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Luxury Spending Enthusiasts Are Cutting Back

The models have already headed from New York to London for the Spring fashion shows where they will debut the latest trends, but one study from American Express Business Insights suggests that luxury fashion enthusiasts are cutting back.

Fashion Show NYC 2012
Fashion Show NYC 2012

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. (See the full interview below.)

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."

Questions? Comments? Email us at consumernation@cnbc.com. Follow Jessica Naziri on Twitter @jessicanaziri.

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