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Fashion Finds Itself in a Mint Condition

January 13, 2002|VALLI HERMAN-COHEN | TIMES SENIOR FASHION WRITER

Now that 300 million Europeans in 12 countries are stuffing euros into their wallets instead of marks, lire and francs, the currency conversion has become an inspiration for fashion.

The largest monetary changeover in history has inspired all manner of tributes. Images of discontinued bills are featured on wrapping paper while the new streamlined euro symbol has even been shaved into a haircut.

But the most luxurious souvenir comes from the French fashion house Celine, which has created an accessories collection that gives a new twist to the "coin purse" and "money belt." A design team created La Collection Eurodyssey, a limited edition of bags, change purses and a belt decorated with coins that will be discontinued.

"The most commemorative items of the currencies are the coins, which are going to become obsolete," said Dana Lambros, Celine's spokeswoman. Credit for the idea goes to Celine's president, Jean-Marc Loubier, who wanted to mark the historic change.

"The French franc dates back to the mid-1300s," Lambros said. "Fashion almost always refers to things of the past, and this collection pays homage to centuries of European history.'' The collection is an update of a fashion idea that has been around for decades. Fine jewelers make necklaces and earrings out of ancient coins, and chain belts strung with real or faux coins are classic accessories.

Celine faced some legal limits on the creative use of the coins because the monarchs and heads of states on the currencies cannot be shown on items for sale; therefore, the items feature only the tail side of the coins. The designers used special frames to attach the coins and had to be careful not to damage the coins and therefore devalue them.

The chocolate brown leather belt and shoulder bag are studded with silver frames that hold coins from Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, Germany, Ireland and more. The change purses feature one coin on the brown leather zip-top bags. You won't see British pence, or other coins from Sweden or Denmark, Europe's only holdouts from the conversion.

Shopping for Europe's luxury goods will be easier for Americans because the euro has fairly closely tracked the American dollar, trading for anywhere from about 89 cents to $1.17. But the easier-to-understand euro doesn't help sticker shock: The Celine belt sells for about $400, the purse $800, and the pouches $180.

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