Premiere Classe Shows Growth of Accessories

Buyers attending the recent trade show were looking for novelty and exclusive brands to beef up their offer.

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PARIS — Buyers attending the recent Premiere Classe Tuileries accessories trade show here were looking for novelty and exclusive brands to beef up their offer in a segment that continues to perform well, despite the bland economy.

This story first appeared in the October 16, 2013 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

The event, which ran Sept. 27 to 30, featured 381 labels, including 69 newcomers, up from 41 at the same time last year.

Among them was jeweler Maria Piana; Madrid-based cushion maker Suturno, and handbag label Fairchild Baldwin, whose collection spanned a lightweight color-blocked leather tote with pockets, a unisex weekender travel set in cotton weave and oversize round bags in pony with gunmetal handles for custom order — all produced in Italy.

Pascale Camart, head buyer of women’s wear and accessories at Galeries Lafayette, noted that accessories — whether luxury or more accessible pieces — have been registering strong sales growth for the last five years.

She remarked that bags are doing especially well, and observed the predominance of small cross-body bags, backpacks and XXL clutches at the fair.

Fabienne Ruset, director of accessories and luxury goods at Le Bon Marché in Paris, noted the department store recently unveiled an accessories concept store.

“Despite a difficult economic situation, the accessories market stands out via its dynamic growth and creation. A bag, a scarf or a piece of jewelry remain impulse buys, which our customers are more than ever likely to purchase to accessorize and personalize a look,” she said.

For spring, Suturno will create exclusive cushion patterns for Le Bon Marché. The Madrid-based label uses hand-drawn techniques on items like silk scarves covered with charming prints like sailboats and cactuses, which also generated interest from buyers from Taiwan, Japan and London.

“Product exclusivity is definitely key to assert your difference and provide a unique shopping experience to your customer,” noted Ruset. “It is important to edit the market with your own DNA and provide the best seasonal offer to the customers.”

Milliner Vanessa Deutsch took her five-year-old line in a new direction for spring by streamlining her cute aesthetic with swimming caps and braided turbans made from fabrics like foam, Plexiglas, polyamide and elasthane.

The vintage feel was inspired by swimming competitions, and Deutsch said she “likes to mix between the Fifties and Sixties, using the materials of today.” Her pieces are sold at Anthropologie, and lots of Nordic buyers were enthusiastic.

French sock maker Bonne Maison, based near Limoges, had colorful and soft offerings in Egyptian cotton. The year-old brand, which is sold at Liberty in London and Comme des Garçons in New York, said its main spring themes were Marie Antoinette and tropics. An ikat pattern was especially popular among buyers.

Diemme is both a brand and independent factory based in Montebelluna in northern Italy. Having produced goods for luxury brands like Bottega Veneta and Chanel, it started making its own men’s label four years ago in the form of hunting and mountaineering boots. This season saw the launch of a women’s collection, though some models are unisex. “Since we have our own factory, we’re not really limited to any minimums in terms of production,” said product and brand manager Erlend Güettler Hanssen. “So we allow ourselves to use many different materials. We have a big collection compared to our overall sales volume.”

The materials include python, antelope, bison and woven leather, among others. All of the materials are Italian, though Diemme occasionally uses tanneries in the U.S. or the U.K. Hanssen said even the bolder prototypes had attracted interest. “People are more drawn to visual stuff. Even though it’s twice the price, it has been really strong,” he noted.

Sarah Fénérol, cofounder and creative director of Mondéfilé.com, a French e-commerce site specializing in up-and-coming designers, noted that, in terms of jewelry trends, there was “a lot more volume” in the designs.

“There’s a desire to step away from the more classical codes, to try things that are a lot bigger, and take more risks in terms of the materials,” she said.

Stephanie Nelson, divisional merchandise manager of accessories at Shopbop, felt that “the show was strongest in jewelry, where we saw more newness in terms of brands.” She said the major trends were the use of pastel hues, such as ice blue, pale pink and mint, and graphic embellishments such as flowers, lips or animals.

In the jewelry section, Maria Piana, a Greek designer based in London, showed her bold geometric cuffs, rings and neck pieces that were architectural in the extreme, and which caught the eye of a number of Italian buyers. All the pieces are made in London.

By contrast, Marseille-based line Stephanie Jewels: Le Fil de la Vie was all delicacy —filament-thin strands of nine-carat gold bracelets and necklaces joined with customizable striped threads.

Sara Carlesi, women’s accessories buyer at LuisaViaRoma in Florence, said she expects demand for accessories to hold up. “This season is going really well, and we are really growing right now. The number of people making online purchases continues to grow, especially in the world of accessories,” she commented.

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