Luxury Spending Enthusiasts Are Cutting Back

By Jessica Naziri,

Vera Wang - A model displays one of Vera Wang's creations during her spring 2012 show at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week in New York.Vera Wang - A model displays one of Vera Wang's creations during her spring 2012 show … The models have already headed from New York to London as the Spring fashion shows to debut the latest trends, but one study from American Express's consulting arm suggests that luxury fashion enthusiasts are cutting back.

But there is a silver lining in this cloud: regular consumers are picking up the slack for the first time since the 2008 financial crisis, according to the report.

The study shows that the top-tier of luxury consumers curbed their spending on high-end clothes, accessories and jewelry in the first half of 2011.

"Average consumers have started to replace existing clothes and accessories again, while enthusiasts are delaying the purchase of new items," American Express Business Insights said in a statement.

Last week, designer Elie Tahari told CNBC at the Mercedes-Benz Fashion Show in New York City that good design trumps an economic downturn.

Despite the uncertain economic outlook, crowds descended on Lincoln Center during the shows and designers went about their business and showcased their spring collections.

Tahari said he tries new "things that people love and (that) are more exciting... always keep it interesting," the Israeli-born designer said.

As the American Express study found, average consumers still need to play catch-up with the higher end consumer. In recent years, they have turned to other categories such as shoes and makeup to freshen their look.

Makeup artist Ramy Soleimani says if there is one purchase women will always make, it is makeup.

"In a bad economy... if you can't afford a fabulous dress, you can afford a fabulous lipstick," Soleimani says.

While the top 5 percent of spenders on luxury goods are slowing down their spending, Sujata Bathia of American Express Business Insights says it is "too soon to see if it's a lasting trend."

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