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|Severity and sensuality cap off Paris Fashion Week For years, Karl Lagerfeld has told me that many of the ideas for his creations come to him in dreams. And three days before the devastating earthquake and tsunami hit Japan, Lagerfeld presented a decidedly dark and bold Chanel collection that the International Herald Tribune dubbed "Apocalypse Now." Sent down a long, winding catwalk that resembled a wooden pier with smouldering black rocks strewn underneath, the ominous vision was comprised of a smoky array of chunky black and grey weaves with shots of silver lending a dazzling metallic edge. Many of the looks featured heavy, no nonsense footwear: scrunched wooly socks and flat black boots geared for climbing though the rubble of life. Fiery flashes of red peeked out from some of the charcoal tweed garments and shots of green harkened back to the Hamburg forest of Lagerfeld s childhood an image that was also etched on the haunting show invitations. "Everything is changing," prophesized the designer post show. Judging from the earlier displays at Paris Fashion Week, wherein the house of Dior feverishly tried to convey outlet ugg online that fashion s heart should no longer revolve around megastar designers but around the clothes themselves, I knew Lagerfeld had a point. But it wasn t until I watched the shocking images from Japan that I knew the designer s message reached beyond fashion. "It s time for a new beginning," Lagerfeld proclaimed. Evidently, he s ready for it. On a more practical note, many designers turned their attention to wearability, offering collections aimed at the concerns of real women. As Giancarlo Giammetti, Valentino s legendary partner, sat next to musician Florence Welch (of Florence + The Machine) in the front row, Valentino designers Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pier Paolo Piccioli heeded ugg sunburst the house s new mandate of keeping it young and real. Lace and cashmere were woven together for three dimensional textures, while floral appliqus, trompe l oeil feathers, delicate pleating and dreamy chiffon made for plenty that was pretty. Dresses were long or to the knee and cinched at the waist for added femininity. Metal studs embellished cashmere suits and colours ranged from subtle powdery pinks, blushes and plums to rich chestnuts, navies and aquamarines. As the duo feels increasingly comfortable in the creative saddle that Valentino vacated three years ago, they re confidently making decisions aimed at keeping old clients happy while seducing a generation of new, young ones. But this season, the Valentino signature red dress was conspicuous in its absence. Stella McCartney, very much a woman s woman, stayed true to her essence while taking some brave new directions. Adopting an easy to wear yet dramatic approach, she went the minimalist route for the first half of the show with roomy pieces that were elegant and slightly architectural. The initial looks had an austere Asian feel with oversized offerings in the form of tailored jackets and heavy cashmere dresses, many with pronounced, rounded shoulders. Abstract prints in charcoal and gold came across as crumpled cellophane and large dangling dot paillettes lent the right amount of whimsy to this wild yet wearable vision. And how does Stella remain so grounded when some designers are faltering? "I always remember what s really important," the mother of three reflected. Post show, Stella s father jokingly took the credit. "Hey, she s my kid!" Sir Paul playfully retorted when asked how his daughter manages to keep her head in a business rife with pressures. Lee Radziwill, sister of the late Jackie O., was the picture of elegance in Giambattista Valli s front row. The stylish socialite sang the young Italian designer s praises and told me she finds Valli s clothes to be the epitome of chic. Sure enough, the catwalk fare on display at Couvent des Cordeliers, the old St. Germain convent, oozed with the grace and sophistication that Valli has become famous for. A minimalistic edge was evident in many of the looks, yet there was nothing staid or boring about these clothes. Wild black and white fur dripped from skirts and dresses while beading, embroidery and a black and white still life print punched up the artistry and femininity. While some designers made a move toward moderate minimalism, the dramatic silhouette and a generous helping of theatrical embellishment seemed to be a priority at McQueen. In her second season as Alexander McQueen s successor, Sarah Burton seemed to be returning to what the label had always stood for. Burton riffed on stark silhouettes, edgy lines and clothes that were stories unto themselves. There was an air of regality to these dresses that had everyone speculating about Burton having been chosen to design Kate Middleton s wedding gown. The house is a favourite right now, and the gesture would be a huge vote of confidence for Burton as well as a tremendous homage to McQueen, who tragically took his life last year. There were at least a couple of spectacular white and ivory gowns by the show s end that had the potential to make it to Westminster Abbey next month. But we ll have to wait and see what happens. We ll also have to play the waiting game before we know whether the fashion world really is entering a new age in which the clothes take precedence over the iconic status of a designer. Certainly, the display at Dior at the start of Paris Fashion Week seemed to be saying something with the presentation going on sans its disgraced creator. And earlier in the week, Balmain s Christophe Decarnin was absent from that house s presentation, with reports indicating that he had been hospitalized as a result of exhaustion. But at Louis Vuitton, the designer as rock star was still very much the status quo. The much loved Marc Jacobs, who s at the creative helm of the luxury brand, chose to go the kinky route for fall. He unraveled a steamy story based on the hard core connection between fashion and fetish. With legendary supermodels like Naomi Campbell and Kate Moss in the mix, Jacobs gave us a dark but distinct play on severity tempered with sensuality. Models wearing handcuff bracelets rose through the centre of the floor on an old fashioned elevator; they were decked cheap ugg boots outlet sale out in strict pencil skirts, hot pants, sleek patent coats and jackets, each dutifully carrying an LV signature Lockit bag. Milliner Stephen Jones shearling captain s hats added to the costume effect and most of the sky high shoes looked like laced corsets up the legs. Big ballooning sleeves, some that were ultra furry, added to the intriguing whimsy while reams of shiny paillettes capped off the over the top glamour. Post show, Jacobs held court backstage with a huge cluster of journalists eager to have him talk about the collection s erotic edge. As I watched a sizable security team whisk Jacobs away, I marveled at the frenzy fashion still manages to generate and how the relentless pressures of this business can create such seismic shifts. "We just want to keep making it better each season," Jacobs told me just before he was escorted out of the big tent. "And now, all I can think about is that we ve got to do it all over again in six months." Karl Lagerfeld, top, presented a dark, haunting vision for the label with a smoky array of tweeds and no nonsense footwear gliding over smouldering rocks.
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