Chanel conquers the globe at Paris fashion show

Tue Mar 5, 2013 9:01am EST

* Brand's global footprint stretches far and wide

* Asymmetrical lengths, flickering fabric mark show

* Military coats, simple black dresses high on drama

By Alexandria Sage

PARIS, March 5 (Reuters) - An enormous globe rotated slowly in the middle of a circular catwalk at Chanel's ready-to-wear fashion show in Paris on Tuesday, with flags bearing the Chanel logo marking where the luxury brand operates stores.

Only Chanel's creative director Karl Lagerfeld knows if the globe was a sign of global expansion or a geography lesson for the well-heeled crowd at his show, many dressed in the Chanel label that appeals to a global audience with money to spend.

Top luxury brands like Chanel - which is private and does not disclose financial information - have seen their sales propped up by growing demand from Asia, in particular from China, and from the Middle East and Russia.

Chinese shoppers account for one-fourth of all luxury purchases globally and last year surpassed U.S. consumers to become the world's top spenders on luxury goods, according to consulting firm Bain & Co..

The head of Chanel's fashion division, Bruno Pavlovsky, told Reuters last November that the brand planned to end 2012 with 10 boutiques in China and 182 internationally and it appeared the fashion house was on track with this plan.

"I can be very happy and pleased because when I started there were three or four (stores) 30 years ago, so it's not that bad," Lagerfeld, 79, told Reuters after the show.

Chanel is one of the few global brands that can sell a host of auxiliary products like handbags, fragrance and cosmetics that help build buzz and feed awareness of the brand and can notch up operating margins of 50 percent.

Accompanied by classical music that morphed into Daft Punk's "Around the World", models at the Chanel show took a turn around the world, quite literally, wearing long grey and navy plaid coats with upturned collars or military-styled coats with contrasting panels of peacock blue.

As if not to alienate one half of the world's population, Lagerfeld allowed a solitary male model to join the models' journey around the globe.

The Fall/Winter 2013-2014 collection was heavy on black, as is typical for Chanel, but Lagerfeld added flickering bits of metallic weave into suit fabrics to add sheen.

Hues of rose and navy wore their way through the collection, as did thigh-high boots and fuzzy cloche caps in electric turquoise and baby pink.

Lagerfeld is praised for his ability, season after season, to rework a limited wardrobe of classic ideas developed by founder Coco Chanel - beautifully cut slim jackets, wool knit suits, cascades of pearls and black suits.

This time around Lagerfeld opened up knee-length A-line skirts at the front, adding a shorter panel for coverage that added geometric interest and a peek-a-boo feel.

But some of the stand-out looks were the simplest. The drama in a modest black wool dress came from a ruffle at the collar and above the elbows, while a black velvet dress with a short flouncy skirt was accented by wide cuffs and a petticoat peeking out in pure ivory.

Lagerfeld himself did a turn around the circular catwalk to end the show. Might he have noticed, with one last glance at the globe, that Antarctica is yet to conquer?

"There's space left," he said. (Additional reporting By Johnny Cotton, Editing by Belinda Goldsmith)