Chanel Paris Show Imports (and Returns!) 240 Tons of Swedish Ice

By Jim Shi March 15, 2010, 2:57 PM EDT

The 240-ton man-made iceberg at Chanel's show in Paris

Photo: Courtesy of Chanel

If there's one show during Paris Fashion Week to watch for its theatricality, it's Chanel. The high-profile couturier constructed a hay-filled barn last October and in 2008 used a 66-foot-tall 10-ton jacket as the backdrop of a presentation. Under the auspices of its famed designer, Karl Lagerfeld, the French fashion house outdid itself Tuesday with an elaborate, arctic-themed production at the Grand Palais that employed a custom iceberg as the scenery.

Billed as “climate change chic, Chanel style,” the show hosted nearly 2,500 guests and was, in part, a vehicle for Lagerfeld to convey an ecological message about the effects of global warming.

Given its history of high-budget presentations, “eco” at Chanel doesn't mean economy. And to assemble this one the event's production company, Etienne Russo's Belgium-based firm Villa Eugenie, flew in 35 ice sculptors from around the world to carve 240 tons of frozen snow transported from northern Sweden. The sculptors, who spent six consecutive days shaping the snow ice—also called “snice"—were the team behind the Ice Hotel in the Swedish village of Jukkasjä, the inspiration for Largerfeld's backdrop.

To prevent the pieces from melting before the show could take place, the entire set was concealed in a 57,000-square-foot, hermetically sealed box with a temperature between -4 and 0 degrees Celsius. It was this chilly climate and enormous white structure—situated plum in the middle of the banks of seating—that guests like Alexa Chung, Vanessa Paradis, and Mario Testino found at the vast glass-domed building on the morning of the event.

It wasn't until the start of the show that Chanel lifted the box to reveal the dramatic scenery. Models clad in shaggy fur coats and fur-trimmed tweeds—all faux to emphasize Lagerfeld's statement on the danger posed by the melting of polar ice caps—strolled from the backstage area hidden inside the icy form onto the watery runway. And, as with every season, a Lagerfeld sketch tied the overarching theme together; this time a drawing of the endangered polar bear adorned the invitations, press kits placed at every seat, and the step-and-repeat for V.I.P. arrivals.

Following the show, Chanel officials couldn't exactly dump the icy pieces into the Seine. Under the license that had allowed it to import the massive chunks of snice, the company was required to ship it all back to Sweden, which it did, using 15 tractor trailers.

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