Putting on a grand show

Now you know whatChanel’s newest collectionlooks like, how about a peekbehind-the-scenes at thelabel’s Autumn-Wintershowcase in Paris in March?CHIN MUI YOON got a rareopportunity to do just that. 

Backstage, it’sa melee ofmodels,makeupartists, hairstylists andfashiondirectors.

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A CHANEL fashion show in Paris? Now that’s not something every tourist gets to experience in the home of haute couture. But I got even more for my money – an invitation to capture the buzz backstage and the manic preparations just before the start of the Autumn-Winter 2006 Ready to Wear (RTW) show in March. 

Coco Chanel herself couldn’t have selected a grander venue than the Grand Palais. The regal hall – completed last September after a 12-year renovation costing ?12mil (RM57mil) – was the very appropriate setting for the show. 

Despite a bone-chilling drizzle and traffic gridlock, there’s a queue at the gate two hours before showtime. Body searches, scanners and gifts of Rouge Allure lipstick greet us. There isn’t time to take in the hall’s legendary glass domes as I am given just 15 minutes to sneak backstage before the show begins. . 

What I see is a hive of concentrated activity as hairdressers, makeup artistes and fashion stylists hover over each model. The tall and lanky girls clad in jeans, sweaters and cardigans are justifiably waited upon like the princesses of the catwalk they are. 

Karl Lagerfeldtakes his bow.

Models from various nations – some the hottest current names, others looking as if they’d just left school – chat quietly as they wait. Among them are red-haired English rose Lily Cole, Scottish model Stella Tennant, who sports a blonde bob, and pixie-faced Aussie Gemma Ward. 

Back outside in the white and champagne-hued amphitheatre, staff are busy allocating seats; each guest gets a folder with pictures along with a little cushion bearing the iconic double C logo – I was told that one of those cost ?40 (RM190)!  

The hall begins to slowly fill with 2,000 trench-coated and fur-draped guests, and I keep my eyes peeled as Chanel designer Karl Lagerfeld is renowned for filling his front row with A-list celebrities. However, it wasn’t a day for star-spotting – the only celeb who turned up was British singer Sting and his wife Trudie Styler.  

The show begins with Karen Elson’s version of the sultry Je T’aime? Moi Non Plus, and the first model strides in. This is followed by a flurry of classic Chanel tweed, baroque styles inspired by the stained glass of cathedrals, poufs of gossamer, glimmers of Swarovski ? and then Karl Lagerfeld appears. 

In 15 minutes the show is over. I get up and someone snatches my little cushion. Well heeled or not, the guests grab these collectibles greedily. Looks like they recognise a good freebie even in Paris!  

Related Story:A celebration of contrasts 

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