- Associated Press - Tuesday, January 25, 2011

PARIS (AP) - Haute couture got tugged in opposite directions on Tuesday, as Chanel channeled the street _ embracing the mixed-up, casual-chic styles of today’s trendsetting It Girls _ while Givenchy sent out what can only be described as extreme haute couture _ breathtaking, Baroque garments that crossed the divide between clothes and art.

Karl Lagerfeld said he had “Gossip Girl” star and new Chanel spokesmodel Blake Lively in mind when designing the spring-summer 2011 haute couture collection, which layered delicate hand-beaded jackets over skinny jeans and flats.

But at Givenchy, on the other hand, the rarified world of couture got set at even greater remove from reality with a capsule collection of tulle gowns entirely covered in pearls, sequins, beads, chiffon petals and ostrich feathers. More objects to be admired than clothes to be donned, the dresses took up to 4,000 hours of painstaking labor a piece and fetch six-figure prices.

French designer Stephane Rolland, who’s built an enviable client roster since opening his exclusive haute couture label a little over three years ago, continued to show why he’s become a favorite of princesses worldwide. His collection was made for women whose packed social calendars provide them ample opportunities to work dramatic statement gowns.

Lebanon’s Georges Chakra aimed at a similar demographic with his vegetation-inspired collection of cocktail dresses that sprouted tufts of tulle and glinted with swaths of sequins. Oversized ruffles dressed up the beaded bodices, and princess skirts were full and flouncy.

Gustavo Lins was at the opposite end of the spectrum. There was not a sequin in sight among the offerings of the Brazilian-born architect-by-training. His season-less collection was a black, white and charcoal affair, with kimono-cocoon coat hybrids worn over simple sundresses in hand-painted silk or knit wrap dresses. Lins’ was a lovely, if low-key, collection.

Worth _ the resuscitation of a house founded in 1858 by a British dressmaker widely considered the father of haute couture _ served up more of the tutus that have become its hallmark since the long-shuttered label resumed its couture line last year.

Its Italian designer, Giovanni Bedin, said he’d taken his inspiration from the house’s “night and day” costume _ an 1880 ball gown embroidered with the symbols, insects and animals of day and nighttime. Bedin covered his tutus with the same symbols, sticking a lacy bat onto an all-black tutu and dusting another with golden honeybees.

After the end of the day’s shows, the fashion elite descended on a remodeled Gucci boutique in Paris’ swanky 8th district. Amid display cases of pricey handbags and jewelry, celebrities like Diane Kruger and Jessica Alba mingled with the fashion editors, journalists and stylists who lapped up the Champagne and decimated the hors d’oeuvres.

Haute couture displays wrap up on Wednesday with shows by the man who gave the world Madonna’s pointy bra, France’s Jean Paul Gaultier, and Italian luxury label Valentino.


Who says couture is for old ladies?

Lagerfeld injected the Chanel collection with a shot of youthfulness, layering hand-embroidered jackets, A-line dresses and miniskirts that glinted with millions of hand-embroidered beads over skinny jeans.

“This is the way the young women of today dress,” Lagerfeld told journalists in a post-show interview as he sipped from an oversized goblet of Diet Coke. “It’s not like the old days anymore, and couture has to be able to change and adapt.”

If there’s one thing Lagerfeld knows how to do, it’s that: The ponytailed designer has spent decades adapting Coco Chanel’s iconic looks to the esprit du temps, with consistently fresh and bankable results.

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