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Fresh air at Chanel's Paris fashion show and Queen Bee at McQueen

A model presents a creation by German designer Karl Lagerfeld for French fashion house Chanel as part of his Spring/Summer 2013 women's read
A model presents a creation by German designer Karl Lagerfeld for French fashion house Chanel as part of his Spring/Summer 2013 women's read

By Alexandria Sage

PARIS (Reuters) - Fashion changes as quickly as the wind, and maybe that's what Karl Lagerfeld had in mind on Tuesday at Chanel, where enormous wind turbines greeted guests at his spring/summer 2013 show in Paris.

But with the floors of the expansive Grand Palais made to resemble solar panels, one might have thought the prolific German designer was instead making a statement on going green.

"I started to sketch in St. Tropez over the summer and it was so hot I wanted some fresh air," Lagerfeld explained after the show.

Voila.

Whatever the reasoning, Lagerfeld presented a wide-ranging readywear collection that occasionally incorporated synthetic fabric, but one in which classic Chanel looks using nubby wool, tweed and pearls were reworked for warm weather - all without one camellia in sight.

Jennifer Lopez, wearing a cream lace thigh-baring dress, was surrounded by a phalanx of cameras in the front row, where rapper Kanye West and model-come-actress Laeticia Casta also held court.

"It's so chic, it's so French, it's like a monument today," Casta said of Chanel, which has managed to keep its fashion clout and mighty branding power under the watchful eye of Lagerfeld more than 40 years after the death of founder Coco Chanel.

The first look down the runway was, unsurprisingly, a little black suit, but its kicky leather skirt imparted an edgy flair and Chanel's beloved pearls, surrounded by rhinestones, dotted the boxy jacket in a whimsical polka dot pattern.

A semi-sheer synthetic ribbed fabric was worked into slim black trousers paired with short-sleeved bolero jackets with pearl buttons, or used for body-hugging minidresses worn with cropped knit jackets.

Lagerfeld worked the solar panel pattern into various tweeds and into a bold graphic in red and blue that popped on sweaters and jackets. Stunning in its simplicity was a column dress cut mid-thigh with a severe straight neckline that shimmered from tiny beads in twilight blue, silver and black.

But, always curious, the designer played with the concept of air and wind, presenting floaty black dresses in sheer silk chiffon structured by a quilted panel bodice and adorned with tufts of multi-colored fabric that fluttered like feathers.

More classically Chanel was a slim black evening gown with exaggerated Peter Pan collar and white cuffs. Its puritan simplicity fell by the wayside when the model moved, exposing a leg-baring split up the front and a shimmery fabric that lent elegance and sparkle.

Lagerfeld may have been day-dreaming in St. Tropez of a pleasant, cool garden when he sketched the closing dresses in the collection, columns of white in a cotton and linen netting fabric elaborately embroidered with peonies and ivy vines.

Accessories were big and bold, whether the sunhats with broad brims that resembled wheels, the chunky lace-up heels, or the faux-pearl chokers whose beads resembled Christmas ornaments.

After the show, Lagerfeld, wearing a candy-cane stripe cravat and signature fingerless gloves, was asked what his secret was.

"There is none," he replied, looking perplexed. "Work."

FASHION BUZZ

While Lagerfeld was busy musing on the wind, Alexander McQueen designer Sarah Burton must have been thinking about those hard workers who fly in it - namely bees.

In her show late Tuesday on the eve of the close of Fashion Week, Burton presented an extravagant collection constructed from hive-like fabrics. The ornate, immaculately tailored garments, mostly jackets with pants or hotpants, all came cinched at the waist, and all imparted Queen Bee status on their wearer.

In the amber and gold hues of a beehive, a bustier whose pattern resembled an armadillo hide was paired with black cropped pants, their hive pattern revealing skin underneath in a dazzling juxtaposition of armour and exposure.

The reptilian fabric on another dress, a dramatic tight column of black with a vampish flounce below the knee, was so tactile, it begged to be touched.

Burton - who received international acclaim after designing Kate Middleton's wedding gown - also showed a dozen or so hoop-skirt looks that managed to remain both elegant and avant-garde at the same time.

Part Can-Can, part Madonna in the 1980s, the dresses in cream, pale yellow, gold and black were corseted, a favourite motif of Burton, and the exposed tiered hoop skirt recalled the segmentation on the abdomen of a bee.

And lest we forget that bees can sting, Burton obscured her models' faces with inky black hats that evoked apiarists' headgear.

Beekeepers never looked so good.

(Additional Reporting by Leona Liu, editing by Paul Casciato)

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