Newspaper article International New York Times

A Chanel for All Seasons

Newspaper article International New York Times

A Chanel for All Seasons

Article excerpt

An arboretum of white cardboard palms was constructed under the glass ceiling of the Grand Palais in Paris for Karl Lagerfeld's spring couture collection.

As the fashion crowd gathered at the Grand Palais on Tuesday morning, snowstorms were pummeling the Eastern Seaboard of the United States, closing airports and wreaking international travel havoc. But in the world according to Chanel, all was tropical cool.

An arboretum of white cardboard palms had been constructed under the glass ceiling, blooming via mechanical magic into a garden of mimosas, poppies and lotus flowers amid a sea of white pebbles strewn like so much pearlized sand.

This is theoretically spring, after all, at least in couture time. If you can't live it, why not recreate it?

Even in an age of global warming, even in an industry where half the world's consumers live in another hemisphere. Sometimes it's not so bad to suspend your disbelief and look forward a season. It can take you to some interesting places.

It can, for example, lead you to an imaginary land where Coco Chanel might meet Janis Joplin, as it did for Giambattista Valli, resulting in a triple punch of tailored, slightly flared "le smoking" trousers under structured sleeveless peplum tops or tulle silk dresses, topped by little black or white jackets.

They came in houndstooth and ruffles, crystal-bedecked, with jeweled belts and baby-doll waistlines, hip and uptown, and then mutated prettily (albeit pouffily) into black and white meringues of cocktail dresses in tulle and feathers and fringe, before taking a left turn and settling in a Cinecitta version of the Land of Sweets with sugar almond-tinted silk faille evening looks enveloped by giant capes of many ruffles.

It can lead you to something of a rebellion, as it did with Bouchra Jarrar, one of the few designers on the schedule to kick couture off its pedestal and even bother with day wear.

Ms. Jarrar's trademark is the ability to combine the vernacular of the street with the language of the classic atelier, and this season that meant miniskirts and dresses in metallic houndstooth tweed jacquard cut through by diagonal gold motorcycle zippers and mixed with crisp white poplin shirting and the occasional lush fox scarf (what you see is a lot more complicated than what you think); a black leather trench; and the use of bristling paillettes on draped satin to add texture, not shine, to a liquid gown -- though "lacquered" black trousers that bore a startling resemblance to latex were perhaps a grunge moment too far. …

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