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Chanel goes aquatic as Vuitton channels ancien regime rock chic

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Karl Lagerfeld built a huge waterfall and flooded the vast Grand Palais for his spectacular Chanel show Tuesday, the final day of Paris Fashion Week.

[PARIS] Karl Lagerfeld built a huge waterfall and flooded the vast Grand Palais for his spectacular Chanel show Tuesday, the final day of Paris Fashion Week.

The veteran designer sent out an army of "water nymphs" and modish mermaids in glittering white and blue-green outfits along a catwalk that snaked over a 85-metre-long recreation of the Gorges du Verdon in the mountains of Provence, where Chanel grows the jasmine and May rose flowers that go into its perfumes.

This was the life aquatic with big raindrop earrings, scalloped skirts, jellyfish and glitterball bags, and dripping mother of pearl dresses that created their own personal rainbows in the shimmering light.

Yet what no one could take their eyes off were the thigh-high transparent PVC boots.

If the Duchess of Cambridge or Kim Kardashian need to look elegant the next time they go fishing for pike, Lagerfeld has just the waders for them.

In fact the German-born creator went PVC crazy, throwing in enough see-through rain hats, hoods and even elbow-length evening gloves to keep his well-heeled customers dry during a hurricane.


Scared of being caught by a sudden summer shower in your US$10,000 dress?

Lagerfeld had just the thing - see-through, crystal-encrusted plastic raincoats and capes, though much more sophisticated and expensive than the ones your granny would slip into her trolley bag on a thundery day.

Like Balenciaga, the other aristocratic brand - which this week sought to bring Crocs sandals rapidly upmarket - Lagerfeld too seemed on a mission to rehabilitate the much maligned see-though mac.

Led by Cindy Crawford's 16-year-old daughter Kaia Gerber, Lagerfeld defied talk about his advanced years by sending out 88 looks, which may or may not have been a sly joke about his age.

The creator, who is notoriously coy about his age, believed to be 84, embraced youth in a big way, with a collection aimed strongly at millennials and Generation Z trendsetters as much as Chanel's ladies-who-lunch customer base.

Lagerfeld was even thinking ahead to Generation Alpha by putting his eight-year-old godson Hudson Kroenig - who made his catwalk debut way back in 2012 - on the runway.

With an eye clearly on Chanel's growing Asian following, he had two huge South Korean K-pop stars, G-Dragon - sporting fire-engine red hair - and actress and singer Park Shin Hye in the front row alongside supermodel mother Crawford blushing with pride.

Those see-through hats and boots may yet be just the thing for Asia's tropical showers.


But for sheer jaw-dropping impact, the shrewd American avant-gardist Thom Browne pulled the plug on Chanel's 15-metre waterfalls with his first women's show in Paris.

In a week when models' size came under the microscope after Kering and LVMH, the two big luxury conglomerates, banned ultrathin models from their shows, Browne sent out fatsuit dresses resembling the fleshy forms of the ancient Anatolian mother goddess, Cybele, and the "Hottentot Venus".

The fact that both models were in ballet pointes added another layer of magical strangeness.

It was the first of many Wow moments in a show that began with "dream weavers", their heads encased in bubbles of tulle, preparing the way for his postmodern mermaids, preppies who might have come straight from "The Munsters" and alieniod creations that gave new meaning to turtleneck.

It ended with a unicorn and a couple of the dream weavers sleeping in a bed next to the rings of Saturn.

No such silliness at Louis Vuitton, the label of preference for France's first lady Brigitte Macron. In keeping with her husband's monarchical bent, designer Nicolas Ghesquiere channelled Versailles with ancien regime 18th-century tailcoats which he matched with silk sports shorts.

While these richly embroidered tops were in the palace, feet were firmly in the street with trainer-style shoes to complement the brand's rock-chic sports and evening wear.

That the starry show, with Hollywood stars Cate Blanchett and Julianne Moore in the front row, took place under the Louvre Museum in the moat of the medieval seat of the French kings, reinforcing the message that these were clothes for the new elite.


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