Fashion merry-go-round at Chanel show in Paris

PARIS (Reuters) - Karl Lagerfeld unveiled a Chanel woman for the 21st century on Friday to a front row filled with A-list stars Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen, Kanye West and Claudia Schiffer.

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In a spectacular setting in the Grand Palais, the maestro of French fashion who has already shown his own label collection this week, transformed the catwalk into a fairground with a giant carousel as the centerpiece.

But in the place of fairground horses there were Chanel’s signature details -- quilted handbags, camellias and pearls.

Lagerfeld, who sent models down the catwalk in a sleek, modern variations of Chanel’s traditional suit, said he decided to put the house’s historical motifs on to the carousel so he could play more freely with the clothes.

“The basis of Chanel is still very French, we had all the symbols typical of Chanel: the camellia, the buttons, the pearls, the handbag, everything. But in the show there was almost nothing, just one small handbag, because fashion has to change,” Lagerfeld told Reuters Television after the show.

Like his own name collection shown earlier this week, Lagerfeld chose a restrained, largely monochrome palette for fall 2008, but played with length and texture.

Slimline long skirts -- emerging as a trend for next season after making appearances in New York and Milan -- also played a part, in Chanel’s signature woven weave set off with dress coats that were short in the front but fell long in the back.

The back-to-front contrast was a theme down the model’s two-tone hosiery which was white at the front and black behind.

Overall, it was savvily commercial. Accessories played a big part with belts on almost every skirt suit and clunky-heeled shoes so high some models had difficulty walking.

At the end of the show, the carousel started to turn and Lagerfeld himself appeared, impenetrable in his dark glasses and high white collar, to lead the models out.

Reporting by Rachel Sanderson; Editing by Jon Boyle