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The Runways: Paris

Clean lines and clean air

Phoebe Philo sets the pace at Céline with her wardrobe solutions. At the Grand Palais, it's a winter wonderland in Karl Lagerfeld's designs for Chanel.

March 10, 2010|By BOOTH MOORE | Fashion Critic
  • SLEEK: Phoebe Philo's chic fall/winter line for Céline, including this glossy, funnel-neck coat, features clothes designed by a woman to answer a woman's needs.
SLEEK: Phoebe Philo's chic fall/winter line for Céline, including… (Jonas Gustavsson & Peter…)

Reporting from Paris — Get ready to banish ruffles, beads and bows because fashion is cleaning up. A smart, new minimalism has swept the fall runways in Paris, and most notably at Céline.

In her second runway show for Céline, Phoebe Philo proved she is fashion's new pacesetter. When the first model stepped onto the white-carpeted runway earlier this week in a navy blue funnel-neck coat cut with military precision and a pair of riding boots with sensible, metallic gold block heels, it was clear this show was about wardrobe solutions, pure and simple, in a range of neutral shades.

Women's fashion: An article in Wednesday's Calendar about women's fashion shows in Paris referred to designer Karl Lagerfeld's use of fur on the runway. The fur was fake. —

These were clothes designed by a woman to answer a woman's needs. A glossy black leather A-line skirt paired with a white lace patch-pocket T-shirt was dressed up enough to go from day to night.

And a black double-face wool skirt with a panel cut out in front, topped by a white silk blouse with long neckties left to flutter in the breeze, was for those times when it is in a working woman's interest to show some leg.

Worn over a cream silk tunic with long shirttails, a boxy black jacket and cigarette pants provided a fresh alternative to the suit, and a black shift with deep leather patch pockets was for the woman who wants a go-to black dress with a little something extra.

Philo, a former design assistant to Stella McCartney, was creative director at Chloé beginning in the late 1990s. She is credited with making that fashion house cool again (remember the Chloe Paddington bag?), before resigning in 2006 to spend more time with her family in her native Britain. (Now, Chloé is designed by Hannah MacGibbon.)

Last year, Philo was brought in to head Céline, the French sportswear label owned by luxury conglomerate Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessy, and she appears to have the magic touch again. The clean-front khaki miniskirts and natural-colored suede topcoats arriving in Zara stores now? They look an awful lot like Céline spring.

While Philo was promoting clean lines, Karl Lagerfeld was promoting clean air.

The Chanel designer created a winter wonderland under the soaring glass ceiling of the Grand Palais on Tuesday, with icebergs imported from Sweden that were literally melting at the models' feet. As they trudged along in Chanel rain boots, dragging their shaggy fur coats through pools of water, the message was this: Global warming is not chic.

The arctic theme -- show invitations came with a polar bear sketch done by Lagerfeld himself -- played out on the runway in earthy-looking patchwork knits, textured bouclé shifts trimmed in folkloric fringe, and winter white mohair sweater dresses shaded with cool blue. Fur was flying everywhere, with wild and woolly fur pants, waders, mukluk boots, and bloomers as well. Tweed jackets, explorer backpacks and chain-handled bags were trimmed with fur. With frosty hairdos, Lagerfeld's ice queens wore winter white dresses that mixed beaded embroidery and fur, carrying clear Lucite purses that resembled ice cubes.

The topic of climate change is risky for a fashion designer, not only because of the environmental impact of apparel manufacturing but also because the traditional notion of fashion encourages consumption. But what keeps Chanel so vital is that Lagerfeld continues to put the clothes in the context of the here and now.

Even as one lavish fur after another came out (Lagerfeld's compassion for the planet apparently does not extend to its four-legged inhabitants -- at least not this season), the idea of investment dressing came to mind in contrast to the clutter of fast fashion.

Because not only is a Chanel jacket made well enough to stand the test of time, but there is also very little chance that it will ever look dated. Buying less, but buying better. Maybe luxury could be eco-friendly after all.

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