Global financial meltdown? You would never have guessed it had you been in Paris last week for the summer 2008 couture collections.
On Monday afternoon, I could barely make my way across the turf of the Polo de Paris in the Parc de Bagatelle for the impossibly brown, improbably blonde women dressed in floor-length mink, laden down with giant alligator handbags and even bigger lips, the trademark red soles of their Christian Louboutin heels leading the way to the Dior show.
While John Galliano's presentation six months before had been held in the gardens of Versailles, this location was a bit of a letdown: a scrubby park, dotted with the tents of homeless people.
I wondered what they must think of fashion's elite, teetering past, having been disgorged from their stretch Mercedes, complaining about having to negotiate grass (so difficult, you see, in spiky heels).
And while it seems obscene that we were all here to see very beautiful, certainly very expensive frocks, couture is the all-important ooh, let me see, tent pole that keeps the entire fashion industry not only propped up but thriving, special and sometimes magical.
It took me a long time to really get John Galliano. I always thought his creations rather unwearable - a crinoline, on the bus, is he joking?
But strip away the hats (by Stephen Jones), the Groucho Marx eyebrows and the cripplingly high shoes and what you are left with is a garment that is exquisitely engineered, intricately constructed, hand painted and embroidered.
And, yes, immensely flattering: a sleeveless dress seems to float around the bust, with no effort at all, but take a peek inside and it is as well engineered as a suspension bridge.
At Monday's collection for spring/summer 2008 (couture is always, confusingly, six months behind ready-to-wear), the models were styled with beehives, false eyelashes, sequinned eyeshadow and pale matt lips.
Earrings were huge and the hats like giant lampshades, but the influence was not Swinging London.
The wonderful thing about Galliano is that he does not want his women to look like little girls.
Rather than (yawn) referring to the Sixties, a theme every single High Street shop has seized upon with gusto for far too long, he was inspired by John Singer Sargent's portrait of Amelie Gautreau - known as Madame X - a seductress who scandalised Paris.
Galliano women are always a little bit naughty, you see.
I loved the fishtail gown with a beaded opera jacket, a gold suit seemingly made from scales and the opera coats in lime, purple and canary yellow.
There were little nods to Christian Dior himself in the elbow-length gloves (M Dior thought short gloves, such as the ones favoured by his rival Givenchy, rather vulgar) and in the silhouette: big hips, tiny waists and tapered limbs, like the stems of so many exotic flowers.
The Armani Prive show was, by contrast, far more sane. There were lots of sharp little suits with tulip or puffball skirts, an awful lot of black jet baguettes, origami pleating and sugary colours such as lilac and pink, all accessorised with armfuls of chunky, colourful bangles.
I was sitting opposite Hilary Swank who, if she was in Paris to choose a possible gown to wear to the Oscars (fashion's biggest showcase; if it fails to go ahead because of the writers' strike, expect a
Although the same couldn't be said for her front-row outfit - a dress with shoestring straps was a big mistake with her swimmer's shoulders.
I know that she prides herself on her toned, taught body, but a cardigan or wrap would have softened the look.
The Chanel show on Tuesday, held as usual in the beautifully restored Grand Palais, was a revelation in that all the models wore ballet pumps - which meant there wasn't the usual sport of seeing which model would take a tumble off her six-inch wedges - with 10 denier navy tights (oh, how fresh these seemed after a winter of opaque black woolly ones) and ludicrously short skirts.
Now, of course, once the taileurs have been dispatched to the Middle East and Russia to fit some of these curvy little suits on the wives of oligarchs and princes, the hems will have been let down a little, but it seems Karl Lagerfeld was sending out a very clear message: he wants his label to appeal to younger, more beautiful women, not the cadaverous, parchment-skinned crones in the front row.
There was just enough here, though, to reassure the traditional customer, with no fewer than eight versions of the classic boucle cardigan jacket, not counting the giant plaster facsimile that made up the stage set.
I fell in love with a black spangled jacket clasped with a giant brooch above a draped black jersey skirt, a navy suit with a highneck cream blouse, a sheer black pom pom dress, a silver frock that resembled a Christmas paper lantern and a black silk evening dress with sheer, narrow sleeves and a sheer fishtail brightened with silver spangles.
The Lacroix show is always, how shall I put it, a bit busy and colourful for my taste (though I love the pink, aqua and electric blue tights), but you cannot deny the inventiveness and sheer audacity of the designer whose mantra is surely more is, well, more.
I loved a mutton-sleeved jacket edged in sparkle, a navy V-shaped dress embroidered with white pearls and a black tulip dress with a spangled hem.
I hated the gingham shoes and the liberal use of lace, which resembled so many doilies.
Two gorgeous gowns made me wish, not for the first time, that I were Keira Knightley and had a red carpet to make my own - a draped dress in blueberry chiffon and a whippet-thin blood-red chiffon gown with drop shoulders.
I have a bit of a problem with Jean Paul Gaultier. Not just because I find his signatures of navy and white striped nautical sweaters and conical bras a little tired, but because he is one designer who steadfastly refuses even to countenance that he might, perhaps, use a little less fur in his designs.
But, this being a summer collection, I thought it might be a little bit less of a bloodbath than usual and although I was rewarded with some spectacular outfits - a mercurial silver skirt, a crisp "marine" gabardine jacket with pleated, sheer chiffon pants and a column dress seemingly made from oyster shells (you can see there was a bit of a seaside theme going on here), it was all a little overdone.
One model was given a sea sponge filled with water, which she had to squeeze over herself as she walked, another was sent down the runway smoking a cigarette, while a third, propelling herself on driftwood crutches, was sent out in a gold mermaid tail, which she then stooped to unzip, supposedly to reveal, ta da!, a skirt, which would have worked well had the zip not stuck.
I sometimes wonder what I am doing at these shows when the audience bursts into rapturous applause as if JPG, who, let's face it, is most famous for putting David Beckham in a sarong, had found the cure for leukaemia.
Roland Mouret made his name by dressing stars for the red carpet (remember his famous Galaxy dress, with its secret, inbuilt corset, worn by Cameron Diaz and Rachel Weisz?), promptly fell out with his backers, designed a hugely successful capsule collection of dresses for Gap (we like this man) and then rose to design again, under his own label, RM.
And while his dresses are not cheap, at about £1,000 a pop, they are certainly not in the stratosphere of couture.
And so it was a confident move on his part to have shown for the second time during couture week.
But he needn't have worried. His front row guests included Victoria Beckham, the ubiquitous, and as far as I can make out, pointless Dita von Teese, and Claudia Schiffer.
While they waited for the show to start, the trio appeared to be playing a game to see who could keep their sunglasses on the longest.
I hope they managed to see the clothes through the darkness - I'm sure they will all be ordering his tailored, extremely sexy and vampish little dresses.
If you were smart enough to buy one of his navy shifts from Gap for £75, why not add a high-necked white shirt, a big brooch at the waist, an armful of cheap plastic bangles and a pair of hot pink tights and, voila, you will be very couture summer 2008... and still be able to afford to eat.
But it was the very final couture show by Valentino on Wednesday night that really stuck in the memory.
The conker-coloured one might have taken a final bow more times than I've had my credit card cut up in Prada, but if this truly was the last show, then he will be sorely missed.
All his greatest hits were here - the little luncheon suits in Battenberg-cake colours, the raglan-sleeved coats, the cocktail dresses and, of course, the signature "Valentino red" gowns.
There was no tricky styling: just slicked-back hair, black eyeliner, skirts to just above the knee, glossy limbs and grown-up court shoes.
The show received a well-deserved standing ovation from guests including Uma Thurman and Lucy Liu.
The new designer at the helm, Alessandra Facchinetti, formerly and briefly at Gucci, has an awful lot to live up to.