Lagerfeld tunes into right Chanel for style

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 18 April, 1993, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 18 April, 1993, 12:00am

No one who has seen the statuesque modern-day Brigitte Bardot figure of Claudia Schiffer adorned with fellow German Karl Lagerfeld's designs for Chanel can fail to admire his achievement. To re-interpret something as timeless and difficult as the simple Chanel look, without shedding its identity, is a huge challenge.

But the unpretentious flowing elegance of this summer's collection proves Lagerfeld has embossed the traditional Chanel stamp with his own inimitable seal.

Without a hint of the staid or stuffy, he has put Chanel buttons on bell-bottoms and made sports shoes look chic.

Anyone who expects the traditional little two-piece of the past will be staggered at how far he has taken the theme of understated sophistication, while using fun shapes, suede and shoes that are up-to-date.

Hongkong Chanel boutiques manager Ms Judy Ip has found local fashion gourmets cannot get enough of the new Chanel and has sold out of many summer lines already. She has even been so bold as to make a special request for lighter summer fabrics just for her Asian clients, because, even the lightest European materials, are too heavy for Asia.

Ms Ip makes several pilgrimages to the Paris shows each year, to select the clothes for the Hongkong rails. It is a job which requires considerable foresight.

She has to cater for tastes as diverse as Hongkong Chinese, Japanese and European expatriates.

''I don't go to Paris with anything special in mind,'' said Ms Ip.

''Instead, I look at the entire collection and decide what will suit Hongkong before making my buying plans.

''I have made recommendations for lighter fabrics, so I think our Hongkong customers should be happy.

''Even fabrics which are lightweight by European standards are too heavy here in June.'' Ms Ip's selections for summer this year have proved so popular that many lines have already gone, and it is too late to re-order.

Individuals often order specific garments, usually evening outfits, but must do so about six months in advance.

This season's look is long and slender with maximum use being made of the elegance potential of low hemlines.

Fabrics adapted to the Hongkong climate include a cotton tweed which looks like wool. Big plaids in pastel colours have been popular in the territory and mixed tweeds have already sold out.

The full bell-bottomed pants have also proved popular, especially a style with buttons down the side, which has sold out twice over, with a waiting list for more.

Linen items are already 70 per cent sold out, and another big-seller has been the corset, worn with, or without, a little bolero jacket over the flared trousers or long, flowing skirts.

Some of the corsets are strapless, some V-necked, or round-necked and others sport spaghetti straps.

''The corset has proved to be tremendously versatile. It can be used to dress up for evening with wide-fitting crepe pants or a chiffon skirt,'' said Ms Ip.

This season's hit may be next year's old hat but Chanel jackets remain eternally popular.

This year it is a variation on the classic little Chanel number, a crisp box shape in white, navy, blue or red.

''It has four buttons and is typically Chanel. It goes with anything,'' said Ms Ip.

At $14,000 a throw, there are still a few left, but the same idea has been extended for a longer version, a basic blazer shape with a more defined waistline.

''We are also going back to dresses this season and this look will be followed through for autumn and winter,'' said Ms Ip.