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Karl Rocks On

PARIS, March 2, 2005 - By the time Karl Lagerfeld pumped a jeweled fist into the air backstage after the Lagerfeld Gallery show on Wednesday morning, he'd proven how firmly his finger is planted on the pulse of a younger generation.

"Fashion has to have the power of youth," he so rightly said. He was standing there, surrounded by beautiful young women in various stages of nakedness, looking his classy self - a pleated Dior silk tux jacket wrapping his thin frame, and one of Hedi Slimane's super-sized bowties falling from his starched shirt.

From the pounding show that he'd just presented, you would never have guessed that Karl is also France's premier couturier, having guided Chanel for the past quarter century. But that is part of his aura, his ability to adapt to changing times, bringing with him all the elegance of a past era.

For Lagerfeld Gallery, this was the most rocking show yet seen, and you could feel that newfound power, perhaps brought on by his anschluss with Tommy Hilfiger, perhaps inspired by his friendship with Hedi Slimane. High collar boss coats were picked with starburst brooches for a regal effect. Mink stoles were grilled into a grid pattern that mimicked the billboard of LED lights that he used as a backdrop. Wide belts, illumined with a Times Square marquee pattern, read out the label's name in red like a stock market ticker. Sharp angled lapels framed jackets, and fox trimming wound around sleeves and hoods, while at the very same moment, ski caps and mink hats were pulled down over the ears - and it looked like, well, the way most kids dress today.

The soundtrack sang out "natural beauty unaffected", and that concept is key to it all, and the reason why most of the world's high powered editors are watching the evolution of Lagerfeld Gallery as closely as a whole new crop of Generation Y, for whom Karl is a style icon. Witness the rush on H&M when his limited collection for the Swedish discount retailer premiered last November. Even André-Leon Talley, Vogue's Editor-at-Large, had flown in from the Oscars and was sitting amid the New York consortium on the front row, a Louis Vuitton mega-scarf wrapped around his neck.

And the beat goes on.


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