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Raggedy Le Notre Chanel

Godfrey Deeny
October 06th, 2010 @ 11:07 AM - Paris

The world’s largest virtual garden, a flawlessly chic collection, a 60-piece orchestra, Europe’s most elegant exhibition space, the Grand Palais in Paris, plus fashion’s most fabulous front row, came together in one rather remarkable fashion moment at Chanel's latest runway show in Paris on Tuesday, Oct. 5.

Chanel had all its iconic model ambassadors in the audience – Claudia Schiffer of the ‘90s, Keira Knightley and Vanessa Paradis for the '00s and Elisa Sednaoui, Karl Lagerfeld's apparent choice for the next decade.

“It’s a virtual Versailles in the center of Paris, and I think right for our age, which needs more elegance,” Lagerfeld said.

But most attention was on the setting – the surface of the double football field-sized Grand Palais had been remade as a giant Renaissance garden, modeled on 17th century symmetry of Versailles Gardens originally designed by the legendary André Le Notre. It was literally breathtakingly beautiful – the famed radiating box hedgerows, wrought iron detailing, parterres and gravel walks replaced by Styrofoam lawns and stones, the green replaced by hyper chic black and white.

The show opened with a moth-eaten moment, clothes full of holes, in particular lean gray jeans over tunic tops, so dexterously finished with exotic curlicue embellishments and at the neck with jagged shards of tulle. The collection was raggedy, deliberately unfinished throughout, with a marvelously at ease sleight of hand.

Coal eyed models – a huge European trend, though nowhere done better than at Chanel – marched throughout the enormous space, and though they looked tiny in the setting, the collection was so beautiful, they owned the place.

Fabulous white picnic frocks finished in jade with Le Notre designs, classic black Chanel suits with contrasting white embroidery and ever so faintly tattered pink smock dresses with black cut-outs all looked supremely chic.

Lagerfeld also whipped up a series of uniquely special metallic dresses, a natty counterpoint to the ironic garden, and wowed with an opulent camellia – Coco Chanel’s favorite flower – print dresses, the same color sketch that featured on the invite and the laminated backstage passes.

In a witty visual aside, the Chanel creative director sent out veteran model Brad Koenig with a little boy, dressed identically in white Chanel jacket, blue denim shirt and pants, and blue suede mechanic boots.

Throughout, the orchestra played with panache, even venom, rising to a stupendous crescendo with an extended version of U.K. rock band The Verve’s classic hit, “Bittersweet Symphony."

And only Lagerfeld could celebrate the anniversary of a feud. Twenty years ago, he famously fell out with Ines de la Fressange – the Chanel muse of the ‘80s - and this show was a very public runway rapprochement. The French beauty took in the final passages in a stunning black tulle hooped gown before walking back along the gravel path arm in arm with the designer.

The models and designer received a heroic applause at the finale, as the elegant crowd of 3,000 cheered on the biggest not-to-be-missed show in fashion.

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