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.