Chanel head up imaginative and spirited penultimate day of Paris fashion shows
PARIS - "Don't take things too seriously," said Karl Lagerfeld standing next to a towering wind turbine inside Paris' Grand Palais, "especially not fashion."
Chanel's veteran designer, with trademark humour, thus summed up an important message of this Paris season.
The iconic house's fun, young collection headlined the penultimate day of Paris spring-summer 2013 show.
The fact the show had nothing whatsoever to do with the several eco-turbines constructed for the event — no doubt at a huge cost to the environment — didn't seem to matter.
Fashion insiders were busy concentrating on the myriad 81 ensembles— which made this collection possibly the longest Chanel show in history.
A pinch of salt, too, may have been required Sarah Burton's ode to the McQueen bee, which mixed regal looking crinolines, 1950s silhouttes with bees and insect armoury.
As ever, the Alexander McQueen's ready-to-wear show was Paris Fashion Week's most original, living up to the spirit of the designer who died in 2010.
Trends on Tuesday included cutouts, as featured in a strong showing from Valentino — with Jennifer Lopez on the front row — and in Paco Rabanne's signature "69" dics that exposed inches of bare flesh.
Wednesday — the grand finale of a dense and vibrant week — includes shows from Elie Saab, Miu Miu and powerhouse Louis Vuitton.
Fun was the healthy mantra which infiltrated Tuesday's Chanel show — a bright and diverse collection brimming with great new ideas.
Silver bauble appliques became buttons, A-line skirts were playfully short, colorful checks contrasted funkily with geometric flashes, and feather fringing billowed exuberantly.
One model in a crossing "C'' swimsuit even carried a three-foot (nearly 1 metre) handbag.
A bold new fashion idea was the reworked bolero jacket with curved shoulders, often spruced up with inflated arms.
The wide T-shaped bolero silhouette spread onto sweaters and inspired many of the show's best looks.
Naturally, many of the brighter ensembles stood out, too.
Bright pink and blue felted oversized sweaters were accessorized to kitsch effect with huge pale or silver pearl necklace clusters.
There was a highly accomplished delivery of colour palette also, which lifted one checked red-and-white A-line dress, with the top part sliced off.
It paired beautifully with a contrasting, yet complementary loose blue and red coat.
Another stand out piece was a white bateau-neck ensemble with check navy bands with a clean, slightly sporty vide.
Lagerfeld, who turns 80 next year, certainly hasn't let age slow him down: It's the youngest collection Chanel's seen for a while.
Fashion is body armour.
At least it is for Sarah Burton, who tapped her fantastical imagination for Alexander McQueen to conjure up fashion week's most original show: Mixing insect-like armoury with on-trend stiff bar jackets of the New Look, as well as 19th century crinoline.
If it sounds strange, it was — set to a backdrop of images of bees and honeycomb — with each model wearing a visor reminiscent at once of the 1950s wide hat, a cage and a beekeepers mask.
Have fashions over the ages, she seemed to ask, caged and protected us like in the natural world?
A cinched metal or tortoiseshell waist band — a recurrent Burton feature — which fanned out into a peplum in some of the looks resembled an abdomen of a wasp or queen bee.
The fascinating collection of 31 looks — which had fashion insiders amazed — was as thought-out as it was perfectly executed with metal mesh materials that sparkled mechanically.
The 1950s were visited in full skirts which mixed with structuralist fashion: Hard bodice cages, which showed the inner working of corsetry of the crinoline age, on the outside.
The last collections revisited the queen theme: Billowing structured skirts in beige, soft yellow and vermilion looked like a surrealist take on Marie Antoinette.
"Suggestion is seduction," was the theme of Valentino's accomplished spring-summer 2013 show in Paris, which saw the storied Italian fashion house move subtly more sensual.
Italian design duo Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pier Paolo Piccioli kept their strict, high collars and didn't bare too much flesh but eased their conservative designs, in razor-thin slits and tiny transparent cutouts.
Elsewhere, diaphanous see-through outer garments in black tulle really worked well in bringing home the collection's message of provocative shyness.
Some of the outfits sported front bibs — wavy silk U-shaped bands — Valentino's more conservative version of the on-trend ruffle shown by Riccardo Tisci's show for Givenchy.
Two gorgeous red silk dresses appeared at the end, evoking the spirit of the house DNA.
Founder Valentino Garavani, 80, was seated in the front row and applauded thunderously when the show ended.
Lydia Maurer put a spin on the house archives in her debut collection for Paco Rabanne that included myriad variations on the '60s Do-It-Yourself discs of the Rhodoid dress.
The starting point of the show was Jean Clemmer and Paco Rabanne's controversial 1960s photo collaboration called "Canned Candies," which resurfaced two years ago: Images of naked women in bold armourlike jewelry.
Maurer's show thus had a vibe of the sexual revolution with provocative dresses that bared much flesh — all held together with Rabanne's signature "69" disc.
It evoked the essence of the founder, who first cut his teeth in jewelry design.
One gold fringed number made a bold gladiator-like statement, marching past to the sound of rustling metal.
But some of the tailored ensembles let the collection down.
Thomas Adamson can be followed at http:/ /Twitter.com/ThomasAdamsonAP