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TONY Blair has decided not to go to the Chelsea Flower Show this year and, frankly, you only need to visit the place to see why. The show is simply not on message. The spin doctors would not approve. It is not cool. It is not even hot. It is, simply, middling as in Middle England.

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IT WAS NOT so much of a fashion show yesterday at Chanel in Paris, but a bag show. The sloppy tweed suits and cloche hats made some of the models look like bag ladies; but the big talking point of the show was the New Chanel Bag.

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getting your rocks off

In 1932, as her country slowly clambered out of economic depression, Coco Chanel held an exhibition of specially crafted diamond jewellery. Despite the show's proceeds being sent to a charity for single mothers, Parisians were (perhaps understandably) outraged by what they saw as Madame's exercise in frivolity. How times change. In early April, the first European Chanel jewellery boutique outside Paris opens in London; though prices will range from pounds 1,500 to in excess of pounds 300,000, it's unlikely that the denizens of Bond Street will blink a heavily mascara'd eyelash - they'll be too busy reaching for the platinum credit cards. For this is a beautifully crafted collection that, despite the flash of a thousand gems, should kill off Chanel jewellery's glitzy, "faux" reputation; some of Coco's original designs will even be on sale again, including the "comet necklace": a chainmail-like affair of 600 diamonds made by the original jeweller's grandson. But be warned - wearing these pieces is a lot more complicated than just splashing on the No 5. During the shoot, our photographer and stylist were accompanied by two extremely serious security guards; so it seems a fair bet you'd need - at the very least - a personal minder before wearing this sort of Chanel in public.

The women who tell you what to wear ...

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House of Chanel is a girl's best friend

Stepping out in style yesterday at the Ritz Hotel in Paris, two models display the latest haute couture creations from the house of Chanel. Security was even tighter than usual at the show, as the company is launching a new line of jewellery in the spring. Tens of thousands of pounds worth of diamonds - including a near-priceless jewel-encrusted comet choker worn by the Scottish model Kirsty Hume - glittered among the featherlight chiffon, feathers and lace. One model, pictured left, wore a creation seemingly made out of thick, twisted white string.

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Fashion: Coat of arms

Ever since Saint Laurent reinvented the military-style coat, designers have raided surplus stores for inspiration. This year, it's the turn of Chanel. Styling by Philippa Duck. Photographs by Desmond Muckian

Ready to wear: YES PLEASE . . .

Last year Chanel's Rouge Noir nail varnish was so immensely popular that it sold out as soon as it hit the shops. This talon polish, in undiluted- Ribena colour, spawned waiting lists, tantrums and tears as ladies who were used to getting whatever they wanted with a wave of their Amex card, were forced to put their names down with everyone else. Next week Chanel launch the Rouge Noir mascara. Billed as "black, reddish purple and brown", it is certainly interesting, unusual and worth a try (it's a limited edition so be warned, once it sells out, that's it), especially if you find black too dramatic and brown too boring. It's rather "globby" however, so you may need to separate those lashes with an eyelash comb after application.

YOU KNOW THE NAME AND THE PACKAGING, BUT CAN YOU IDENTIFY THE SMELL?

We have all heard of Chanel No 5, and most people would recognise the distinctive packaging. But what about the smell? Gina Cowen chose five popular fragrances for a blind testing, and members of the public were invited to identify them.

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