PEKING — Christian Dior's furs swirled onto the catwalk in China for the first time today in a bid to make the Communist nation's women want a little more luxury in their lives.
"New needs must be created if China is to develop its economy," said chief fur designer Frederic Castet of the elite Parisian fashion house after the last Chinese had strutted from the stage at an expensive Peking hotel.
Foreign diplomats applauded the work of such a high priest of \o7 haute couture\f7 , but many Chinese in the audience looked bewildered and a few dozed as spectacularly patterned coats of mink and fox were paraded by.
Boe Hansen, president of Saga Furs of Scandinavia, which provided the raw material for today's show, said prices of the items on display ranged upward from $5,000 --almost 20 years' wages for many Chinese.
"We are giving Chinese people something to dream about, to lift their eyes above mediocrity," Castet said.
"China is changing. Among the older people, you still see plenty of Mao suits, but the children are dressed like princes, often better than in Europe."
Hansen said his firm had no illusions about the spending power of individual Chinese consumers.
"But there are 420 million Chinese women over 18 years old and some of them might be tempted, even if at first they can only afford clothing with fur trim," he said.
"The longest journey begins with a single step," he said of today's fashion show, paraphrasing a Chinese proverb once used in other circumstances by Mao Tse-tung.