By  on March 7, 2014

PARIS — The international marathon of fashion weeks ended on a high note in Paris, with retailers lauding shows that were as business-minded as they were creative.

“If the mission of designers is to offer collections that are viably commercial, inventive and transformative, then the Paris fall collections were a tremendous success,” said Barbara Atkin, vice president of fashion direction at Canada’s Holt Renfrew.

“It is a city that opens our eyes and our wallets,” agreed Jeffrey Kalinsky, vice president and designer fashion director at Nordstrom. “No words can describe the excitement of the Chanel show. The set was extraordinary — definitely worth a plane trip from anywhere in the world — and the clothes were right on.”

Echoing many retailers, Stephen Ayres, head of fashion at Liberty in London, said he’s going into the fall season confident, and budgets are planned up in line with this. “Paris is a really important city for us businesswise. Across our designer brands, we place 75 percent of our overall budget in Paris,” he noted.

See the Fall 2014 Paris Collections Here >>

Cindy Ho, fashion director at Kuwait-based 360 Style, said her budget for Paris collections went up this season by 20 percent. She noted she visited many showrooms “and found some creative designers from Asia who are doing excellent work. You can feel the new wave from Asia is extremely strong.”

Laura Larbalestier, buying director at Browns in London, also said the budget for women’s ready-to-wear in Paris has grown 20 percent.

“Customers are so aware of shows we are already receiving requests for certain looks, which makes our job easier,” she said. “You have so much customer feedback early and people are really forward thinking about their wardrobes. The early indications are for embellishments and the item coats, so that will be a big part of our budget.”

However, Polat Uyal, chief merchandising officer at Turkish retailer Beymen, said he anticipates a “more challenging” 2014 after registering strong increases the past two years.

He also characterized the Paris season as “eclectic,” given the variety of prints, fabrics and shapes, and no compelling direction in accessories. “There is no single theme dominating the collections, but ideas floating around and completing each other,” he said.

Retailers cited outerwear and knitwear as standout categories, with knit pants, fuzzy sweaters, fur, lightweight dresses, longer skirts and sensible shoes, especially sneakers, among key items.

Collections by Givenchy, Saint Laurent, Haider Ackermann, Dries Van Noten, Dior and Valentino earned wide praise.

Here’s more of what buyers had to say:

Ken Downing, senior vice president and fashion director, Neiman Marcus:
Sound off:
“I am so enthusiastic after a long five weeks of collections by what we have seen in Paris. Because the collections were so strong, and designers infused such amazing color and beautiful embellishment, it’s been a good week. I also liked Saint Laurent. I am a huge fan of what Hedi [Slimane] is doing there, but the models were very far, so you lost some of the nuances in the clothes.”
Trendspotting: “I am loving all the brocade, the plissé and the metallic touches. It’s so great to be in a city where color has made such an important statement. The ornamentation has been absolutely mesmerizing and is something customers will crave — feathers, beads and embroideries are creating this melting pot of a multicultural global wanderer. It’s one of our favorite trends.”
Favorite collections: Balenciaga, Dior, Chanel and Nina Ricci.

Nicole Fischelis, group vice president and fashion director, global forecasting, Macy’s:
Sound off: “This season, there are many different options and lifestyles, sometimes combined together, and we go from urban to even military and poetry and artistry and revamped classicism. There is no one answer anymore, which we’ve seen for the last few seasons, but it’s confirmed.”
Trendspotting: Pleating, ruffles, sheer effect and texture, metallic, bright hues. “The idea of surface and texture is very important, whether it’s knit or woven.” Strong outerwear, long skirts and dresses, layered looks like skirts over pants.
Favorite collections: Chanel, Lanvin, Dries Van Noten, Dior, Jean Paul Gaultier, John Galliano, Guy Laroche and Jean-Charles de Castelbajac.
Emerging talents: Cédric Charlier, Masha Ma, Damir Doma, Dévastée, Anthony Vaccarello, Sharon Wauchob, Manish Arora and Undercover.

Jennifer Cuvillier, style director, Le Bon Marché:
Sound off: “Creativity and novelty were strong this season, and designers have presented new, exciting collections with key items. We feel very confident. With the amazing creativity we will bring to our store next season, we will try to transmit the excitement we felt during the buy to our clients and propose them unique fashion experiences.”
Trendspotting: Coats, shearling, fur and knitwear. “We loved the mix of winter material bringing a novelty silhouette. The knit in total look is definitely a strong fashion silhouette. Down jacket material also appeared on the catwalk, a novelty this season used in a new, elegant way.”
Favorite collections: Sacai, Céline, Haider Ackermann, Stella McCartney, Dries Van Noten, Dior and Kenzo.
Emerging talent: Gauchère

Judd Crane, director of women’s wear, Selfridges:
Trendspotting: “Knitwear is being used in some of the most exciting ways we’ve seen in years. Almost without exception, knit pieces were used as statements — the extreme contorted wool looks at Comme des Garçons being the most literal example, through to luxuriously realized chunky-knit trousers at Stella McCartney.”
Favorite collections: Junya Watanabe, Comme des Garçons, Undercover and Sacai.

Brooke Jaffe, operating vice president of fashion direction for women’s ready-to-wear, Bloomingdale’s:
Sound off: “Paris is always exciting because there is a celebration of young designers, spectacular theater at the shows and brilliant new ideas from the established fashion guard as well. Paris keeps you on your toes and the energy is electric.”
Trendspotting: “I’m loving the unapologetic use of embellishment for the season on everything from outerwear to skirts and blouses. I love the focus on special knitwear pieces giving a new face to the category. And although there was still a very dark palette out there, I feel a fresh color palette for fall and am excited about the range in color. In Paris, shades of green and winter white certainly had a moment.”
Favorite collections: Chanel, Cédric Charlier, Carven, Dior, Nina Ricci and Stella McCartney.


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