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PARIS — American clients have been scarce almost everywhere this week, but most couture houses cited regular to healthy attendance at the shows, which ended Thursday. “Our attendance was about the same,” said Farida Khelfa, director of couture at Jean Paul Gaultier. “Usually we have more American clients, but we had more Europeans this time, so that made up for it.”

This story first appeared in the January 24, 2003 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

Asked to account for the decline in the numbers of Americans, she replied: “It’s obvious. The international situation is tense. People are scared.” American couture faithful Suzanne Saperstein said she had noticed “a lot fewer Americans than there used to be.” Then she added, “People are concerned about the situation around the world right now. But I don’t want someone using fear tactics to dictate to me what I can do and where I can travel.”

As for clients from the Middle East — where the growing possibility of war in Iraq has cast a pall — houses said they have stayed at home, too. But that’s not unusual, since many customers from the region avoid being seen in public.

A spokeswoman at Emanuel Ungaro said that attendance there was stable. “In fact, we saw a lot of new clients from places such as Greece, Britain and Russia,” she added. At Scherrer, president Charles-Edouard Barthes said client attendance was strong. “We had more Americans than usual,” Barthes said. “But we may be a special case, because we’re actively developing our business there.”

“The salons have been packed,” a spokeswoman at Christian Lacroix said. “The ladies were in the front row. For us, it’s business as usual.” But business as usual hasn’t kept houses from planning to take their collections overseas for ladies who couldn’t attend this week’s presentations. Lacroix, for example, will do a full-blown runway show in Dubai in a fortnight for the first time.

The show is part of a special invitation the designer got to participate in a fashion festival there. Meanwhile, the house plans to travel to New York and Los Angeles in mid-February — a customary practice — to visit clients. Houses from Ungaro to Scherrer plan to do the same.