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PARIS (Reuters) - Maybe it's the effect of recession, maybe it's simply a case of Hollywood fatigue -- whatever the reason, buyers and designers at Paris fashion week are declaring the end of the celebrity cult.
Backstage at the shows, the talk was not of glitzy muses such as actress Lindsay Lohan, but of classic accessories, inspiration from the archives and long-lasting pieces to tempt choosy shoppers amid a slight recovery in spending.
"I think we're moving away from (the star factor), it's more about the product rather than celebrity endorsement," said Sebastian Manes, director of accessories at Selfridges & Co. "I think it was very true for beginning of the century, but now we're going for values."
Pop stars and actors still filled the front rows at Stella McCartney Monday, but the spotlight was on mannish blazers and soft knits that normal women might actually like to wear.
"McCartney was the 'wow' of Paris for me," Stephanie Solomon, fashion director at Bloomingdale's, told Reuters. "She pared it down to what she does best."
Quilted jackets and waistcoats, striped bumble bee A-line dresses and open-backed orange or fuchsia evening dresses with henna-tattoo lace detail played to McCartney's strengths.
"This collection is a response to moving on, moving upwards, and, you know, really addressing what women are going to need in the future to make them feel better about themselves," McCartney said after the show.
Fashion house Emanuel Ungaro bet heavily on the star factor when it hired actress Lindsay Lohan as adviser last year, but the resulting collection was panned and sold less than expected.
At the autumn/winter show Monday, designer Estrella Archs tried to talk as much as possible about the Ungaro archives, and as little as possible about her short-lived collaboration with Lohan.
Polka dot dresses were paired with grass green or pink shoes and accessories; skimpy bustiers with snow leopard print trousers -- not very autumnal in theme, but more wearable than Lohan's buttocks-exposing mini-dresses.
At Loewe, British designer Stuart Vevers mixed the retro glamour of long leather gloves, fox fur and flecked veils with the industrial chic of chains and jagged cuts.
Celine designer Phoebe Philo and Cacharel's Cedric Charlier also avoided risks. Philo stuck to Celine's traditional minimalist style, while Charlier revived Cacharel's romantic origins with pleated skirts and flower-patterned dresses.
"I think designers have taken note that people want longevity in their wardrobe. The brand is not enough," said Danielle Merollo, director of personal shopping at Americana Manhasset, a luxury shopping center in Long Island, near New York city.
She expected autumn/winter sales to be stronger than last year, having already seen first signs of a improvement. In February, U.S. retailers saw their best monthly sales since the recession started to bite.
And just like last year, accessories were named as the top selling item by buyers in Paris, as shoppers look for ways to update their wardrobe on a budget.
"2009 was an amazing year, and the beginning of 2010 is starting very, very well," Manes, the accessories buyer, said.
Editing by Robin Pomeroy