Warming up to 'climate chic'

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Models in head-to-toe yeti suits picked their way around towering but quickly melting icebergs, sloshing through a deep puddle of Arctic melt in their shaggy fake fur. Call it "climate change chic" Chanel style, with Hollywood bad girl Lindsay Lohan and French singer-actress and Chanel muse Vanessa Paradis present.

Designer Karl Lagerfeld looked on Tuesday to global warming, turning the melting of the polar ice caps into fodder for Chanel's fall/winter 2010-11 ready-to-wear look. Because, after all, what use is the threat of a catastrophe of global proportions if not to fuel fashion trends and inspire clever variations on Chanel's iconic styles?

Models in classic Chanel suits with fur trim or tweed jackets paired with pants that looked like they were made out of Chewbacca, from Star Wars, struck poses in front of the giant icebergs, which had apparently been delivered from Sweden.

"This fake fur gives a very beautiful new volume. It's a pleasure to touch and to wear it. It's light and warm," Lagerfeld said.

The born provocateur couldn't resist taking just one little jab at anti-fur activists.

"It is easy to be against fur, but people in the North have to make their living, they are living with nothing else (and) have no other jobs," he said in his rat-a-tat diction.

The models kicked up a spray of droplets as they tromped the watery catwalk, and the hemlines of their ankle-length rockstar coats - worn with cocktail dresses

The over-the-top Arctic production once again raised the bar for the French luxury powerhouse, whose high-budget theatrical presentations and larger-than-life celebrity designer have helped make it one of the most highly anticipated shows on the Paris calendar.

Another highly anticipated show - that of wildly inventive British designer Alexander McQueen - was scrapped after his death last month by apparent suicide. Instead, fashion elites were invited on Tuesday to view pieces from his final collection.

At Valentino, the new design duo struck the right balance between the storied house's tradition and their own vision. For their third ready-to-wear collection for the label, the pair sent out a strong collection that was neither slavish to the archive nor too far removed from the brand's aesthetic.

Valentino's longtime partner, Giancarlo Giametti, hailed Tuesday's stride. After several shaky seasons at Chloe, the designer finally managed to capture the cool Paris label's romantic, slightly bohemian attitude.

Hannah MacGibbon delivered clean-lined silhouettes in camel and chambray, with plain-fronted high-waisted pants and crewneck sweaters, oversized hooded coats and romantic button-down blouses.

A-line capes in butterscotch felt were paired with wide-legged tweed trousers and knit jumpsuits that exuded relaxed, 1970s Parisian chic. There was also a hint of the American West in the long coats with leather fringe and high-rise leather shorts.

At Thierry Mugler, Spain's Rosemary Rodriguez pulled off a similarly convincing performance with a collection that was all sharp edges and futuristic shapes.

Jean-Charles de Castelbajac, France's reigning king of kitsch, looked to Lady Godiva for a droll collection that left no Medieval stone unturned.

While the collection was still rife with the kitschy tongue-in-cheek irony that is Castelbajac's trademark, it had a more grown-up feeling than usual. The beautifully cut tapestry jackets looked likely to have commercial appeal beyond the label's usual teenage demographic and could even appeal to the chic middle-aged Parisiennes who normally wouldn't be caught dead in Castelbajac.

"We're growing up," the designer told reporters backstage after the show. "It's still Castelbajac, but with really worked silhouettes and really fine tailoring and work."

Asked why he'd chosen the Middle Ages as inspiration, Castelbajac said "it was all about Lady Godiva. She was so strong, so sexy. I think she's really a model for this century."

Paris' marathon eight-day-long ready-to-wear week was winding down on Wednesday with shows by French luxury behemoths Louis Vuitton and Hermes, Prada second line Miu Miu and Hollywood's favorite Lebanese designer, Elie Saab - the brains behind Up in the Air co-star Anna Kendrick's blush-colored Oscar gown.

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