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Chanel’s Haute Expressionist Couture

Godfrey Deeny
July 02nd, 2008 @ 10:53 AM - Paris

The giant, faux aluminum grain silos practically touched the glass roof of the Grand Palais Tuesday, as the haute collection created by Karl Lagerfeld similarly soared to new heights of chic and levels of aesthetic fancy.

Most designers make futurist clothes look retro, recreations of Sixties YV series, not Karl who injected lots of his own signature silhouette into a great Chanel show that came in two distinct parts – a gutsy, sexy opening for day crammed with great First Date clothes, the sort of cool French gear guys dream of meeting a beautiful new girlfriend in, and a splendid series of phantasmagorical dresses where the Chanel atelier showed it has no rival when it comes to sewing and embroidering the unique.

There is a great deal of arrant, half-witted rot written about how Karl Lagerfeld’s own signature collection, which is usually described as German expressionist, never quite measures up to his ideas for Chanel. Here his very Teutonic shapes, curvilinear lines recalling Zeppelins or Bauhaus stairways, made for a thoroughly fresh take on couture.

This was a great fashion moment which reminded us of the relevance of couture, as a locomotive of ideas, for the lines and finish of this collection will be picked over and copied and mimicked worldwide, even if nothing will compare to the original.

Karl curved shoulders, grew mini buttresses around the hips and bubbled up hemlines, mimicking the giant set, which wowed the crowd as they sat down in the sun drenched space. “Don’t you like my organ pipes,” cracked Lagerfeld post show.

He developed a great new grid-like fabric for coats and jackets, layering it over the house’s signature wool boucle. And we’d hate to be a heterosexual reductionist, but one look, a lilac Space Age wool dress on Russian supe Natasha Poly, was the sort set any guys pulse racing.

Quite a few of the dresses were, literally, hard to walk in as Karl cut them curvy at the hips but tight just above the knee, but the effect visually was great.

For evening; the bizarre additions of picture frames as headgear – we kid you not – was way too much. But once again the image was remarkable. And, if the spaghetti extensions of some dresses recalled Sci-Fi monsters grabbing a woman around the throat, the remarkable cascades of glass beading on the final looks could only have been by Karl’s "petit mains" in the sewing backroom of Chanel.

Welcome to the New Expressionism.

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