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PARIS (Reuters) - The faded beauty of a crumbling theater, whose curtain opened to reveal an ultra-modern skyline, was the backdrop to Chanel's haute couture show on Tuesday which designer Karl Lagerfeld described as a mix of "tradition with the future."
Models walking across the stage and into the audience seated in old wooden theatre chairs showed off a glittery collection that played with proportions. Marked by doubled short skirts and wide low-slung belts, Lagerfeld also added long columned dresses in grays, silvers and blacks and a high dose of gunmetal blue.
The luxurious sparkling tweeds and embroidered fabrics for Autumn/Winter 2013-2014 provided a theatrical contrast to the set, which elicited gasps from the audience of fashion regulars, including singer Rihanna, draped in strings of pearls over a floor-length cream cardigan.
The abandoned, derelict theatre created by Lagerfeld - known for his extravagant sets built under the soaring iron and glass atrium of the sumptuous Grand Palais - was complete with peeling paint, overturned benches and blocks of collapsed concrete, imparting a decaying beauty to the high-fashion catwalk.
"It's the contrast between the old world and the new," Lagerfeld told reporters after the show. "Fashion is the only thing that can travel between both."
Model and actress Milla Jovovich said she had never seen a fashion show set "deconstructed" in this way.
"Walking in I made a joke and said 'Karl really forgot to do the place up. It's a bit of a mess. It's a hot mess.'" she said.
Chanel is perhaps the most heavily marketed label in France's pool of fashion brands, with fiercely loyal clientele across the globe. Haute couture, in which garments are meticulously hand sewn by highly skilled artisans, is the creme de la creme of the $275 billion global luxury industry.
Lagerfeld presented a series of short, slightly A-line skirts worn over another skirt underneath.
"One goes in this direction and one goes in that direction. You have one dress for the price of three," quipped Lagerfeld.
Bold constructed shoulders found their way into boleros and Mod-influenced cropped jackets with standing collars and tight sleeves cut above the wrist.
Most dresses and suits incorporated a wide black belt that anchored the multiple layers and lengths.
"The belt is not a low, hippy belt from the '60s. It's a very refined belt," said the German designer, who wore a diamond and emerald pin in the shape of a jungle cat on his tie.
Surrounded by a phalanx of well-wishers onstage after the show, Lagerfeld chatted gamely in front of the massive projected image of a futuristic city.
Asked by a journalist if the idea behind the show recalled a "Fritz Lang moment", referring to the 20th century Austrian film director dubbed the "Master of Darkness," Lagerfeld lost no time with a deadpan response.
"My whole life is a Fritz Lang moment."
Also futuristic were the sinewy gowns at Stephane Rolland, whose dramatic pieces are popular with Middle Eastern women.
The French designer, who opened his first ready-to-wear boutique in Abu Dhabi in May, used his favorite motifs of exposed backs and flamboyant embellishments for a collection inspired by the somber mood of Spanish painter Diego Velasquez.
Elaborate starched white collars folded like origami, exaggerated sleeves and shiny, sculptural decoration marked the exclusively black, white and navy collection.
Additional reporting by Johnny Cotton. Editing by Paul Casciato