By  on September 13, 2011

PARIS — In a sign of the times, bracelets sporting uplifting symbols or messages were among key items in the spring collections presented at the accessories and jewelry trade shows, Premiere Classe and Eclat de Mode-Bijorhca. The events ran Sept. 3 to 6 and Sept. 2 to 5, respectively, at the Portes de Versailles here.

Visitor numbers at Premiere Classe and sister apparel show Who’s Next increased 6 percent to 48,778 versus the equivalent session in 2010. Foreign buyers represented 32 percent of total visitors, versus 34 percent last September. The shows saw an 11 percent uptick in French visitors; however, the number of German and U.S. buyers declined significantly, by 33.5 percent and 28.2 percent, respectively.

Buyers lauded the salons’ strong offer of creative yet commercially safe product.

“The challenge is not being too scared of trialing things but on the flip side remaining commercial,” said Darren Giffins, a buyer for Bentalls, a department store focusing on premium fashion brands which has stores in Kingston and Bracknell in England. His buyer colleague Sarah Jackson said she saw a lot of ultrafine jewelry lines at the shows and friendship bracelets galore.

Among other general trends, key materials for bags included leather, canvas, cork and basket. Slouchy hobo shapes were strong, in both brights and neutrals. For jewelry, nature was a key theme, from animal-inspired charms and motifs to organic materials.

Clélia Moretton, owner of Paris concept store Dalia and Rose, lauded Swedish designer Hanna Wallmark’s range of handmade necklaces, bracelets and rings made from reindeer leather embroidered with pewter thread. The collection is inspired by indigenous Saamis reindeer breeders from Northern Scandinavia. Retail prices range from 29 to 220 euros, or about $40 to $290.

Gabi Baumann, a buyer for Switzerland’s largest luxury multibrand retailer, Bon Génie-Grieder, which operates 84 stores, predicts that neon will be big for spring across categories. She particularly liked Maison Bonnet’s leather belts with neon accents.

Certain buyers said designers were being too rigid on prices, considering the economic context.

“It’s tough negotiating, you have to have 15 calculators out. It’s a question of selecting ultraunique product that justifies the high price,” said Mariana Lima, a buyer for Hype Logistics, a buying office for a number of multi-brand stores in Brazil.

Meanwhile, Cyril Meunier, president of French leather goods brand Loxwood, said: “We sense that multibrand stores are really affected by the economic downturn.”

With jewelry brands struggling to absorb sharp increases on precious metals and certain gems, buyers observed price hikes on jewelry collections by up to 30 percent.

“They’re using smaller diamonds and ultrafine lighter designs,” said Camille Nato, owner of the eponymous multibrand boutique in Paris.

“It’s terrible. We’re used to the gold increases but now the same thing is happening with high-quality diamonds. I think the whole jewelry world will change now, people are beginning to change the materials they work with,” commented Paris-based designer Vanessa Tugendhaft, who comes from a long line of diamond cutters and dealers based in Antwerp’s diamond district.

Showing in the Cream by Eclat de Mode-Bijorhca section, Tugendhaft, who launched her brand seven years ago with a simple red string bracelet sporting a dot diamond, will present a new line of affordable diamond jewelry line at Premiere Classe’s second edition in October. Madonna and Kate Hudson count among celebrities who have worn her pieces.

Audrey Savransky, founder and designer of Hong Kong-based jewelry brand AS29, said that many of the buyers at Premiere Classe seemed to be totally unaware of spiraling raw material costs.

“It makes a difference, especially on the small pieces,” said Savransky, whose family also works in the diamond trade in Antwerp. With demand still healthy for luxury items, the designer, who launched in 2008, showcased her most expensive piece to date at the event, a sapphire encrusted gold-plated cuff in the shape of a spinal cord, retailing at 60,000 euros, or about $80,000 at current exchange rates. The piece sports 9,000 stones.

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