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Depending on your perspective, it's either a reassuring indication that the global recession can't be as bad as all that, or the kind of tasteless display of decadence that no longer has any place in the new economy: Couture fashion week in Paris is currently underway with shows as lavish as ever, even though you'd think that dresses costing a quarter of a million dollars might have a slightly shrinking client base. Dior designer John Galliano, who put on a show yesterday that cost around $3 million, points out that his job "is to make women dream. Of course I'm aware of the credit crunch, but it is not a creative crunch—not at the house of Dior, anyway."

Nor is it a credit crunch at Dior, according to president Sidney Toledano. "Very rich people are not suffering from the crisis," he insists, "and workshops have been very busy." By very rich people, he basically means non-Americans: The Park Avenue matrons who used to comprise a big slice of couture's clientele are decreasingly in evidence at the shows, but they've been supposedly replaced with buyers from Russia, China and the Middle East and consequently the couture labels, including Chanel, Givenchy, and Lacroix, claim that sales are actually up.

Still, a few random familiar faces are in town for the spectacle, including Dita von Teese, Mischa Barton, Ivana Trump, Kanye West, Linda Evangelista, Glenn Close, Marianne Faithful, and Keira Knightley, who was at Chanel this morning to see an unglitzy show from Karl Lagerfeld designed, he said, with the recession in mind: "We are entering a phase of reality fashion."

Karl also found time to opine on his favorite subject besides fashion: the importance of skinnyness! Shirley MacLaine should have crash-dieted before daring to play Coco in the Lifetime biopic, he bitched. "Chanel was NEVER fat, even in her eighties."

Haute couture houses profit from an influx of new money [Times UK]
Paris Haute Couture Week [Telegraph]
Paris designers deliver world of beauty, fantasy [AP]