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Chanel AW13: just in from Paris

By Rebecca Lowthorpe

After his epic Chanel show, held as usual at the Grand Palais, Karl Lagerfeld walked the ‘pen’, a cordoned off area for kissing and congratulating. Princess Caroline of Monaco, Jessica Chastain, Leigh Lezark and Milla Jovovich were all there. Behind the designer, a monumental globe revolved, on it a map of the world with Chanel flags marking the precise location of the brand’s 300 stores. A statement of global fashion domination only Chanel might be so bold as to carry off.

‘It’s not world fashion domination,’ Lagerfeld said. ‘It’s about the globalisation of fashion. I wanted a global look, not a French look. I wanted a very monochrome silhouette - dark but not sad - a touch of shine, a touch of pink.’

In fact, on this giant world, the distance between these Chanel flags just proved how much more of the world there is left for the brand to conquer. ‘But parts of the world are not even lived in,’ said Lagerfeld. ‘This is up to earth,’ he paused, looking up, ‘but the collection is very down to earth, grounded on its feet’.

Black ruled, with charcoal, navy and a punch of blues, pinks and white, the models seemed protected by their layers - all covered up, apart from the flash of thigh between leather stocking and the hem of a coat or a pleated mini skirt. Some wore fur bonnets. All wore boots - black, chunky–heeled, or almost flat, decorated with silver chains at the ankle or studded soles.

The effect was powerful, the silhouettes strong. But in a season where ‘real’ clothes, as opposed to catwalk statements, have been largely in evidence, Lagerfeld had also tapped the mood and the spirit of the times; the ease of all that black, the shapes that didn’t demand too much of their wearer. These were (very) modern classics: the coats that came with high collars and cut-away fronts to reveal mini skirts beneath, the fitted tweed Chanel jacket and its natty skating skirt, the traditional Chanel quilting that appeared at the hem of a skirt or jacket, the tweed skirts that split at the front to reveal matching tweed shorts beneath. Almost every piece would slot into a Chanel fan’s wardrobe without having to try too hard.

Of course there were statement pieces too. One patent leather combo was striped with white lace that had been trapped in place by its plastic veneer. Another was a dramatic coat made entirely from embroidered monochrome flowers and possibly feathers – no doubt executed by les petites mains at the Chanel-owned workshops, Lemarie and Lesage. But it was hard to see the exquisite craftsmanship, the audience being seated so far away from the action on this epic set, itself proof of Chanel’s world domination.

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