Spinning the Recession: Michael Burke, CEO of Fendi

Michael Burke, CEO of Fendi, has one bit of advice for those who feel squeamish about shelling out for pricey furs as the rest of the country goes into foreclosure: just buy better stuff.

“People should buy for the long term,” he told me at a dinner honoring Nadja Swarovski, the Austrian crystal queen, during Art Basel Miami.

Think, he said, of the ad campaign for pricey watchmaker Patek Phillippe: “You never actually own a Patek Phillippe. You only look after it for the next generation.”

In other words, stop buying the trendy crap you might have wasted your money on when Lehman Brothers was trading at $67 a share — and then handed off to Housing Works Thrift Shop at the end of the season — and upgrade to the classics that will endure.

Burke said he wasn’t feeling the recession much. Sure, the marginal walk-in buyers — presumably flush with cash from flipping condos in Vegas — have vanished. But good riddance. “The people who shouldn’t have been buying are gone but the carriage trade remains,” he confided.

Still, he has sympathy for his less fortunate peers, like poor Mark Lee, former CEO of Gucci. Mark fought them about putting up that ill-timed 46,000 square foot store on Fifth Avenue, he said. “But he lost.” Lee announced he was leaving Gucci in September “to spend more time in New York.” Gucci insisted Lee’s leaving had nothing to do with the luxury goods purveyors’ flat sales for the first half of 2008.

But those blingy Gucci “it” bags filling that vast space now look distressingly like remnants of the Bear Stearns era. Fendi baguette, anyone?