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Beau Chanel

It seems black is the reliable bet during this economic crunch. Why should designers pretend it’s not what women go for most of the time? But this is still Paris Fashion Week—we want a little drama, right? Well, the Chanel show yesterday provided a good mixture: a little theatricality with a lot of practicality…

It seems black is the reliable bet during this economic crunch. Why should designers pretend it’s not what women go for most of the time? But this is still Paris Fashion Week—we want a little drama, right? Well, the Chanel show yesterday provided a good mixture: a little theatricality with a lot of practicality. 

First, the theater.

Chanel laid off 200 employees in December of 2008, and I wondered if any of the production values would be affected as a result. But no, it was still the same show-stopping venue (the Palais Royale), still a small goody bag (lip gloss and a nail polish), still an elaborate set. 

Kate Moss made her first front-row appearance of this fashion week at Chanel, and she caused a major tussle when she walked in. Photographers clamored for her photo in the very small space between the lacquered set and front row, and things got physical. Two were escorted away (Kate, baby, I know how you feel). Beth Ditto was there, as well as Lily Allen and Claudia Schiffer.

Then the real show: The first model, Karen Elson (the redhead below), walked out in a sort of female dandy version of what Karl Lagerfeld himself wears. (He was inspired by the ultimate dandy of the late 1700s, Beau Brummell.) Flourishes included art deco-style jewelry, sequins around the girls’ eyes, funky backpacks, boater hats, and Chanel bags swaddled in the kind of stiff plastic that an electronic device or a plastic doll might come in.

I commented on twitter that the show had a lot of pink and green—used in big frilly sweaters, tweeds, and in jade jewelry. The first thing I thought of when I saw the fuzzy knits was my childhood pink blankie with the satin edge. Then I saw model Lara Stone in her bibbed sweater and stocking-covered legs and thought of the Lolita look that is popular in Japan. It was odd and saccharine, but it also gave you the impression you had seen a creative show.

Now for the practical.

If you took away the accessory diversions (easy enough—even the frilled white cuffs and collars were detachable) what you had were some great black dresses and suits. Very slimming, maybe even minimalist, for Chanel.

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