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Oversized animal art breathed life into Chanel’s glamorous couture show

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Paris (AFP) Art returned to the glittering world of Chanel fashion Tuesday, with giant animal sculptures swarming the runway center like a surreal zoo for the Paris Fashion Week show.

Designer Virginie Viard has once again teamed up with contemporary artist Xavier Veilhan, who used the Coco Chanel founder’s home apartment as a creative springboard for her carnival-like spring decor.

And yet, as much as the animals—made of wood, paper, and uncoated cardboard—seemed simplistic, lifeless and monochromatic, the Chanel collection itself contrasted wildly, shimmering with color and sequins in an extraordinarily vibrant display.

Here are some highlights:

CHANEL Animal Parade

Vilhan said he wanted to “evoke the ever-evolving relationship with animals in our societies.”

A VIP front row that included Marion Cotillard, Tilda Swinton, G-Dragon and Vanessa Paradis watched as a huge camel, bull, fish, horse and lion resembling exploding cellphones were transported on this bizarre amphitheater, below a ceiling installation of large geometric discs.

When a bird with a large beak and countless lousy wooden poles were pushed off, there were sobs. The chick appears to be giving birth to a model wearing a top hat and split white riding jacket with a fringed skirt. There were guests reaching for their cameras — and one guest commented that he was a “Trojan chick.”

The rest of the ornate collection seemed less directly related to the animal theme—and that level of subtlety wasn’t a bad thing. There were strong equestrian styles, building on ideas from Viard’s previous seasons. Here, the riding jacket was a central theme, layered in shiny silk tweed over miniskirts and youth skirts.

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There were plenty of fun quirks in the long white gloves, black and white bow ties, and light gold or black boots topped with white boxer-like laces—though sometimes those accessories felt disconnected from the overall aesthetic.

Couture is second nature to Chanel. The detailing of this over-the-top, sometimes poetic design—which sparkled throughout with brocade, foil, sequins and shiny silk—speaks for itself.

One loose, amorphous gown shimmered like a silver fish with thousands of embroidered sequins and black, white and gold silk bodice. Elsewhere, a thickly textured bell skirt was created using undulating layers of white silk like an underwater shell. Or was it a thin layered cloud?

Alexis Mabel color

His fusion of costume design mixed with drama.

French designer Alexis Mabille paired ancient Greek tunics with sarees in bright colors for a South Asian outfit. She produced a soft spring collection with longer silhouettes that used dozens of yards of floor-draping silk.

Bejeweled flowers adorn the hairstyles, which flow as freely as the draped lengths of fabric.

Green gown with a bottle cut flattering hourglass silhouette. It reshaped the model’s body, open at the sides, wider at the top, and held in place by the Greek waistband. The porcelain blue gown, flowingly unstructured from a round neck and hanging flat to the floor, was notable for its pure simplicity.

Not everything was a hit, though, like the blue hoodie dress with slightly mismatched lapels, and a misplaced belt that confused the eye.