* Chanel's global footprint stretches far and wide
* Valentino time-travels to world of Flemish art
* Asymmetrical lengths at Chanel, white collars at Valentino
(Recasts throughout to add Valentino show)
By Alexandria Sage
PARIS, March 5 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 brand
logo marking where the luxury label 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.
At the Valentino show, meanwhile, designers Maria Grazia
Chiuri and Pierpaolo Piccioli took a trip back through the
centuries to present a serene and elegant collection inspired by
the paintings of the Flemish masters.
Top luxury brands like Chanel and Valentino 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.
Valentino, too, is expanding in Asia, Europe and the Middle
East, helped by a new infusion of funding following its purchase
last year by Qatar's royal family.
Accompanied by classical music that morphed into Daft
Punk's "Around the World", Chanel models took a turn around the
world, literally, in grey plaid coats with upturned collars or
military-styled coats with contrasting panels of peacock blue.
AROUND THE WORLD AND BACK
As if not to alienate one half of the world's population,
Lagerfeld allowed a solitary male model to join the circuit.
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.
Thigh-high boots and fuzzy cloche caps in electric turquoise
and baby pink added a touch of modern cool.
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. A modest
black wool dress was high on drama thanks to ruffles at the
collar and elbows, while a black velvet dress was transformed
with 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.
At Valentino, Chiuri and Piccioli said their goal was to
"interpret the essence of contemporary grace" via inspiration
from the Flemish masters.
Indeed, many of the sumptuous yet elegantly simple dresses,
with white lace collars or wide scooped necks, could have been
pulled from a Vermeer or a Van Eyck, albeit with a lot more leg.
The design pair made liberal use of floral fabric resembling
tapestry, black and cream alpaca and wool/silk blends, and
innovatively used a thin band of transparent gauze to separate
white collars from the bodices of dresses.
A showstopping ivory coat featured a dramatic hood pulled
from a medieval monk's habit, and blue lace topped a cream
background for a thigh-baring dress that evoked a Chinese vase.
(Additional reporting By Johnny Cotton, Editing by Belinda