By Alexandria Sage
PARIS (Reuters) - If art imitates life, then life is an oversized quilted Chanel purse mounted on a wall - at least for some.
That was the impression made on Tuesday at Chanel's Spring/Summer 2014 Paris ready-to-wear show, where the runway was decked out as an art gallery filled with contemporary art installations featuring the luxury brand's products and logo.
Oversized bottles of Chanel No. 5 under Plexiglas, huge canvasses bearing the ubiquitous double C logo and the iconic purse with gold chain strap provided a visual crash course in Chanel's enduring consumer appeal and the sense of humor of its artistic director, Karl Lagerfeld.
"I wanted a certain likeness between what is considered art and what is considered fashion but without the pretentious approach of it," the ponytailed designer told journalists following the show.
Left unexplained was the naked male mannequin on all fours supporting a tire on his back that was adorned with the Chanel logo.
Lagerfeld - who turned 80 earlier this month and has spent three decades at Chanel's helm - did not leave all the art on the walls, however.
As Jay Z belted out "I just want a Picasso in my ... castle" on a soundtrack that shook the bleacher seats, Lagerfeld sent nearly 90 outfits down the runway, one of Paris Fashion Week's most ambitious presentations from the privately-held company.
In bright hues of raspberry, navy, bubble-gum pink and black and white, Lagerfeld played with new takes on the classic Chanel silhouette.
Built-in capes and panels that opened at the thigh imparted a contemporary feel to belted jackets and ladylike skirts, while off-center necklines or cut-outs on sleeves revealed a hint of unexpected shoulder on otherwise demure looks.
Most revealing and avant-garde in their simplicity were simple panels of fabric that shielded the front torso but were affixed in the back with only a string of pearls.
Other ideas came fast and furious - high-heeled spats, a purse to hold three iPods and necklaces whose two chunky pearls recalled earbuds.
But Lagerfeld departed from the classic Chanel book with a series of kaleidoscopic print dresses inspired by brushstrokes.
While the brash multi-colored palette may give some Chanel fans pause, the dresses' intricate pleating, strips of fabric that fluttered as the models moved and petal-like ruffles were delicate works of ... art.
Lagerfeld said he wanted a "very optimistic collection."
"Part of the world is depressing but there is also part of the world where people are pretty happy," he said, then offered a style tip tinged with a dose of pop psychology.
"If you're in a depressing period, you better wear something joyful (rather) than something even more depressing because you'll become even more depressed."
(Additional reporting by Hortense de Roffignac; Editing by Sonya Hepinstall)