PARIS: Kings of couture Karl Lagerfeld for Chanel and Christian Lacroix reigned supreme on Tuesday over two distinct realms of luxury fashion — linear and sleek versus exuberantly romantic.
As biting winds and chilly temperatures hit the French capital, both designers imbued their haute couture collections with a summery lightness of touch, only via different routes.
At Chanel, Lagerfeld produced an overall look of strongly-defined outlines that seemed unfussy, but a softer side saw sheer and light fabrics, adorned with masses of wafting feathers and delicate embroidery.
To live rock music by Cat Power and under the gaze of a star-studded audience, plumed and pony-tailed models criss-crossed the catwalk at the huge steel and glass Grand Palais exhibition hall with a bird-like fragility.
The heavily-defined linear black and white made-up eyes were lightly veiled by jewel-embroidered masks, while hair was pulled back to show off huge hooped earrings to best effect.
Front-row celebrity guests included actresses Sigourney Weaver and Diane Kruger, American film director Sofia Coppola, British singer and actress Marianne Faithfull and Sean Lennon.
Even if the little graphically-cut tunic or coat dresses for daytime only fell to the high thigh, the silhouette was still elongated and elegant with glossy black tights covering long legs.
Strips of fabric as a kind of fringing or running in columns right up the statuesque creations gave the clothes fluidity and movement, which the German designer described later as ‘vertical flexibility’.
At times he slightly raised the waist defining it in black patent and kept evening gowns to ankle-length, while occasional breaks from linear lines produced softly rounded sleeves or full flowing skirts.
The German designer said he had wanted to create a “play on proportions” and added that he believed his collection for spring-summer 2007 was “something with no references to another era, not the 60s, not the 70s.
“It’s something of today, a dynamism of today, an attitude and a lightness of today, anyway, I hope so.”
In contrast, later in the day, an array of historical and cultural references were very much at play in Christian Lacroix’s energetic explosion of colours, prints and styles whose inspirations he said included Gigi and Botticelli.
His romantic heroines flirted in gowns with cascading frills and playful flounces, while he threw in citrus or petal hues, or very short polka dot outfits, and huge blossoms for detail. He turned out huge balloon sleeves, while drawing in bubble coats at the hip.
And Lacroix gleefully played with layering, harmonising what looked like two separates by placing, in one instance, a black asymmetric short but full-skirted dress over a long narrow one.
“I feel that we need something a little softer because the period is so tough and so difficult that we need a little bit of poetry,” the French designer told reporters after the show.
Lacroix this year will mark 20 years since presenting his first collection under his own name.