HIGH fashion retailers may be complaining about the dire state of the consumer market, but there are still some bright spots. Lane Crawford's three days of trunk shows at its newly-opened Cafe Vogue revealed there are still some diehard spenders in this crazy town. During one show, a woman, described as 'low-key, nobody knew who she was', hesitated for less than a nano-second before whipping out her credit card for a handbag priced at - wait for it - $29,500. The Daniel Swarovski creation, made entirely of crystals, is one of only four in existence (the other three are in New York and London.) An ecstatic Peter Harris, the company's merchandising executive, called Swarovski in Paris and the employee who made the sale was sent a bottle of champagne. The mystery buyer, needing a dress to go with the bag, popped downstairs and bought a Badgley Mischka beaded gown for $35,000. french debuts THE international collections began yesterday in London, followed by Milan and Paris, finishing in early April in New York. Interest in the fall/winter 1998 collections will be focused almost entirely on Paris, where a slew of new designers will unveil their lines for famous fashion houses. Marc Jacobs premieres his collection for Louis Vuitton on March 9, the first day of the Paris shows, and Martin Margiela's first collection for Hermes will be shown later that evening. Other highlights will be Cristina Ortiz's debut collection for Lanvin on March 12, Michel Kors' new line for Celine on March 14 and Narcisco Rodriguez's full collection for Loewe on March 15. All of which, interspersed with shows by the big names - Valentino, Dior, Chanel - and fashion's rising stars - Costume National, Xuly Bet, Dice Kayek - should make it an exceptional season. ferre bad A LOT of fashion plans are being put on hold for obvious reasons. Italian designer Gianfranco Ferre's proposed visit to Hong Kong this April has been postponed until the same time the next year. The Swank Shop group, which will be bringing Ferre to Hong Kong, is also putting its plans for a glossy magazine on hold until 1998. slim pickings MOST fashion houses are seriously streamlining their PR budgets. That means fewer big parties as they opt instead to show collections in intimate gatherings, often in their own boutiques. Salvatore Ferragamo hosted a spring/summer showing at its Canton Road store, Swank Shop did its presentation on Thursday at its The Landmark Inspiration store and the Brooks Brothers mens' collection was displayed at the Kowloon offices of Dickson Poon, which has acquired the line. Celine, on the other hand, took its show out of its usual boutique setting to the China Tee Club. And Gucci has hired out Propaganda, a hip Hollywood Street club, for its seasonal show on Tuesday. The venue was chosen because 'it's trendy and not too scummy,' said a Gucci spokesman. 'And partly because of the venue, there will be a lot more men in the show.' dead reckoning THE latest issue of Benetton's always-controversial magazine, Colors, is creating quite a stir in Italian fashion circles. The February 1998 edition looks at that most taboo of subjects, death. The company applies its usual irreverence to the magazine, titled 'Death - A User's Manual'. The opening page consists of a graphic shot of anewborn baby with umbilical cord and all. Inside, there are pictures of naked corpses and bodies being cremated and disembowelled. Features are entitled 'How are you likely to die?', 'Will anyone miss you?' and 'Fashion Victims' ('... Plastic? Lime? Loose? Fitted? What's a corpse to wear?') It's definitely not for the squeamish or the breakfast table. on the move THE NEWS that Joyce is moving from its flagship store in The Galleria to another site on Queen's Road Central has aroused even more speculation about the state of affairs at the fashion house. Joyce spokesman Adrienne Ma stressed 'there was not a breakdown in negotiation' with The Galleria landlords, insisting instead the move was a practical one. 'It's a street-facing store in a very prestigious location,' said Ma. The new duplex boutique - which will be 15,000 square feet, as it is currently - will open in early April in New World Tower in the space formerly occupied American Express. It is rumoured that Dickson Poon, who seems to be on a buying frenzy just now, wants to take over the space. But no one is saying why. A spokesman admitted the space was being considered by the group, but that it was also looking at several other venues.