Chanel and McQueen entice fantasy in Paris shows

By Thomas Adamson

Associated Press

Published: Tuesday, March 6 2012 5:50 p.m. MST

Models wear creations by Indian designer Manish Arora for the Paco Rabanne Fall-Winter, ready-to-wear 2013 fashion collection, during Paris Fashion week, Tuesday, March 6, 2012.

Francois Mori, Associated Press

PARIS — With only one day to go, the final furlong of Paris' roller coaster nine-day long fashion week has produced strong and fantastical ready-to-wear offerings from the houses of Alexander McQueen and Chanel.

Inspiration for the collections spanned the terrain, and beyond — from a cosmic ice palace to the organic depths of the earth.

Sarah Burton further consolidated her position as one of the most imaginative designers working in the French capital, with a weightless flight through texture and feather in the bold spirit of house founder Alexander McQueen.

Meanwhile, Karl Lagerfeld, the Chanel designer with a penchant for spectacle, colonized Paris' turn-of-the-century Grand Palais with an installation of hundreds of mock crystals up to 7 meters (23 feet) long. But behind the aesthetic, it's clear the designer knows on which side his bread is buttered with a front row sprinkled with potential clients from Asia, a growing source of business for the iconic brand.

Nearly upstaging the clothes was news that Yves Saint Laurent has chosen a new creative director to replace Stefano Pilati, who gave his swan-song collection for the house Monday.

A source who attended a YSL staff meeting told The Associated Press that employees were told that Hedi Slimane, the former Dior Homme designer, has been appointed to head the creative side of the prestigious French house. The source was not authorized to speak publicly and asked not to be named.

An official announcement was expected shortly. Word of Slimane's arrival ends months of speculation over the creative direction of the house.

CHANEL

Karl Lagerfeld turned Paris' Grand Palais into a cold, crystal fortress for a wrapped-up, layered fall-winter collection that channeled the space-age sheen of the 1980s.

The show invoked an other-worldliness reminiscent of the 1980 movie "Superman II," in which Christopher Reeve flew to an Arctic palace.

Lagerfeld certainly displayed his superhuman eye for detail. Tectonic shiny appliques gave gray woolen coats a textural friction, while geometric A-line coat dresses had the feel of gems quarried from deep within the earth. One long, flowing dress in purple even drew gasps as the model disappeared into a matching amethyst backdrop.

The collection, one of the most layer-heavy this season, was a play on volume with skirts on top of trousers and thick coiled scarves, reminiscent of the 1980s New Romantics.

"Paris is about layers, so I didn't use any fur," said Lagerfeld, standing next to a crystal shard in cold gray.

ALEXANDER MCQUEEN

The wonderment was tangible at Sarah Burton's accomplished and vibrantly colored ready-to-wear show for Alexander McQueen. Feather explosions that ballooned in three dimensions spelled awe for spectators.

The inspiration for fall-winter was said to be the "rippling underbellies of mushrooms," but like the house's spring collection it looked more like a coral reef.

The teeming feel to the fibers blown by the movement of walking models painted a scene of anemones and medusas in a sea-palette of ice white, soft blue and crimson. The peplum of one blush pink dress, with a metal pincer belt, recalled the layers of a jellyfish, and the tooth of an octopus. At several points the audience gasped.

"It was exhilarating," said Hal Rubenstein, InStyle magazine fashion director. "With talent like Sarah's you just sit back and relish the sense of fantasy. No one else has it."