Karl Lagerfeld missed the first of his Paris haute couture fashion Chanel shows yesterday, with the label later saying that the veteran designer “was tired this morning”. With the French capital hit by a snowstorm, the 85-year-old creator left his studio head Virginie Viard to take the bow for him at the end of his spring summer collection set in the gardens of an Italian villa. With fashionistas expecting the traditional theatrical reveal at the end of the show where Lagerfeld would appear somewhere on the extravagant set, a Chanel executive emerged instead to announce his absence.

He said the designer would be at the second show for his super-rich clientele. The bizarre twist set off speculation that the designer, known as the ‘Kaiser’, who has ruled over fashion for a large part of the past half century, may be about to step back. Lagerfeld went out of his way to acknowledge Viard, one of the behind-the-scenes heroines at the luxury label, for her years of support at his last Paris show in October. Asked by AFP, executives initially refused to give a reason for the designer’s absence. But later a spokeswoman told Women’s Wear Daily that “he was tired this morning”.

One veteran critic told AFP that she could not remember Lagerfeld ever missing a Chanel Paris show in his four decades the couture house. The prolific German has left many younger creators in the dust, turning out collections season after season for Fendi and his own label as well as Chanel.

Fashion rolls up for Dior’s chic strongwoman circus

Italian designer Maria Grazia Chiuri took Christian Dior to the circus Monday with arguably her most sublimely balanced collection for the Paris haute couture label. A troupe of all-female acrobats of all body shapes led out the show inside a retro big top-complete with harlequin-pattern floor-built in the gardens of the Rodin Museum in the center of the French capital. Chiuri is the first woman ever to lead the mythic French label, and her feminism is never far away. All her nearly 70 models wore glittery skullcaps fastened under their chins-think aviation pioneer Amelia Earhart meets commedia dell’arte character Pierrot.

But there was nothing remotely clownish about the muted elegance of the clothes, featuring lashings of embroidery and beadwork, to summon up the spirit of the circus-set 1917 ballet “Parade”. That legendary show pooled the talents of Pablo Picasso-who did the sets and costumes-the composer Erik Satie, writer Jean Cocteau and Sergei Diaghilev and his Ballets Russes. Chiuri’s designs mixed the romantic and the muscular, cutting her dreamy organza and tulle dresses with whip smart ringmaster and lion-tamer jackets, leather corsets and high-wire jumpsuits. “Every look has its own personality, just like circus characters,” she told AFP, “brave, funny, happy and sad.” “The circus is a world of its own, which passes from town to town, changing each one a little as it goes-a bit like fashion week,” the creator added.

Iris Van Herpen takes flight

Dutch wunderkind Iris Van Herpen’s couture took flight in the Palais de Beaux Arts in Paris’ chic Left Bank. The show evoked winged forms and organic life, and was inspired by visual artist Kim Keever, who drops paint pigment into water. The arty setting was an appropriate backdrop for the sculptural creations that seemed to borrow from works housed at the Louvre, located hundreds of meters (yards) away.
An organic cobalt blue gown featured bare shoulders and a pair of pleated wings that created a highly dramatic dynamic, similar to the Louvre’s famed Hellenistic sculpture, The Winged Victory of Samothrace.

Elsewhere, the marbled form of insects – or perhaps the intricate molecular structures of stones and crystals? – were reflected in a beautiful series of draped and loosely fitted silk gowns. Long Asian sleeves on vivid red and pearly white dresses added elegance and an opportunity to create an interesting trapeze silhouette. Van Herpen is a couture poet.

Schiaparelli is whimsical

Whimsical would be the word to best describe Schiaparelli’s spring-summer couture. Designer Bertrand Guyon presented a fantastical universe of sheeny silks, softly architectural silhouettes and beautiful colors. The embellishments and shimmering embroideries on diverse designs were more than a match for the gilded gold of the show venue, Paris’ ornate Garnier Opera House. Anachronism and contrast ruled.
Cowboy boots cut a dramatic style below a medieval mini dress with speckled and billowing Juliette sleeves. A 1950s bar jacket and peplum ensemble and contemporary pants sported floral scenes that made it appear the pieces were used as a painter’s canvas. And colored feathers that embellished several dresses gave the collection a dreamy quality as they slowly floated by, with the occasional plume falling gently to the ground.-AP/AFP