Recession Jolts French Couture, and Psyche

Luxury industry tanks, moving some to dig up conservative values
By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 15, 2009 1:14 PM CST
Discount signs are displayed in windows in the Paris suburb of Saint Germain en Laye.   (Getty Images)
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(Newser) – For France, recession isn’t just an economic event, it’s a cultural revolution, the New York Times reports. The country is at once panicking—the layoff of 200 Chanel temporary workers was a major event—and rejoicing. Many are thrilled to see France’s obsession with high-end living come crashing down. “This whole crisis is like a big spring housecleaning,” posits designer Karl Lagerfeld, “both moral and physical.”

“Bling is over,” adds Lagerfeld, noting an era of “new modesty.” One prestige jewelry maker has suggested the luxury business slash prices, but some French intellectuals want something more extreme: a return to France’s traditional, balanced, conservative way of life. Luxury goods “represent waste, the superficial, the inequality of wealth,” said one sociologist. “They have no need to exist.” (Read more luxury goods stories.)