By and  on October 15, 2007

PARIS — Color was a priority among retailers at Premiere Classe here, along with costume jewelry in myriad styles. Graphic forms were among popular new directions for bags.

Retailer budgets were up by about 10 percent on average and exhibitors reported dynamic order-taking. Many were heartened by the return of U.S. buyers despite the euro-dollar divide.

Lorenzo Hadar, owner of the upscale Los Angeles store H. Lorenzo, sensed that many brands had also raised their price points at the show, which ran from Oct. 5 to 8.

"I've seen so many pieces that I would have loved to buy, but the prices are ridiculous," he said, adding that, with plans to open a second store in April on Melrose Place in Los Angeles, his budget increased about 10 percent.

"The most exciting new element was color, especially fuchsia and vibrant greens," said Hadar, who declared big bags "over" for spring, replaced by the clutch.

Bag designer Michael Teperson, who landed Holt Renfrew and Le Bon Marché as new accounts, said, "The weak dollar is a problem, but it's the first time we've had so many American buyers. We've had equal demand for evening and daywear styles."

And the demand for accessories is still white hot, merchants said.

"Accessories are certainly up, they're the backbone of fashion," said Fraser Ross, owner of Kitson in Los Angeles, who is opening another store on Melrose Place there. Kitson launched a franchise in Dubai this month.

"Handbags are storming again and jewelry is performing well," said Eddie Knevett, head of buying for branded accessories at the House of Fraser.

"Clients are after something incredible, but they balance it out with entry-level pieces," said Karen Scott, a sales representative for Philip Treacy, adding that couture pieces such as vibrant feathered hats were among the season's bestsellers, along with beach hats.

Headgear appears to be experiencing a strong comeback.

"Hats will be big for spring," said Andrea Cumini, owner of Cumini, a chain of accessories stores in Italy.

He particularly liked Mühlbauer's navy straw sun hats with white piping. But the jewelry offering was lauded by many as the show's standout category."I like the contemporary jewelry this year," said Ed Burstell, senior vice president and general merchandise manager of beauty, jewelry and accessories for Bergdorf Goodman.

Burstell pointed to On Aura Tout Vu and Lina Ma as standout collections. "Lina Ma had these gorgeous pendant cases with a heart inside," he said.

Clutches were also a direction for bags, including those in rare and leather skins.

"We're looking for more elegant, classic styles," said Le Bon Marché's bags buyer, Stephanie Claret, who named Michael Teperson as a stellar collection. "They are beautifully manufactured. It's not just a fashion brand but a real return to artisanal leather goods."

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