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For couture AW16, Karl Lagerfeld offered us a glimpse into the Chanel ateliers. Literally. Models walked before a set in which the design studios had all been recreated at the Grand Palais: mannequin, toiles, fit models, scissors, needle and thread and all the lovely trimmings.

For design purists, here was a treat for the eyes. The house’s seamstresses managed, heroically, to continue with their work as the catwalk show unfolded: a characteristically daywear friendly outing with an undercurrent of 1980s excess: puff-ball skirts in pink duchesse satin, long suede ruched boots with neat little stiletto heels, suits in boucle tweed with wide culottes and long-line jackets cut with an angular, structured shoulder, sequinned dresses so densely embroidered as to seem like fish scales and floral embroideries encrusted with jewels. There was plenty to distract.

© Catwalking

The beauty of the savoir faire has become a subject of almost fetishistic obsession in luxury of late: Monday’s Dior show was similarly dedicated to the work of the petits mains behind the scenes.

And there is something magical about seeing the hands that make these fantasy clothes. For the 400 couture clients who get to go to the studios in person, the experience of the Chanel fitting must be as great as the flourish of the final garment itself. At the show’s end Karl Lagerfeld took his bow with the atelier heads. Everyone smiled.

Read full couture report this Saturday

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