By  on February 4, 2010

PARIS — The Premiere Classe and Eclat de Mode accessories and jewelry trade fairs, which ended their four-day runs here Jan. 26, found retailers and vendors open to negotiation in an effort to meet the needs of price-conscious consumers.

The Premiere Classe and Who’s Next salons, which shared the same hall, attracted 49,460 visitors, up 17 percent compared with January 2009’s session, including a 36 percent increase in foreign retailers.

Stores prioritized top-quality, artisanal goods and midprice positioning.

Buyers from Spain’s Mapamoda XXI, which operates three accessories and clothing stores, were surprised brands were offering no minimum orders in an effort to get products on shelves.

Fall bag trends included simplicity and craftsmanship, putting the focus on raw materials, such as butter soft leather. Colors remained natural, as shades went lighter. Shapes were either solid and statuesque or loose and deconstructed.

“It’s payment terms imposed by the big retailers rather than price negotiations that are making things harder for small brands,” said Emily Cheetham, founder of English bag brand Cheet London.

In jewelry, charms were going strong.

French jewelry brand Ela Stone presented a new secondary line, Ela by Ela Stone, with finer pieces, aimed at Japanese clientele, retaining the vintage look.

“New brands are able to undercut the established ones with exactly the same quality,” said buyer Lupe Diaz with Spanish jewelry and accessories store Pepa Pages. “Clients no longer ask which brand a product is, but its price.”

French jewelry designer Tzuri Gueta, with his futuristic deep-sea creations made from silk, cotton and silicon, and Yazbukey, celebrating its 10th anniversary with Plexiglas “Alice in Wonderland”-themed pieces in anticipation of the Tim Burton film slated for a spring release, were invited to display at the fair’s first pop-up stores, which allowed visitors to buy directly from creators.

French designer Philippe Roucou, best known for his namesake leather goods brand, presented a second series of his limited edition silk scarves printed with one of seven snapshots found at antique fairs, the fruit of a collaboration with visual artist M. Chérie and produced by Hermès.

“The salon has been very good,” Roucou said. “I’ve seen lots of new buyers, a lot of Italians and just had an order from Bergdorf [Goodman].”

Millinery is a growing market. Some 36 stands were dedicated to hats, a total that has more than doubled in the last five years. Dutch hat brand Bronté presented a winter collection of Forties-inspired flat caps and leather and fur aviators.

“We’ve taken as many orders in two days as we did for the entire fair a year ago,” said founder Jos Verhoeven. “Ceremonial hats are no longer present. These are everyday functional accessories.”

Verhoeven noted an absence of U.S. retailers because of the strength of the euro versus the dollar.

Brazilian plastic shoe brand Melissa continued its designer collaboration with Vivienne Westwood with the presentation of its first children’s line, MiniMelissa. The brand also rolled out a men’s line independent of Melissa, dubbed M:Zero.

“A quarter of our orders for the year from France and Switzerland are done at this fair….We are increasing sales at a rate of 30 new retailers in France per season,” said Lorena Sanroma of the Melissa export division.

The Eclate de Mode jewelry trade fair shone with a silver light. Chunky yet lightweight chains and bracelets were popular. According to French silver brand Guiot de Bourg, price rises in gold are fueling silver’s increasing success.

“There are a lot of new brands working with silver,” said event deputy and artistic director Richard Martin. “With the economic crisis there has been a return to real value, which in jewelry is either gold or silver. The price hike in gold has seen silver steal the market over the last year and a half.”

Contemporary designs interwove metals and fabric to create nostalgic on-off pieces, like those from newcomer XI Designs London.

“The crisis has forced the creators to be more serious.…It has forced designers to think about the creation process [and] the price and be much more open about what it takes to sell a product,” Martin said.

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