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Chanel shines from head to toe - and everything in between

A model walks the runway during the Chanel Haute Couture fall/winter 2011/2012 show as part of Paris Fashion Week at Grand Palais on July 5, 2011.

Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images/Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images

Style reporter Amy Verner is covering the major shows at Paris Couture Fashion Week this week. Follow her on Twitter @amyverner.


The Designer

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Let's pause to think about this for a minute. Yes, Karl Lagerfeld is the designer for the house of Chanel and he retains his pre-eminent role among today's fashion gods. But as he made clear with this collection, whether intentionally or not, Coco Chanel remains the true visionary.

The Show

A nearly life-size, neon-outlined, sparkly replica of Place Vendôme was constructed within the monumental Grand Palais, the unofficial home of all recent Chanel défilés (or runway shows). Lagerfeld insisted on an evening show so that the in-the-round set could really feel like Paris at midnight. Available for hungry guests: sweet and savoury snacks that followed a strict colour palette of black and white. Bold-faced fashion plates Anna Dello Russo, Alexa Chung and Poppy Delvaigne were among the 2,000 sweaty bodies in attendance (of all the shows to supply fans, this one would have been most fitting).

The Statement

It would be fair to estimate that at least a third of the collection boasted the same silhouette: jackets with peplum flare atop a pencil skirt (so tight was the latter that models rehearsed with their thighs tied together to mimic the restricted movement). Lagerfeld clearly uses couture as an occasion to showcase the ne plus ultra of precious fabrics: beaded bouclé, tweeds that sparkled with metallic fibres, feathers, featherweight chiffons - and even more beads and sparkles - all while jumping between eras, from the uncorseted but conservative early 1900s to the 1950s. His proportions invariably worked, even when the odds were stacked against them. Boxy jackets with three-quarter-length sleeves, flared mermaid hemlines and capelets over jackets can be unflattering, unforgiving or both. But not when conceived by Karl.

The Effect

All the models sported a band of lace across their eyes, apparently to suggest seductive robbers (are there any other kind?). Equally (un)threatening were the feather-trimmed tweed porkpie hats, positioned toward the crown of the head. These funny accessories aside, there's no doubt that the incomparable Coco would have approved this entire collection. She might even have loved the wedding dress (despite never marrying) with its crystal beading all down the train that referenced one of her old a feather pins.

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The Takeaway

When the models gathered together under the Vendôme column, the tips of their boots suddenly flashed with little LEDS, presumably to guide the way through dangerous Paris. When Karl says let there be light …

Amy Verner live from Couture Fashion Week in Paris

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