'There Is No Austerity In Fashion,' Or In Paris

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France seems a peaceful island in the debt storm that rages in Europe. As NPR's Eleanor Beardsley reports, there have been no cutbacks to speak of, and people, especially in the glittering city of Paris, continue to enjoy the good life.

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

So much of the news out of Europe these days is about debt and countries struggling to pay their bills. Well, there is a bit of calm in that storm, and, of course, it's in Paris. There's no Greek-style austerity in France. And as Eleanor Beardsley tells us, in the City of Light, people are still enjoying the good life.

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ELEANOR BEARDSLEY, BYLINE: The men's ready-to-wear shows were in full swing this week as well-proportioned models strutted down the runway. This started out as a piece about how austerity is hitting the world of La Mode. But as it turns out, there's no story there. Backstage at the Viktor and Rolf show, models were clinking champagne glasses. Thierry Conrad has been working in the fashion world for years.

THIERRY CONRAD: English fashion and luxury is a really, really growing, expanding business. There's no austerity in fashion. Every year, each season, you have more and more people, more and more press.

BEARDSLEY: In fact, doing any kind of austerity story in France is pretty much impossible, because there haven't been any cutbacks. Labor reforms may be causing an uproar in neighboring Italy, but France has just raised its minimum wage. And newly elected President Francois Hollande is holding good on his promises to hire tens of thousands of teachers and police officers. At the same time, the new French government says it will balance the budget by 2017. But French Finance Minister Pierre Moscovici said it will be done sans austerite.

PIERRE MOSCOVICI: (French spoken)

BEARDSLEY: We reject austerity measures because this is what hurts the middle class and kills consumption, he said. The French government says it plans to meet its goal through carefully targeted cuts and tax hikes on the rich.

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BEARDSLEY: So, while la dolce vita may be under attack in Italy and Spain, for the moment it's alive and well in France. On the summer solstice, the country put on its 30th edition of La Fete de la Musique, a festival on the longest day of the year that brings free concerts to every town square, cathedral and public park. Paris was alive with bonhomie and camaraderie, and the sounds of rock, jazz and classical.

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BEARDSLEY: French Culture Minister Aurelie Filipetti said there was never any question of cancelling the festival.

AURELIE FILIPETTI: (French spoken)

BEARDSLEY: Because of the financial crisis, we are more than ever in need of real human values transmitted through art and culture, she said.

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UNIDENTIFIED MAN: (Singing in French)

BEARDSLEY: Perhaps the cutbacks will eventually come. But for now Paris is bursting with joie de vivre. In a few weeks, the city will empty out, as the French head off on their month-long summer vacations. Eleanor Beardsley, NPR News, Paris.

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UNIDENTIFIED MAN: (Singing in French)

GREENE: This is NPR News.

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