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Austere Lagerfeld casts a sober spell on Paris show

Paris, July 8 (Reuters): An atmosphere of austerity settled on the fashion pack in Paris today, as German designer Karl Lagerfeld presented his sober designs for Chanel in a masterful show set in a 17th century convent.

Guests including pop diva Kylie Minogue gathered at the Abbaye de Port Royal for the display on the second day of the autumn-winter haute couture collections, which was also due to feature designs by Christian Lacroix and Givenchy.

Models in strict tweed blazers with raised collars and extended sleeves glided through the arched passages of the convent, a former spiritual centre for Jansenism, a religious doctrine famed for its austerity and puritanical mores.

A black tailcoat with a sweeping train was only marginally softened by a frothy underskirt of white tulle. There were medieval touches in the shape of snug lace caps, fastened under the chin, and ermine trims on knee-length tunic dresses.

But the former denizens of the abbey would have paled at the splendour of the details, which displayed the full skill of the dozens of seamstresses who spend hundreds of hours on each made-to-measure couture creation.

Russian model Natalia Vodianova, the picture of an Ice Queen, raised a cloud of dust as she swept across the sandy courtyard in a light blue satin jacket and trailing skirt sparkling with crystals and silver sequins.

Pink and black beads were scattered over the shoulders of a striped tweed coat trimmed with sable at the collar and cuffs. A black and white tweed dress was tufted with ermine, mixed with crystal and jet cabochon stones for a snowflake effect. For the finale, supermodel Linda Evangelista emerged from retirement in a bubbly white wedding gown set off by a deep tan.

Lagerfeld, who this year celebrates 20 years at Chanel, seems to be going from strength to strength. A true Renaissance man, the 64-year-old designer not only produces collections for Chanel, Fendi and his own label, but is also a photographer, book editor and art collector.

There is even talk that Australian actress Nicole Kidman, fresh from her Oscar win for The Hours, is preparing to sign a lucrative deal to become the new face of Chanel. A spokeswoman for the company declined to comment on the rumours.

One fellow Australian who has succumbed to the lure of the label is Minogue, whose stylist last week declared that she was ready to turn her back on the bottom-revealing outfits she has become famous for and adopt a sophisticated French look.

“The couture makes you dream. Austere glamour, I loved it!” the diminutive singer said after the show.

Minogue was tight-lipped however on rumours that she is planning to wed her boyfriend, French actor Olivier Martinez.

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