Crisis? What crisis? Paris haute couture thinks big

Mon Jan 26, 2009 6:54pm EST
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By Sophie Hardach

PARIS (Reuters) - Dramatic blood-red gowns on the catwalk, billowing fur coats in the audience: at the haute couture shows in Paris on Monday the super-rich defied the economic crisis in extravagant style.

Luxury executives have cut costs and jobs due to falling sales, but the message of new modesty has yet to reach the jet-setting crowd admiring wasp-waisted sunshine yellow and pale blue dresses at Dior and tasseled suits at Armani Prive.

Designers must meet a strict set of criteria to enter the exclusive club of haute couture, which has just admitted a new, 12th member -- Stephane Rolland.

"Haute couture is unique," said Ellen Olivier de Vezin, a former public relations executive who came from California to see Rolland's show of geometric black, white and red dresses.

"The skills that go into haute couture are disappearing and it's a privilege to buy these clothes," she added.

The select few who nabbed front row seats at the Dior show echoed that love of craftsmanship and fine material.

Tottering across the cobblestone courtyard at the Musee Rodin where the show was held, they challenged the global downturn with big hair, big furs and big sunglasses.

"Sometimes I get surprised, you hear there is a crisis but you still see people shopping," said a Jordanian Dior client, queuing in front of the sun-streaked facade of the museum.   Continued...

<p>A model displays a creation by French designer Stephane Rolland during Paris Fashion Week Haute Couture Spring/Summer 2009 show January 26, 2009. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier</p>