Chanel unveils opulent gowns for privileged few

Chanel unveils opulent gowns for privileged few
Karl Lagerfeld drew influence from the pioneering architect Le Corbusier for Chanel's Fall/Winter 2014-2015 collection

PARIS - Fashion designers and architects are very different animals, but their eye for form and sculpture is the same, which may be why Karl Lagerfeld drew influence from the pioneering architect Le Corbusier for Chanel's Fall/Winter 2014-2015 collection presented on Tuesday.

Of course, being the curious, creative and fearless designer that he is - and the collection being haute couture - he planted Le Corbusier, who died in 1965, at the 18th century court of Versailles for maximum glitter and opulence.

"It's like modern sculpture, in modern materials, but with baroque elements," Lagerfeld said backstage after his show held at the Grand Palais in Paris. "This is the story of Le Corbusier going to Versailles."

Were the sparkling panels adorning the fronts of ivory-coloured jackets a nod to the architect's famous Villa Savoye on the outskirts of Paris, with its long panels of windows?

Did the nubby plaids with their repeating patterns of black, orange and red recall the stacked residential housing promoted by the urban planner, whose real name was Charles-Edouard Jenneret, in his search for utopian city design?

No matter what the influence, the clothes entranced, both modern in their sculptural form yet anchored in a time-tested appreciation for pageantry.

The magnificence of the fabrics Lagerfeld chose for the collection's 71 looks - in pure white, shimmering silver and regal red - would certainly have caught Marie Antoinette's eye.

Lagerfeld is a staunch fan of the 18th century - and its high collars - and the tailored, structured mid-thigh coat dresses he presented on Tuesday recalled the men's court suits worn by the well-heeled aristocrats at Versailles.

Freshness came from matching narrow shorts cut above the knee, spiky 1980's era hairdos and the flat sandals with ribbon ties that accompanied each look.

Red is a colour more associated with Valentino than Chanel, but Lagerfeld used it in abundance on Tuesday, whether in a sensible jacket with stand-away collar and flared skirt cut above the knee or a party dress sewn from what appeared to be hundreds of shimmering and fluttering red blossoms.

An evening gown with Jetsons-like shoulders and exaggerated hips was lavishly embroidered with ruby red beads that looked like they were ripped from the interior of a pomegranate.

The bodice of another was made from neoprene, a synthetic rubber that creates a starched-like formal look: "The same dress made in a normal satin duchesse looks dowdy," Lagerfeld said.

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