Monday, 8 March 2010

Big bucks for beauty as the fashion world rides out the recession

Big bucks for beauty as the fashion world wins the battle with economic crisis.

PARIS, FRANCE. REUTERS - The global recession may have hit pockets hard, and designer gear may be the last thing on most people's shopping lists these days, but it's business as usual at the luxury fashion houses showing their latest collections on Paris' catwalks this week.
There was as much glitz and glamour as ever as fashionistas and celebrities from all over jetted into the French capital for one of the hottest events on the clothing calendar. Venues were packed as the biggest fashion houses in the world, from Dior to Issey Miyake, unveiled their latest ranges. And while some of the shows were a little edgier than others, the pervading theme was one of pure beauty.

"Things are coming back, and I think, I've never abandoned luxury and even during the hardest time I always stay true to myself. I always believed that, you know, at a time like this only beautiful things could sell and also, you know, could attract women, could create the desire for a woman to shop," designer Andrew Gn told Reuters Television after his opulent eighteenth-century inspired show.

Ready-to-wear it might be, but in an era when millions around the world are worried about their debts, their jobs and their house payments, the items on show this week represent a big spend.

Some of GN's simpler items such as tops retail for as much as 1200-1700 pounds ($2290), so still very much the preserve of the well-off.

Some budgets no longer stretch far enough to allow for pretty purchases on a regular basis. Fashion royalty Dame Vivienne Westwood has some words of wisdom for the people who cannot bear to kick their designer habit completely:

"My own philosophy regarding this recession is to tell people to buy less. Really, don't buy so much. Spend less money, but choose really good things. Don't just keep buying things for the sake of it. The best thing is to not buy anything for ages, even six months, and then when you do buy something choose it well and make sure it lasts you, that you really need it or you really like it."

For those who can still afford to splash the cash, the quest for something a little bit special might just be keeping the industry going for everyone else:

"We watch our wallets but we've found during this period that the customers are really still looking for special. They're not looking for basic, and they never were looking for basic from us particularly, but, they're looking for special and they're looking for value. No matter what the price is, if it's worth that price, they'll pay it," explains Todd Hanshaw, buyer for Wynn Las Vegas, in Paris to scout out potential purchases for his clients back in the USA.

But designer Gaspard Yurkievech recognises that while fashion is an art, and an escape from reality for many, it also has to be relevant to life in order for the fashion business to stay alive.

"I think there is this, of course, this level of fashion, of making people dream, but it's also an industry, and maybe fashion has to be real," he says. Indeed, several of this week's collections have been notable for being more wearable than previous ones, perhaps in recognition of the fact that many fashion admirer's pockets are somewhat lighter than they used to be.