PARIS: 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.
Designer Karl Lagerfeld looked 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, the Star Wars Wookiee, struck poses in front of the giant icebergs, which had apparently been special-delivered from Sweden.
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, an elite cadre of fashion elites were invited 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.
Hannah McGibbon, the shy Briton who is the latest in a series of designers at Chloe, also hit her stride after several shaky seasons at the romantic French label.
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.
Paris s marathon eight-day-long ready-to-wear week winds down 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.
The set was covered with a scrim as the guests – including Hollywood bad girl Lindsay Lohan and French singer-actress and Chanel muse Vanessa Paradis – filed into the venue, sparking a flurry of speculation about what was hidden inside.
Was it another giant Chanel No. 5 perfume bottle? Or perhaps life-sized Alsatian barn, complete with haystacks of smelly straw, like last season?
When the scrim rose, four models in head-to-toe, coffee-colored yeti suits huddled among the real-life icebergs, like refugees of a global warming-induced apocalypse. After milling about in a daze, they dispersed, and Lagerfeld s parade of climate change chic commenced.
Fancy knit sweaters glinted with beadwork, like icicles. Angora sweaterdresses shone icily in an Arctic palette of white and powder blue.
Fur panels dressed up the hemlines of the classic Chanel skirtsuits and the label s blockbuster chain-strapped handbags, and the Chewbacca trousers were paired with little tweed jackets.
Animal lovers can breathe easy. Lagerfeld assured journalists that the fur was fake.
One of the most beautiful furs in the world is Chanel s fake fur, he told The Associated Press Television News in a post-show interview. This fake fur gives a very beautiful new volume. It s a pleasure to touch and to wear it. It s light and warm.
Still, Lagerfeld, a 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 with delicately beaded bodices – were soaked.
It was a strong display that highlighted not only Lagerfeld s ability to reinvent Chanel s trademark looks season after season, but also fashion s capacity to appropriate the hot-button issues facing humanity and turn them into fodder for trends – even using the issues that scare us most.
After a 2009 debut that was so slavishly faithful to the house s look that it looked as if had been plucked straight from the archive, followed by a collection that strayed perhaps a tad too far into unexplored territory, designers Pier Paolo Piccioli and Maria Grazia Chiuri hit the sweet spot.
The pair, longtime accessories designers at the brand under the tenure of founder Valentino Garavani, delivered light cocktail dresses and cropped, ruffle-covered variations on the classic trench coat that managed to look modern but were at the same time infused with the house s hallmark romantic spirit.
The white dresses that opened the show were at once easy to wear and flirty, with scalloped, multitiered skirts. Cropped trenches burst with fabric rosebuds – one of Valentino s signature elements, par excellence.
The duo used a surprising mixture of fabrics that went beyond the noble materials – cashmere, silk, lace and fur – usually seen at the house, incorporating high-tech fabrics and techniques.
The shoes, pointy-toed patent kitten heels with studs that gave them a touch of danger, were also appealingly fashion-forward.
Valentino s longtime partner, Giancarlo Giametti, hailed Tuesday s show as Piccioli and Chiuri s best ever.
I think they arrived at a good balance between today and yesterday, Giametti told reporters after he emerged from backstage, where his words of encouragement caused Chiuri to tear up. The clothes are very modern, light, fresh, fragile and feminine like Valentino likes.
Piccioli and Chiuri took over from Valentino s successor, Alessandra Facchinetti, who was sacked in October 2008 after just two seasons at the house. It was widely reported that she was seen as not sufficiently faithful to the spirit of the brand.
With that lesson still fresh in their minds, it s a fine line that Piccioli and Chiuri have to walk.
It s a balance between the language of the house and our personal point of view, Piccioli told The Associated Press in a post-show interview. This is what we want for the Valentino woman of tomorrow.
Hannah MacGibbon, too, has hit her stride. After several shaky seasons at Chloe, the designer finally managed to capture the cool Paris label s romantic, slightly bohemian attitude.
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.
In 2008, MacGibbon became the third designer to try to fill the enormous shoes of critical darling Phoebe Philo, who doubled the label s sales during her tenure there. (Earlier this week, Philo showed her second collection for Chloe s cross-town rival, Celine, to rave reviews.)
In her previous collections, MacGibbon fielded many of the same elements as in Tuesday s show, but none of her previous efforts matched this display for sheer confidence, sharpness and focus.
Rosemary Rodriguez pulled off a similar feat at Thierry Mugler, which has struggled to find its voice since the recent relaunch of its womenswear line – sans its founder and namesake.
Rodriguez delivered modern clean-lined silhouettes in black leather and dense wools that riffed on the house s iconic nipped-waisted bustiers.
Sheath dresses were padded through the hips to g
et that curvy, futuristic shape, while a sleek puffer coat was made from a patchwork of pattern pieces to cling to the model s body like a second skin – quite a feat for a down-filled jacket.
Jean-Charles De Castelbajac
The dapper French designer always beats his themes to a bloody pulp, and Tuesday s Medieval-themed collection was no exception: He riffed on every imaginable symbol of the Middle Ages, sending out skirt suits made from rich tapestry, a hooded coat that was channeling the robe of a Franciscan monk and a suit of armor for contemporary knights – head-to-toe motorcycle gear in blinding silver lame.
He morphed that most Parisian accessory, the motorcycle helmet, into an oversized puppet, topping them off with the stuffed heads of a donkey and a unicorn. The unicorn, though, was decapitated in a fashion mishap, falling off as the model took to the catwalk.
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.