware of what Chanel sells best: handbags. So, with one eye on commercialism and the other looking to the future, he offered quilted skirts that mimicked the quilted Chanel handbag.

He also cleverly incorporated the much-maligned Chanel 2001 bag - the futuristic ergonomic design, which took almost two years to create - but this time around it looked more accessible in soft cream wool.

When Lagerfeld took over as honcho of Chanel, the most prestigious of all fashion houses, he poked fun at the history of the label by brandishing the linked-C logo on everything from moonboots to a milk-bottle-top-sized bikini bra. In more recent seasons he took the label right back to its roots, paying homage to the great Coco Chanel. Then, again last season, the modern image-maker moved the look into the sportswear arena - another sign that the designer had his finger firmly on the pulse. Some put these changes down to the influence of his new muse at the time, Amanda Harlech, whom Lagerfeld poached from John Galliano, but while Harlech has undoubtedly had great impact on Chanel's recent evolution, it is Lagerfeld at the end of the day who decides whether to implement new ideas of those who surround him.

His talent is in being able to decipher current moods while retaining a sense of the great Chanel history - and this season that is exactly what he achieved.