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The Grand Palais, Paris: An arena with immensity that rivals the Coliseum in Rome or Paris’ own Lutèce Arena. In the centre, a gold lion measuring 18 metres high stands on a podium, a sculpture that could only have been created by Gulliver during his travels. The lion protectively clutches a giant iridescent pearl under his front paw, and like a scene from a surrealist dream, a door opens and models magically appear from within the pearl, modern versions of Blandina released from the lion’s den. Their beauty will overpower this beast; their wild allure will tame it. On Tuesday, July 6th, during the Chanel Fall-Winter 2010/2011 Haute Couture show, this terrifying lion was as meek and gentle as a lamb.
After featuring faux yeti fur last March, Chanel has now expanded its magical herd. Yeti, however, was featured by Karl Lagerfeld to raise awareness about climate change. This Couture show held “under the sign of the lion” has a deeper meaning that finds its roots in the history of Chanel and of Coco herself. Without delving too far into heraldry, symbolism and other sciences of interpretation, the lion represents the astrological sign of Coco Chanel. She was known for her collection of lion sculptures. It is the 5th sign, and symbolises renewal and resurrection, as well as the strength, beauty and shining of the sun. These attributes characterise Coco’s life as well as the House of Chanel, and perfectly describe the Fall-Winter Couture collection. This representation of luxury is a sumptuous tribute to the expertise of Chanel Métiers d'Art, and the Maisons Lesage, Lemarié, Massaro and Montex, among others.
A million sequins are hand-embroidered onto one dress, and we see ankle boots crafted by Massaro and worn by models dressed in organza sculpted into highly sensual shapes, floral patterns created by Karl Lagerfeld (inspired by German porcelain of the eighteenth century) and regal-inspired sequined embroidery on short-sleeved cropped jackets.
Another short jacket is dotted with sequined sunflowers, and a lion-inspired pattern dress bears the unmistakable resemblance of Louis XIV (another Leo).
Colours are distinctly autumnal but not melancholy: khaki, bronze, taupe, beige, milk chocolate, white, eggplant, midnight blue, black (of course): the soft, troubling black of the lace used in one of the last styles of the show. Everything is wearable, everything is modern.
An extraordinary flared coat fashioned in cherry red tweed looks as good on a modern Anna Karenina laughing in the snow of the Taiga as it would in the streets of Paris or New York, in the middle of the afternoon, worn by an energetic, lively, fashion-forward city girl.
The opulence of this collection goes hand in hand with its youthful spirit: the models move forward with great strides, their lioness hair flowing wildly, slightly uneasy while walking in boots with sculpted heels; shoulders, arms, hips and legs completely unhindered. Sleeves are three-quarter length, dresses fall below the knee and mid-calf flared skirts are crafted in subtly embroidered tweed. The night is short! “We have had enough of froufrou dresses on the red carpet, haven’t we?” says Karl Lagerfeld, with a suave smile. “Times have changed. Women are the first to understand...” Chanel has presented a stunning coherent collection exuding allure and youth, all on display under the sign of creative power and renewal. A playful Chanel original touch with a spirit of fantasy was added when model Baptiste came onto the runway wearing a lion mask and accompanying a bride dressed in white, while sound-stylist Michel Gaubert played a mix of Lou Reed and sounds reminiscent of the rich hours of the IRCAM (Institute for Research and Coordination Acoustic/Music)... It is actually Timothy Andres, a young 24-year-old pianist. It is impossible to see this Couture collection and not recall Coco Chanel’s famous words, “A great designer is a man who holds the future in his spirit" and “I only like what I create, I only create if I forget". From under the sign of the lion and eternal renewal, Karl Lagerfeld for Chanel.


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