Chanel show: 13,000 flowers on one outfit, 1,300 hours of work for another

Karl’s Lagerfeld’s latest couture show for Chanel showed exactly why he is such a fashion legend. Today’s spring/summer 2010 collection presented the skills of the Parisian ateliers to perfection, whilst retaining an impressive lightness of touch. With all the beads, bows and jewels in Paris at your disposal it takes a disciplined designer to use them judiciously.

Dubbed Neon Baroque, the collection fused futuristic metallics, pastels, flashes of acid colour and richly decorative flourishes. The British fashion pin-up Alexa Chung, model Claudia Schiffer and singer Kanye West were amongst audience members - many impeccably attired in Chanel - who sat on silver sofas surrounded by tall columns of candy-coloured neon lights.

As the first model took to the catwalk it was clear that this was going to be a strong collection. The classic Chanel tweed suit was reworked with shorts instead of a skirt, and this twist gave it a fresh, youthful appeal. The suits came in pastels, such as baby pink or lilac, acid hues such as lime, and metallic silver versions, while shorts made from frilly tulle added a flirtatious touch.

Shorts suits were followed by cleanly tailored shift dresses with a Sixties feel in pistachio, baby pink, acid yellow and pale peach, while details such as beaded and jewelled collars added glamour. The eveningwear was a particular highlight. Elegantly loose column dresses in the palest shell pink silk came with sophisticated decoration. Long strings of Coco Chanel’s much loved pearls trailed from the side of one gown with silver lame at the neck, while others had mercury-coloured sleeves or embellishments made from sequins, crystals and pearls embroidered into curlicue patterns.

While Lagerfeld’s design aesthetic was woven into the whole show, there were also wry motifs which reflected his own dress sense, such as jewelled silver gloves and a silk evening dress incorporating a high white shirt collar and wide black tie.

Other accessories included silver sci-fi boots fit for a baroque Barbarella. Boasting pearls around the platform sole and intricately sculpted killer heels, some pairs took over 30 hours of work by the shoemakers at Massaro, one of the five couture ateliers that Chanel bought in 2002 - they now have six - to ensure their continued survival.

It’s not just the prices that are dizzying at couture; the time and volume of individual details that it takes to create these dream dresses are equally remarkable; one dress and jacket featured over 13,000 satin flowers. The final wedding gown, with a veil that resembled a fine mist of net, took 1300 hours of work in the atelier, and its cape featured 200 metres of tulle and silk. Even a groom in a silver leather suit couldn’t distract from such an exquisite effusion of detail and imagination.

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