Budgets Flat at Première Classe

Buyers praised the quality of the collections but remained cautious about committing to orders.

PARIS — Wielding mainly stable budgets, buyers praised the quality of the collections at the recent Tuileries edition of the Première Classe accessories trade show here but remained cautious about committing to orders.


Attendance fell 4 percent versus the March 2012 session, to 16,218 visitors. The event saw a strong turnout of Asian visitors, though, with Japanese buyers outstripping Italians, taking the number one spot in terms of foreign visitors. The number of buyers from the Americas fell 31 percent, to 818 visitors. The fair’s layout had been entirely reorganized, with mainly jewelry brands in the first section, and accessories and footwear in the second tent.

Wandering through the jewelry section, Caroline Burstein, creative director of Browns in London, said, “The level is very high here; everything you see — whether you want it or not for your business — is very good and has a value to it.”

Burstein especially liked Pyrrha’s handcrafted initial necklaces with old-world letters made using authentic 19th-century wax seals composed of reclaimed sterling silver and bronze, saying, “People want something with a history and authenticity.” The Canadian jewelry brand is working on a special project with the HBO series “Game of Thrones.”

She also admired Japanese brand Noguchi’s delicate tear-shaped earrings in brushed yellow gold and brown diamonds. “The fine jewelry that is here is beautiful and very fine. It’s for the kind of person who is not into making bold fashion statements but likes to express personal style,” said Burstein, adding that the while the store’s budget for costume jewelry is up, its budget for fine jewelry, which “is slower to move,” is stable, or “even slightly down.”

Ruby Chadwick, accessories buyer for Liberty in London, lauded British duo Bernstock Speirs’ collection for its “great iconic shapes in rich but poppy hues of citron, turquoise and vivid orange,” as well as that of British illustrator/scarf designer Emma J. Shipley. “My favorite was the double-backed twill fringe scarf,” she said.

Exhibitors expressed mixed feelings about the show’s new format.

Despite a “super” session, driven by Japanese buyers, Cyrill Davy, brand manager of Delphine-Charlotte Parmentier, which introduced a pure silver line featuring articulated armor rings, said, “I’m not sure I like it. I feel it’s a bit too much to have jewelry brand after jewelry brand. It’s hard for people to digest.”

The brand turns 20 this year, and Davy said its founder later this month in Tokyo will stage a retrospective of her designs plus commissions for other houses, including Chanel, Chloé and Balenciaga. The show will travel to Paris in September, followed by London and New York, according to Davy, who added Swarovski has commissioned a capsule collection from the designer.

Athanasio Kontos, manager of Aris Geldis, felt the new show format was clearer. The jewelry brand’s bestsellers included earrings with long 1930s vintage glass beads entwined with coils of gold-plated metal. “I think it’s an era of earrings right now; I’m not sure if it’s because they’re more affordable,” said Kontos.

Nobuhiro Ojima, a buyer for Tokyo-based multibrand store Burnish, mentioned matte silver; color, especially turquoise, and delicate small volumes among jewelry trends.

“There are lots of Gothic skulls, bones and creatures,” commented Kara Bekker, head of accessories at British private sales site Secretsales.com. Neon accents on jewelry and bags were prevalent, too, she said.
Fatima Al-Hudifi, cofounder of Impression Boutique in Doha, Qatar, said articulated and ear cuffs are still big.

Satchels were among the key bag trends. Keiko Kurokawa, assistant buyer for the Keikyu department store in Yokohama, Japan, said bags were structured, with suede and linen among key materials, and green among the season’s shades.

Marie Josée Blanquet, buying director of Le Grand Magasin in Geneva, lauded Meilleur Ami’s France-made tube scarves in vintage cravat motifs.

Sylvia Toledano, who is known for her crystal-covered minaudières, and added jewelry a year ago, launched a line of gold-plated minaudières encrusted with semiprecious stones.

Jewelry designer Bernard Delettrez introduced clutches in leather mimicking exotic skins with metal alligator clasps, as well as cobweb-shaped minaudières — one covered in 46 carats’ worth of black diamonds retailing at 18,000 euros, or $23,470 at current exchange. Eyewear brand Emannuelle Khanh bowed a line of chic retro hats.

Newcomer La Prune presented Made-in-France old-style trunks, such as vanity cases and hatboxes, in contemporary shades. Prices start at around $1,275.

Austrian hat brand Mühlbauer launched a capsule of revisited traditional hats from areas in Central Europe such as Bavaria, with summer and winter styles that can be ordered at any time of year. Cofounder Klaus Mühlbauer said that from the main line, fur styles were doing well. Other highlights included a trilby line with a knitted band that can be pulled over the ears when temperatures drop. “You have to keep inventing things, I think 2013 is going to be as tough as 2012 and may even dip a little. All of our customers are being careful,” said Mühlbauer.

It’s an exciting time for glove brands, meanwhile. Agnelle presented a line of patinated gloves made in collaboration with Renaissance Cuir in Paris, which specializes in shoe patinas. The idea, explained Sophie Grégoire, Agnelle’s president, is to set up workshops in stores where customers can have their gloves patinated to order. “No one pair of gloves will be the same.”

Maison Fabre is preparing to open a store in the Cour des Senteurs (“Court of Scents” in English) which will open on April 25 on the doorstep of the Château de Versailles. The brand’s neighbors will include Guerlain, Le Nôtre and Diptyque. There will also be a Museum of Scents and a public scented garden designed by Nicolas Gilsoul.

Olivier Fabre said the glove brand’s store will stock perfumed gloves, as an ode to the vogue for scented gloves sparked by Catherine de Médicis in the 16th century; a glove-scented candle; perfumed hand talc for refreshing scented gloves, and perfumed writing sets.

“We are creating a passage from one royal site [Palais Royal, where Maison Fabre already has a store] to another royal site,” said Fabre.