Monumental animal art permeates Chanel’s sparkling couture show

Monumental animal art permeates Chanel’s sparkling couture show
Monumental animal art permeates Chanel’s sparkling couture show

Art returned to the glittering universe of Chanel couture on Tuesday with monumental animal sculptures gathered in the center of the runway in the circle like a surreal zoo for its Paris Fashion Week show.

Designer Virginie Viard collaborated with contemporary artist Xavier Veilhan who used a bestiary in founder Coco Chanel’s apartment as a creative springboard for the carnival-like spring decor.

Yet as much as the animals – made of unpainted wood, paper and cardboard – looked simplified, lifeless and monochromatic, the Chanel collection was starkly contrasting, sparkling with color and glitter in an unusually vibrant display.

Here are some highlights:

Chanel’s animal parade

Veilhan said he wanted to “discuss the relationship with animals which is constantly changing in our societies”.

A VIP front row that included Marion Cotillard, Tilda Swinton, G-Dragon and Vanessa Paradis, watched a gargantuan camel, bull, fish, horse and lion-like exploded mobiles roll down this eerie track, under an installation at the ceiling of large geometric discs.

A bird shoved across the board with a large beak and a myriad of scruffy wooden plumes appeared to spawn a model in a top hat and slit white riding jacket with a fringed skirt. There were guests reaching for their cameras – with one dubbing him the “Trojan Chick”.

The rest of the collection seemed less directly tied to the animal theme – and that level of subtlety wasn’t a bad thing. Coat dresses and bouclé tweed tunics featured animal twists, such as embroidery of pet dogs Labradors and Scotch Terriers. Elsewhere there were strong equestrian styles, building on ideas from previous Viard seasons. Here the riding jacket was key, constructed in bright silk tweeds over girlish miniskirts and youthful skorts.

There were plenty of quirks in the long white gloves, black and white bow ties, and tight gold or black hooded boots with white boxer-like laces – but they felt out of place at times.

The strength of this otherwise superlative and poetic couture – which shimmered throughout with brocade, sequins, sequins and sparkling silks – spoke for itself.

A loose, amorphous dress shone like a silver fish with its thousands of embroidered sequins and its bosom of black, white and gold silk. Elsewhere, a thickly textured bell skirt has been constructed using billowing layers of white-colored silk like an underwater shell, or perhaps a delicate stratus cloud.

Armani Private Circus

At the grand stone entrance to the Republican Guard, the late departure of Giorgio Armani forced the guests – some scantily clad – to wait in the freezing evening cold. Once the green light was given, Michelle Yeoh was among the first to walk the romantic lantern path, saying she was “very happy to be here”. Then came Carla Bruni-Sarkozy extolling the “feminist power of couture”.

Juliette Binoche was next, dodging questions about Coco Chanel’s role in an upcoming Apple TV series ‘The New Look’, saying “it’s not for tonight, now it’s time to support Giorgio – it’s a great supporter of artists”.

Once the media circus died down, the guests sat near a harlequin stage lined with interlocking colored diamonds, in front of a playful collection.

Silk bolero jackets opened the display that riffed on the 1980s, with diamond shapes appearing everywhere – first as a 3D relief on the jackets and, most dramatically, later on a puffy courtly ruff.

Tedious embroideries in every color under the sun dripped down sometimes skin-tight, columnar A-line silhouettes that caressed the body.

But too many styles and shapes came together in this exhaustive collection – with its large jeweled flower appliques, dazzling sequin-encrusted jackets and geometrically shaped crew-neck tops – and it made the show hard to pin down in his outfit.

At times, the garments would have benefited had it not been for Armani’s insistence on structure – like a paneled dress that pleated at the skirt – but there was so much dazzle and razzmatazz that many guests are unlikely noticed it.

The color of Alexis Mabille

Her couture fusion dripped with drama.

French designer Alexis Mabille mixed old-school Greek drapery with a version of the Indian sari in the bright colors of South Asian dress. She produced a soft spring collection with longer silhouettes and flowing scarves that used dozens of yards of floor-sweeping silk.

Jeweled flowers adorned the hairstyles which, like the dangling lengths of fabric, flowed freely.

A bottle green dress cut out a sublime hourglass figure. It reshaped the model’s body – open at the sides, wider at the top – and was held in place by a Grecian belt. A cerulean blue dress, flowing without structure from its round neck to the floor, stood out for its sheer simplicity.

However, not everything was a hit, such as a blue hooded dress with slightly incongruous peaked satin lapels and a misplaced belt that confused the eye.

Stéphane Rolland bets on glamor

A film projected on a giant screen to Stéphane Rolland’s guests before the show presented a tribute to the 1959 film “Black Orpheus” shot in Brazil. The film, which won an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film, is set against the backdrop of a favela during the famous carnival period.

But Rolland seemed more interested in carnival than the poverty of any favela – and the couture itself was highly stylized, high glamorous with a ballroom kick and, as always, very statuesque.

Sleek white and black dresses featured giant puffs of fabric, one like a floor-scraping train or like a huge choker that, when the model turned, revealed a bare back. Another look, one of the best from the collection, was a three-dimensional mini dress with a bias-cut skirt. He sprung up in a huge wave from the hip.

Rolland played on the dramatic effect of revealing flesh against the sheerness of often clean lengths of fabric – with plunging V-lines scooped into the neck, slit skirts and cropped shoulders.

Thomas Adamson, Associated Press

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. art animal monumental pervades catwalk couture sparkling Chanel

. Monumental animal art permeates Chanels sparkling couture show

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