By  on February 15, 2011

PARIS — Elegant vintage looks à la “Mad Men,” fur and animal textures headlined the fall trends at the Prêt à Porter Paris and Who’s Next apparel trade shows.

The events ended their four-day run at the Porte de Versailles here on Jan. 25.

Buyers praised the variety and boldness of the collections, but couldn’t pinpoint an overriding theme.

“There’s a fun, crazy mix-and-match spirit,” said Pascale Camart, head buyer for women’s wear at Galeries Lafayette. “Designers aren’t afraid to combine a military parka with a lacy skirt and some fur.”

Camart lauded French designer René Derhy’s “interesting mix” of ethnic themes and “romantic lace.”

Sebastian Manes, buying director for women’s fashion and accessories at Selfridges, predicted that clean whites and sober colors would fare strongly next season. His favorites included 22H22, specializing in limited edition Ts using designs by French graphic agency Deuxième Chambre.

Sabrina Tazarourte, buyer for online shopping portal Brandalley, liked the colorful prints and urban appeal of Spanish brand Smash, calling it “ reminiscent of Desigual, but more accessibly priced.”

Manes said his budget was up in the double-digits, while Clamart said hers had climbed “significantly.” Most buyers said budgets were stable or higher for 2011.

“There’s a desire to move beyond the crisis and take a risk again on new, creative designers,” said Muriel Piaser, exhibitions director for Prêt à Porter Paris, which debuted a separate event, dubbed the Paris Fashion Showroom. Piaser said the showroom, which featured 25 high-end, avant-garde designers, was created to “offer an alternative to the trade show ambiance.”

“It attracts a more high-end buyer — the opinion-makers,” added Piaser, noting that the Showroom drew around 2,500 visitors in its first two days.

Exhibitors at Prêt and Who’s Next were mostly pleased with the turnout.

“It’s day two and we’ve already made several good sales [at Prêt],” said Virginie Veil, co-creator of French brand Moloko. “Sales are looking higher.”

Juliette Swildens, founder of the Swildens line, said Who’s Next was a good showcase even if most transactions weren’t made during the fair. For her new collection, Swildens ventured into post-war vintage territory, with a focus on longer, quaintly cut dresses and shoes in vibrant colors.

Attracting mainly European buyers, Who’s Next, which shares its hall with the Première Classe accessories show, saw a 17.5 increase in Asian buyers and a 26.5 percent uptick in visitors from the Middle East. The number of U.S. buyers dipped 6.3 percent, with overall attendance at the show up 4 percent. Citing a slight increase in visitors, Prêt à Porter Paris also saw a marked increase in visitors from the Middle East.

Both fairs reflected efforts to more precisely target niche markets. One section at Who’s Next showcased new brands such as the romantic Charlotte Sometime and the rock and goth inspired Murmur. A dedicated area at Prêt displayed talents like Swedish vintage newcomer Emmy and futuristic brand Pl(a)stic.

A large section at Prêt focused on ethical and fair-trade brands, with participation from U.S. ethical fashion agency NOW Showcase.

In the ethnic niche, new influences from Eastern Europe were apparent. Buyers said they were intrigued by fresh ideas from designers like Hungary’s Tothbori, who featured gold and mustard tones and unusual cuts. Designer Serebrova Aliona presented outerwear constructed from traditional Ukrainian scarves, working predominantly with prints in vibrant reds and oranges.

Men’s wear was a strong new focus at Who’s Next, with a central section dedicated to masculine collections. Rock and denim styles dominated, buyers noted.

“I think the men’s section has attracted a lot of footfall,” said Philippe Atlanti, director for Pepe Jeans France.

He said chinos were making a comeback, but in a more distressed, hip guise. Marcel Lassance, men’s buyer at concept store Merci, lauded the young, fresh looks by Marco Polo at the show, and pointed to innovative new directions in men’s wear.

“The silhouettes and textures have changed so much that men are showing enthusiasm for fashion again,” he said.

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