Chanel: Paper Chase Couture
Tue Jan 27, 9:03 am ET
Godfrey Deeny

Paris – With the luxury industry scrambling for responses to retail blues and the prospect of a long downturn, it was instructive to attend Chanel's spring 2009 haute couture collection on Tuesday, an entirely black and white affair, composed of lots of paper and redolent of Hollywood glamour of the 1930s, the last time we had a fully-fledged depression.

One had a little difficulty remembering we are in the midst of a recession, so elegant and grand was the setting, a cut stone former bank headquarters hidden opposite Chanel's headquarters on rue Cambon and done up with remarkable series of paper cutting. In an example of Chanel's deep pockets, the house's creative director Karl Lagerfeld got a team of 40 to labor for two weeks to produce the 7,000 paper flowers, bouquets, table clothes and pot pourri that embellished the extravagant nightclub décor.

Lagerfeld also called on the services of trendy Japanese hair stylist Katsuya Kamo, who created some remarkably beautiful headpieces, fantasy cuts perfectly adapted to the collection which, like the setting, was in just two colors - black and white.

Though few of the silhouettes imitated Adrian, there was something of Hollywood's most famous designer's sense of imperial style in this collection, which opened with a series of suits of rare poise and beauty. Cut with scalloped necklines, short sleeves and four-inch above the knee skirts, they all had great distinction, heightened by Kamo's eye-popping paper head flowers.

"What look would a Bond girl wear? Well, hard to think of something she wouldn't want to put on in this show," smiled Olga Kurylenko, who played Nika Boronina in the James Bond film "Quantum of Solace."

For evening, Lagerfeld gradually injected black, with jade custom jewelry, threaded and stitched into ecru cocktails, before the largely black finale climaxed with a futurist bride - all in white - with 20-foot train.

But the highlight was the all white opening, where plastic flowers, diagonal disks, lace and tulle, and Chanel's remarkable atelier combined to make some paper light looks that deservedly won this show a huge burst of applause.

"I'm a paper freak, always have been. It was a dream to do a show like this, and a good symbol. It's like the story of the white page, and how it can be suicidal when you look at a clean white sheet and cannot do your first sketch," said Lagerfeld.

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