France no longer the fashion capital?

“They’re all dead,” she said. “Yves Saint Laurent: dead; Chanelle: dead; Christian Dior: dead.”

According to my French language teacher here in Perpignan, Paris isn’t the capital of fashion anymore, because all of its top designers are dead. For fashion, she said, Parisians look to New York.

Two weeks ago I would have been a lot more shocked to hear this statement. It would have been more along the lines of “Hello, are we talking about the same France here?”

But when I look at the statistics, it sort of makes sense. According to a 2009 survey  by The Global Language Monitor, a trend-tracking organization based in Austin, Texas, referenced by  The Huffington Post, Milan takes the top rank (I guess the Devil does wear Prada), New York is No. 2 and Paris ranks No. 3  in the list of top fashion capitals of the world.

Paris is “No.1 in our hearts but No. 3 in the media,” says the Global Language Monitor, which based its rankings on a proprietary algorithm that tracks words and phrases in print and electronic media, including the Internet and the blogosphere.

Actually, I had already come to this realization about France when I arrived in Perpignan and saw residents wearing unmentionable pairings — or at least outfits I would never have expected the à la mode to wear.

Truthfully, before I came to France, I felt intimidated by the French. I assumed  that every woman, man, child and their dog would be wearing only the finest of designs. With my travel rags and knotted hair, I might as well have stamped “tourist” across my forehead. So it was, in fact,  a bit of relief to learn the French are no longer at the peak of the global fashion pyramid.

Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of people, young and old, who look fabulous here. And even those who don’t have an amazingly confident way of carrying themselves. They seem to always walk with their shoulders back and heads and chins up. Maybe they just have good posture, but it works. At least I find myself admiring it. So perhaps it comes down to confidence – confidence trumps trend.

But for the record, Paris is still No. 1 in my fashion book.