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PARIS (Reuters) - Police sirens and screams set the tone for Dior's film noir-inspired fashion show on Friday, with a collection of 1950s trench coats, lingerie dresses and tight metallic jeans that revealed a decidedly commercial slant.
While Dior executives cheered designer John Galliano's success with shoppers, the economic crisis was still the main theme at Paris fashion week as visitors complained about cramped venues and designers gave tips for looking chic in the downturn.
"Hopefully you can take a few elements of the collection without spending too much, and combine them -- your mother might still have something you can use," British designer Vivienne Westwood told Reuters after her show.
At Westwood's show, punk rock flirted with the Parisian bourgeoisie as fashionistas crowded into the gilded salons of a left-bank apartment formerly owned by Karl Lagerfeld.
Models with their hair in wild, frayed beehives strode across the parquet in Westwood's loosely draped dresses, voluminous belted jackets and a bridal dress emblazoned with slogans against global warming.
"Dress down to dress up by showing your flesh, eg ... ribbons of torn cloth, worn bikini-style," Westwood wrote in a leaflet handed out at the show and addressed to "all eco-warriors."
Designers have continued to trim costs by moving to smaller venues and cutting down on invites and parties. But for some buyers, austerity had clearly reached its limit.
"We put money down for your label and you put these people in the front row, who buy maybe one dress," an angry buyer shouted at Westwood's flustered assistants, pointing at prime seats reserved for visitors from online retailer Net-a-Porter.
That contrasted with the buoyant mood at Dior, where actor Bruce Willis sat in the front row. Singer Rihanna, who attended both shows, told Reuters she thought Westwood was "fun and funky" while Dior was "sexy."
Bernard Arnault, the head of luxury giant LVMH Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessy, expressed optimism over his top brands.
"Since John arrived at Dior, sales have grown six-fold, so from the beginning his clothes have been selling very well," Arnault told reporters backstage, adding that Dior and Louis Vuitton had been less hurt by the crisis than others.
Galliano himself appeared in a Bogart-style beige trench coat and cocked hat at the end of the show, rounding off a collection that evoked 1950s screen sirens with corsets, lace and mock garter belts worked into coats and dresses.
Tiny skirts and shorts that skimmed the top of the thighs, sleek negligees and transparent evening gowns in rich orange, ruby and emerald seemed designed for the modern Hollywood diva.
But beige tailored jackets and leather bags were more boardroom than boudoir and could prove popular with the female professionals who drove the luxury boom before the recession.
Editing by Elizabeth Fullerton