Chanel casts aside French chic for a taste of Americana

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The Independent Online

It seems nothing if not perverse that, just when fashion is turning to classic French chic for inspiration, Karl Lagerfeld's collection for Chanel, shown in Paris yesterday morning, looked instead to America.

Dollar signs on sweaters and ties for the men and star-spangled navy blue dresses, either cinched at the waist with red and white stripes or worn under a red and white blazer, for the girls suggested that the clothes were doing just that.

Perhaps Lagerfeld – who chose to offer up a Beach Boys soundtrack to clinch the Stateside mood – had Victoria Beckham's move to the West Coast in mind. She took pride of place once again in the front row. Regardless, it was a peculiar gesture and one that didn't stop there.

Chanel denim – swimwear, sun dresses and a cropped jacket with reassuringly large epaulettes, some of it printed with the classic Chanel quilting – also paid lip service to this mindset. It looked very cute, in fact, and teaming the iconic Chanel bouclé wool jacket (in red and white stripes again) with a pair of jeans is what the younger Chanel customer has been doing for years.

The little black dress was, as always, all present and correct. It looked sweet standing away from the body slightly in organdy and more femme fatale when it was finished with metal eyelets with long strings of pearls threaded through.

In a season that has established the classic Chanel 2.55 gilt-chained handbag as the accessory for the fashion follower to be seen carrying, there was no shortage of updated versions. The quilted black lambskin purse that Gabrielle Chanel gave the world in February 1955 (hence the name) this time came positively huge with a brass-edged porthole (yes, a porthole) set into one side, presumably so that madam can see where her phone is when it rings and such like.

Equally extreme were diminutive interpretations – just big enough for a lipstick and a 50 euro note, say – that were attached to the ankle straps of platform-soled shoes. Good for going out dancing? Perhaps, although practicality is unlikely to be the issue here.

More stars at Stefano Pilati's show for that other monumental French brand, Yves Saint Laurent, showcasing quite the most vertiginous spike-heeled sandals of the week so far. Pilati has been designing this label for some time – he recently signed a new contract – and is fast re-establishing it as one of the world's most fashionable names.

In particular, this was a collection that was a showcase for the most brilliant tailoring spring/summer 2008 season, at least some of it crafted in nothing more haute than grey marl. More Americana, then, but it was the final, and more upscale, inky black interpretation that was indebted to M. Saint Laurent's classic "le smoking" tuxedo that ultimately stole the show.

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