PARIS – Karl Lagerfeld climbed Mount Olympus for inspiration in creating Chanel's latest resort collection, presenting a spectacular Grecian-themed show to a celebrity audience in Paris on Wednesday.
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While Gucci will go to Florence, Louis Vuitton to Kyoto, and Dior to Los Angeles to show off their cruise fashions— Lagerfeld chose to host the normally itinerant mid-season collection in Chanel's terra mater.
Lagerfeld, a larger-than-life fashion showman who is rarely upstaged, opted instead to bring the wonders of the ancient world to Paris' Grand Palais.
Celebrity guests who included Keira Knightley, Isabelle Huppert and filmmaker Pedro Almodovar gazed in awe at the backdrop that recreated ruins from the Parthenon in Athens and the famed Temple of Poseidon on Cape Sounion stone for stone, column for column.
Pebbles, marble stones and sand decorated the runway alongside a real olive tree, while shrubs and mountain flowers peeked out from between the rocks by which the Grecian goddess-styled models walked during the 15-minute presentation.
"Reality is of no interest to me. I use what I like. My Greece is an idea," Lagerfeld said of the display.
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If Greece invented drama, Lagerfeld is perhaps a fitting heir.
The over-the-top decor contrasted with some very subtle and accomplished fashion designs.
Cycladic blues, terracotta, earth browns and gold infused the looks, which riffed on Ancient Greek references.
They were replete with laurel leaf head ornaments, golden arm clasps, footwear bearing knee-high straps and even an arrow quiver transformed into a golden backpack. Thick fibers reminiscent of loomed weavings fringed tweed tunic dresses.
A clay-colored dress — with a roll under the bust and tight midriff — evoked the silhouette of the curved Greek amphora vase.
Lagerfeld loves ancient history.
"The criteria of beauty in ancient, then classical, Greece still hold true. There have never been more beautiful representations of women. Or more beautiful columns," Lagerfeld said.
"It is really about the youth of the world in all its power and unpredictability, just like the unforgiving gods," he added.
Cruise or resort collections — mid-season shows presented by only a handful of the world's fashion power houses — were conceived to target wealthy women who travelled on cruise ships in winter.
Nowadays, they're used simply as a lucrative commercial stimulant for the increasingly buoyant fashion industry's between-season lull.
Previous years have seen Chanel's Lagerfeld present the cruise collection in far-flung places such as Havana and Dallas.
But more recently, the 83-year-old designer has chosen his home city to celebrate the brand's commitment to Paris and its importance to global fashion.
Thomas Adamson can be followed at Twitter.com/ThomasAdamson_K