Lagerfeld reaches for immortality with Chanel Paris show

Legendary designer and bibliophile Karl Lagerfeld made a pitch for immortality Tuesday by setting his Chanel Paris haute couture show in front of the Academie Francaise.

The venerable institution, whose members are knowns as "the immortals", was the centrepiece of a spectacular set featuring the banks of the Seine that Lagerfeld had built inside the Grand Palais in the French capital.

Everything from the bouquinistes booksellers -- dressed in Chanel of course -- with their vintage Vogue magazines and tomes on Chanel, to the Paris pavements and embankments was recreated in staggeringly realistic detail. All it lacked to pass for the real thing was the tourist tat and a few beggars.

At 84, the Kaiser is now too old to be admitted into any of the academies housed below the gilded dome of Institut de France which act as the guardians of French culture.

Lagerfeld is in fact nearly a decade over the age limit to be a sage, yet the German-born designer shows no signs of slowing.

He still designs for Chanel in Paris and Fendi in Rome -- even though of late he has been a little doddery on his feet.

There was, however, almost a spring in his step on Tuesday as he took the bow for a classily restrained autumn winter haute couture collection marked by slit dresses and sleeves.

Victorian chic

"Karl is as fresh as a bridegroom," Conde Nast maven Karina Dobrotvorskaya cooed on Instagram over her picture of him with his "bride", the traditional finale of couture shows.

Lagerfeld's godsons Hudson and Jameson Kroenig -- the sons of his favourite male model, the square-jawed American Brad Kroenig -- were also at his side after playing the part of riverside booksellers in the show with their father.

Like the Dior show the previous day, Lagerfeld went for a refined sobriety of sharply-cut black and grey slit dresses, worn over short thigh-riding miniskirts.

Many were lit up by flashes of crystals, feathers and glittery-edged embroidery, which pointed up the zipped slit arms.

While much of the collection had a revved-up retro late 1940s feel with models' hair styled in cockerel quiffs and some wearing fascinator hats, there were also Belle Epoque Victorian flourishes in satin and tulle dresses with glittery tweed capes and long fingerless gloves.

Haute couture shows -- which only take place in Paris -- are the creme de la creme of fashion. Thousands of hours of work sometimes goes into the handmade dresses that can only be afforded by the richest women on the planet.

The label is accorded by the French industry ministry to acknowledge traditional craftsmanship in hand-sewn, custom-made garments using strict criteria.

Only 14 fashion houses currently boast the recognition, including Chanel, Christian Dior, Giambattista Valli, Givenchy, Jean-Paul Gaultier, Maison Margiela, Schiaparelli, Alexis Mabille and Stephane Rolland.(AFP)

Photos credit: Alain Jocard / AFP