Credit crunch no worry for Middle East fashionistas

Wed Sep 17, 2008 2:20pm EDT
 
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By Golnar Motevalli

LONDON (Reuters) - Some London-based designers may be seeing fewer U.S. and European customers because of the credit crunch, but demand from the Middle East remains strong.

London Fashion Week, which showcases top British designers such as Vivienne Westwood, Paul Smith and Julien Macdonald, has seen an increase in buyers from Middle East boutiques and stores driven by customers keen to lap up the luxury goods.

"There are more Middle East buyers," Harold Tillman, Chairman of the British Fashion Council (BFC), which organizes London Fashion Week told Reuters.

"I think that in certain parts of the Middle East new shopping malls are being built and luxury design is higher up on the agenda," Tillman added.

No specific numbers were available from the BFC on the breakdown of buyers, but it says London Fashion Week generates some 100 million pounds ($178.2 million) in business and 50 million pounds in media advertising.

While most of the big name designers shrugged off credit crunch concerns and a looming recession, up-and-coming young designers such as Afshin Feiz said they are definitely feeling the pinch in terms of U.S. sales.

"It's (credit crunch) affected me already. I started off in New York and a large part of my business was in New York ... I've lost a lot of the boutiques there because the dollar is so low and my clothes were very expensive over there," Feiz said.

"But in a way it pushed me to the Middle East and Russia and now I'm doing really well over there ... it's a massive market for me right now. I've got shops in Dubai, Riyadh, Cairo, Kuwait," he added.   Continued...