07/03/2012 08:05 EDT | Updated 09/02/2012 05:12 EDT

Checks, boleros and pink tulle: Chanel's Lagerfeld gets nostalgic, modernizes vintage couture

PARIS - What do a supermodel and a 79-year-old former French first lady have in common? Chanel haute couture.

The unlikely pairing of Laetitita Casta and Bernadette Chirac was seen at Karl Lagerfeld's strong and varied fall-winter 2012 show Tuesday, aptly titled "New Vintage."

Their presence showed the unique and enduring allure of 100-year-old Chanel. Lagerfeld — Chanel's designer since 1983 — is still at the top of his game, presenting a show that modernized the company's fashion archive.

Down the catwalk, adorned with vintage sketches of Coco Chanel's lavish house interior, went shimmering silk tweed skirt suits, ensembles from the '50s and '60s, and a '30s bolero jacket. Other outfits sparkled with a contemporary metallic sheen.

In some instances, Lagerfeld resurrected the 1980s. A series of ensembles in big, bold textured checks in black, grey and white channeled the decade's strong shoulders and narrow hemline. In other looks, pink tulle fringing recreated a dropped waist effect from the 1920s.

Elsewhere, double-breasted A-lines, a Peter Pan collar and ensembles in pale pink and white might have come straight out of Jacqueline's Kennedy early '60s wardrobe.

The boldest looks came toward the end: Lagerfeld let his pony-tailed hair down in a shimmering electric blue dress that could have been Coco's answer to 1970s glam rock.

"Ravishing," said Chirac.

"It's French perfectionism," said Casta.

It was a varied collection for what Lagerfeld backstage called his "diverse" couture clientele — wealthy women from the Middle East to Brazil, Russia to Asia. But the clothes all had one thing in common: rich couture craftsmanship.

"It's hard for the seamstresses," said Lagerfeld. "They toil over the clothes. The tulle with pearl took 3,000 hours. Couture is for a world of privilege."

There's been a certain nostalgia in the air of late. Christian Dior, too, on Monday, went back to the vault to revamp 1950s silhouettes.

"New Vintage" was a typical contradiction in a constantly moving fashion world. But is there ever time for looking back? Not really, according to Lagerfeld,

"In fashion now, vintage means six months," he said.


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