If estate jewellery, antique watches or gem-studded tiaras were going under the hammer, the auctioneering team at Christie's in New York could be assured of receiving their usual quota of enthusiastic bids from Hong Kong. But the forthcoming highly publicised charity auction of Princess Diana's evening dresses - which has the European beau monde and American high society poised for a buying frenzy not seen since the world descended in droves upon Jacqueline Onassis' leftovers - has raised barely a designer-tweezed eyebrow in this town. Despite the high-glamour factor of the collection, and the fact that its components were once worn by the world's most famous style icon, big-spending Hong Kong women are surprisingly indifferent to the upcoming auction. Scheduled for June 25 at the Christie's Park Avenue headquarters in New York, the auction is expected to draw interest from international socialites, collectors and philanthropists, with takings earmarked for cancer and Aids charities. Viewings are being held at Christie's in London in early June and in New York the week before the auction. The princess' decision to donate 80 of her evening dresses for auction was seen as a move to assert her independence and make a fresh start after her divorce. While the Christie's office in Hong Kong has received enquiries about a 250-page canvas-bound limited edition catalogue (priced at US$295) which is due out in May, interest in the collection is scant. Fashion industry insiders and society watchers say this may have something to do with the main dislikes of the Hong Kong shopping set, particularly those who can afford Parisian haute couture. For them, what are essentially second-hand clothes that do not have a universally recognised designer label hold little appeal. Many were created by British designers Catherine Walker, Bellville Sassoon, Hartnell and Victor Edelstein - names that do not carry as much prestige as their couture counterparts. 'There is not one piece that I would describe as to die for,' said couturier Barney Cheng, who dresses many of Hong Kong's most fashionable women. 'The closer Hong Kong women get to royalty, the better they feel about themselves. But not in the case of second-hand clothes. I think there would be more interest if these were dresses from the queen's wardrobe - like a Hardy Amies gown - because that goes to way back when. And if one of my clients buys one, it will be more for the fun of it than the wearing of it,' he said. Some of the auction items have historical value - a strapless sheath worn to a concert in Hong Kong, a velvet gown seen at the Reagan era White House, even the short and sexy black cocktail dress in which Princess Diana upstaged her husband on the night of his controversial BBC interview. But for Hong Kong's label-crazed fashion fans, the 'used' status of the dresses is too high a price to pay. 'I don't mind owning second-hand jewellery, but clothing is different,' said socialite and jeweller Michelle Cheung. 'I think I would just feel funny wearing someone else's clothes.' Anthony Lin, managing director of Christie's in Hong Kong, said he expected many of the auction house's traditional customers to shy away from the Diana collection. 'There is some awkwardness associated to it. The handover is around the corner and these dresses are so linked to Princess Diana's role in British society that at this point in Hong Kong's history it is unlikely too many people would be inclined to bid for one,' said Mr Lin. Angelina Bleach, head of Lanvin in Hong Kong and a fashion aficionado, took a dim view of the impact the auction will have in the territory. 'I don't think anyone will buy,' she said. 'If I was interested in a vintage dress, I would rather get something from the original archives of Dior, Vionnet or Jeanne Lanvin. At least they have historical value and in them, you can see the tradition of French couture. 'It would be cheaper to buy something in a flea market. And if I really wanted to give to charity, I would just write out a cheque and leave the gown behind.' Mr Lin believes that people in Europe and the United States would be willing to spend a small fortune to own a link in Princess Diana's sartorial evolution; she began her engagement to Prince Charles as a shy and slightly overweight girl scurrying from paparazzi, unwisely wearing a see-through skirt. Today, she is always exquisitely turned out. And her well-toned, lean and statuesque frame would pose yet another dilemma for a typical Asian woman - the fit would be all wrong. Although starting estimates for the outfits - many of which are outdated - have not been confirmed, Mr Lin said he believed they would range from 'a few thousand US dollars upwards'. But not all Hong Kong socialites are closed-minded to the auction. Fund-raising dynamo Alice Chiu said she would be happy to bid if a charity would benefit. And, she said, she would get all her friends to do the same.