Lagerfeld looks to the short, sharp and sweet in new Chanel collection

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The Independent Online

It was Karl Lagerfeld's turn to take to the Paris catwalk in his role as creative director of the mighty house of Chanel. As guests filed into the Grand Palais yesterday, now the venue of choice for many of the big, French brands, they were greeted by bright white lights and a dressing room centre stage, duly stamped with a large, interlocking C logo.

The collection itself was short, sharp and sweet. It's no secret that for the more established French labels, the now hugely discerning, fashion-knowledgeable younger customer is of prime importance, and this was clearly aimed in just that direction.

The boucle wool Chanel suit came first in black and white houndstooth check with a tiny, narrow-shouldered jacket and even tinier A-line skirt. A sugar-pink version boasted an equally brief, sleeveless shift dress and cardigan jacket combination.

The little black dress that Coco Chanel herself introduced to the world back in 1926 celebrates its 80th birthday this year. It is perhaps not surprising, then, that the little black dress was more prominent than ever - now uncompromisingly diminutive, indeed littler than ever, with a delicate camisole top and fluttering, silk skirt. Ivory one-piece swimsuits with cute patch pockets at the hip were a newer edition to the Chanel repertoire.

They looked like they were designed for lounging poolside in Saint Tropez. These pieces are distantly related to the traditional athletic suit, the kind you might take for a swim.

And talking of athletic: Chanel sportswear, anyone? Again, the striped, body-conscious minidresses that Lagerfeld proposes his customers wear next season are clearly intended for posing.

The collection from Stefano Pilati, now heading up the equally famous Yves Saint Laurent label, unveiled late the night before was a rather more passionate affair. There were more ideas at play here - and far more colour - than any young woman worth her fashion credentials could ever wish for. Pilati has been extremely creative with his house's esteemed archive. For spring/summer 2007, certain Yves Saint Laurent's collections of the 1970s were plundered, re-thought, and then made all the younger designer's own. An exuberant sychedelic print in brightest violet and dense florals strewn across light-weight cotton apron dresses and ruffled eveningwear were hippy chic at its most refined.

Prim, schoolteacher dresses were cut away at the back, carrying forward the spirit of discrete eroticism the house has always been known for.

Safari jackets, sheer silk chiffon blouses and peasant skirts were all duly given a thoroughly modern makeover. Curvaceous, black-and-white checked dresses, belted tight at the waist were more blatantly bourgeois - and indeed quintessentially Parisian - in flavour.

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