Lagerfeld Simplifies, McQueen Evolves in Paris

From Karl Lagerfeld’s take on “The Simple Life,” with a rustic chic collection at Chanel to Alexander McQueen’s history of life and the universe in 30 cocktail dresses, Paris’ spring-summer 2010 ready-to-wear collections had something for everyone.

Lagerfeld showed he’s back on the top of his form with a mega-production that had models in new variations on Chanel’s classic tweed skirt suits emerge from a giant haystack and also included a roll in the hay by a strapping male model and two of his female counterparts and a mini-concert by British pop sensation Lily Allen, who emerged mid-show from a trapdoor beneath a pile of straw.

But still, it was brooding British designer McQueen’s show — a brilliant sartorial synthesis on the theory of evolution — that stole the day. With reptiles and aquatic creatures to mammals and on to space creatures and finally nebulae and star systems, McQueen grappled with the big questions of ‘Where do we come from?’ and ‘Where are we going?’

Valentino’s new design duo continued to sharpen their vision of the Valentino woman, delivering a delicate show that was all shadows and transparency.

Both were things that Chloe could have used a lot more of. The Paris-based house, normally known for its feathery romanticism, served up a seasonally confused collection of toasty blanket coats and nubby ponchos.

The collection notes mentioned the Chloe consumer’s “trans-seasonal wardrobe reflect(ing) her nomadic spirit,” but that sounded hollow to the packed audience of fashion editors, journalists and buyers who were schvitzing inside the hothouse-like tent where the show was held and fanning themselves with the said collection notes.

Punchy French designer Jean-Charles de Castelbajac looked to tropical pirates for a collection that just might turn the rhinestone-encrusted eye patch into the new must-have accessory.

Paris’ displays mostly wrap up on Wednesday, when the last of the big-name shows are to take place. French luxury and leather goods powerhouses Hermes and Louis Vuitton, Prada’s secondary line Miu Miu, Dior designer John Galliano’s signature line, red carpet favorite Elie Saab and fanciful Kenzo are all up on Wednesday.


The barn is the last place you’d expect to find a Chanel girl, but models at the luxury superpower’s show came popping out of an enormous haystack dressed in what the French might dub “chic rustique.”

Wearing linen skirt suits and dresses covered with delicate lace, some with gilded chaffs of wheat in their loosely coifed chignons, the models paraded around the centerpiece — a wooden barn festooned with flowers.

And if that weren’t spectacle enough, British pop sensation Lily Allen emerged from beneath a pile of hay with a band to play a jaunty rendition of her hit “Not Fair” — accompanied by two lip-synching models.

It was like a trip to the world’s chicest county fair.

“I’m from the country, darling,” Lagerfeld told The Associated Press in an interview next to the giant haystack, which looked — and smelled — as if it had just been plucked off an Alsatian farm.

“I hear all this talk about organic farming and the environment and things, and I’m all for it. But there must be a certain sophistication, so it’s not used as an excuse to let things go to seed,” he said.

Not a chance. Lagerfeld once again proved he’s an inexhaustible wellspring of creativity, coming up with infinite variations on the house’s trademark tweed skirt suit, this time in straw-colored tweed and linen. There were also wide-cut linen trousers with gold buttons up the outside seam and little cocktail dresses with bell-shaped skirts. A tan sheath dress was covered by a layer of what looked like woven rattan.

Lagerfeld, never one to neglect his accessories, milked the country theme for all it was worth, sending out handbags shaped like gilded egg baskets and high-heeled clogs worn with trompe l’oeil tights, meant to look like ribbon winding up the models’ legs.

And as if to prove the simple life is not as rustic as city-dwellers tend to imagine it, the girls plucked their Blackberries from a purse made from two attached mini quilted bags — sure to be a hit — as they traipsed around the earthen catwalk.

The star-studded show — with front-row guests including singer Prince and models Natalia Vodinanova and Claudia Schiffer — ended with a literal romp in the hay when Baptiste, Lagerfeld’s favored male model of the moment, collapsed in a pile of straw to nuzzle two women models.


It’s not everyday you can say with certainty “now, that’s a fashion show that Charles Darwin would have liked.” But McQueen’s tour de force collection — a sort of “Origin of Species” in a few dozen cocktail dresses — would undoubtedly have garnered a standing ovation from the father of the theory of evolution.

It all started with reptiles: Models perched on impossibly high platform booties that were convex through the top of the foot, their hair a serpent’s den of cornrows, wore short dresses in snakeskin-light chiffon printed with the scales of copperheads and cobras.

Exquisite pleating created strange and wonderful volumes on the shoulders, sleeves and hips — which were worked with an almost courtly savoir faire. Bubbly metallic paneling on some of the dresses glinted like scales.

Then came the winged creatures, owls and insects, whose markings morphed into hallucinatory prints on the feathery chiffon.

Next up, aquatic creatures. The palette shifted from rusty browns and mustardy yellows to a spectrum of blues, purples and grays. Along with the dresses, we got deep-sea gear, with neoprene layered over shimmering microfibers. The booties, embellished with metalwork, glimmered darkly, like an oil spill.

Two gravity-defying peaks, like sleek, aerodynamic antennae, replaced the snaky cornrows. Like super-evolved future humans, the girls grew fleshy ridges on their temples.

Then McQueen went intergalactic, sending out girls who looked like distant nebulae, naked but for a cloud of metallic fabric that swirled around their hips and up their midriffs.

And finally, a star cluster? A dress and matching leggings covered with blinding gold bubbles closed the show.

It was breathtaking, and filled with too much fine work and too many grand references to take in at once.

Not only the most ambitious show yet of Paris’ ready-to-wear displays, McQueen’s sartorial synthesis of evolution was also the most brilliant.


Like the tenuous light from a flickering candle, the Valentino collection of nude tulle and antique lace was all shadows and transparency.

Designers Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pier Paolo Piccioli, who took over from Valentino’s successor less than a year after the maestro’s retirement in early 2008, continued to polish their own vision of the Valentino woman.

“She’s kind of a delicate, romantic contemporary fairy princess who’s walking in this digital enchanted garden, wearing blossoms, with this sense of lightness … but also with the darkness,” Piccioli told reporters in a backstage interview after the show.

Translated from the “Fashion-ese,” that meant the duo’s aim was to infuse looks built out of the most delicate of fabrics — sheer mesh, lace and featherweight chiffon — with a sense of darkness and mystery.

The cocktail dresses were a delicate swirl of lace and stiff, oversized ruffles in the front, with nude backs and short pouffy skirts. Standouts included a jacket in translucent silk covered with silken rosebuds — a Valentino hallmark — and a jumpsuit in sheer black silk.


The seasons were out of whack at Chloe.

Inside the show it was a sauna, but on the catwalk it felt like the dead of winter, with models sporting heavy woolen blanket coats and snug Ralph Lauren-esque fall tweeds.

The collection, by designer Hannah MacGibbon, cannibalized heavily on last season’s offerings, nubby ponchos and oversized man’s blazers which didn’t look at all out of place on a fall-winter catwalk. But for spring-summer?

Even the color palette — neural hues of putty, moss, khaki and ivory — had an autumnal feeling about it.

The best pieces were the diaphanous dresses that came at the end of the show, right when the audience of sweat-covered fashionistas was fast approaching heat stroke.

The ankle-length dresses, in featherweight plissed chiffon, were pure Chloe: casual, girly, romantic and light — and just the opposite of the dense, heavy pieces the audience had just sweated through.


The king of theme collections hit on a veritable treasure trove with this season’s “pirates, parrots and paradise.”

It’s probably safe to say that never has a catwalk seen so many rhinestone-covered eye patches or stuffed parrots as graced Castelbajac’s on Tuesday.

Even the catwalk was dressed up to look like an ocean with shark fins poking out of the water.

Castelbajac, who last season delivered a Muppet-themed collection, this time substituted primary-colored macaws, swimming sharks and creatures of the South Seas for Kermit the Frog and Miss Piggy.

“It was about a combination between French elegance and exoticism of a world that has already disappeared,” the dapper Frenchman told The AP in a backstage interview. “If you go to Tahiti now, it’s no longer as we imagine it, so there’s a bit of nostalgia for this lost, ideal past.”

The result was a zany collection of eye-popping — sometimes hilarious — garments not for the timid of heart. Highlights included a tank dress emblazoned with a sequin-covered Donald Duck in pirate costume, a puff skirt made out of straw that was paired with a French Navy jacket and a sweaterdress with a macaw in real feathers bursting into flight on the front.

Heels with shark fins and grinning jaws rounded out the look.