PARIS — While at times wintry and sober in coloration, the Paris collections kept the French capital in the pole position as a hotbed for creative, exciting fashion.

That’s the main message from retailers who attended the shows, which wound up Wednesday here.

“Paris presented one of the most highly anticipated seasons in years,” said Colleen Sherin, senior fashion director at Saks Fifth Avenue.

“All eyes were on Raf Simons at Christian Dior and Hedi Slimane at Saint Laurent, encouraging other designers to up the ante in their offerings for spring 2013. This competition was exciting and is crucial for our industry in keeping everyone on the top of their game,” she added.

Many buyers said they would increase investments. Polat Uyal, chief merchandising officer at Istanbul-based Beymen, said Paris would get the lion’s share of its budget increases to feed a vibrant luxury business in Turkey. In Europe, retailers were finding reasons for optimism despite a gloomy economic climate.

“This is going to be a good opportunity for those that know their audience,” said Ed Burstell, managing director of Liberty.

“If you’re somebody who understands who their customer is, and you apply a focus or an edit to it, where the customer responds to it — not just because there is a lot of it, but because they want it almost on an emotional level — I think you’re going to win. All that said, I do think you have to be price sensitive and you have to balance your buys appropriately knowing that there is a shaky economy,” he added.

Buyers praised collections including Balenciaga, Givenchy, Saint Laurent and Dries Van Noten, while cropped jackets, slim pants, tunics, oversize shirts and lower heels were cited among key items.

“There is an overall soft and sensual hand that graced many of the Paris collections,” said Tomoko Ogura, senior fashion director at Barneys New York. “We could feel and visualize this from our seats. Whether the theme was grunge, religion, punk or something more sinister and melancholy in feel, the softness made it beautiful.”

There were some detractors.

“Paris had its ups and downs. There were collections that were dark and somber that seemedmore like fall-winter, so they were difficult to identify as new,” said Linda Dresner, owner of the boutique in Birmingham, Mich., that bares her name. “Our buy will likely not increase. The important aspect is to create an exciting and interesting mix in the store that will stimulate the client.”

Here’s more of what buyers had to say:

Ed Burstell, managing director, Liberty, London:
Sound off:
“For me it was very simple. This is the perfect season to start distancing ourselves from trying to find trends. I think all the best collections kind of worked outside of that idea, and played specifically on the individual DNA of each house.”
Favorite collections: Dior, Lanvin, Kenzo, Alexander McQueen, Stella McCartney and Haider Ackermann.
Business: “The ones we’ve seen in Paris so far that we thought were exceptionally strong, we’re going to be buying 15 percent more than last year.”
Raf vs. Hedi: “Dior. I think they both went back to the roots of the house. I think Raf was more successful at making it modern.”

Marigay McKee, chief merchant, Harrods:
Sound off:
“Overall, Paris’ new-found chic commercialism is a recipe for success. We will increase our budgets for spring 2013 in Paris, following the opening of new Stella McCartney and Chloé boutiques, which have been extremely well received. This December, we will also unveil a new contemporary room that will house the first dedicated Carven boutique.”
Trends: “Arm and shoulder candy was bold with huge Hermès Birkins and hula hoop-inspired bags at Chanel. Statement jewelry continued to be prominent with huge hoop earrings at Balmain and oversize pearls at Chanel, which adorned both wrists and necks.”
Favorite collections: Lanvin, Givenchy, Celine, Roland Mouret, Stella McCartney, McQueen, Dior and Chanel.
One to watch: Vionnet.

Ken Downing, senior vice presidentand fashion director, Neiman Marcus:
“We had two new designers at two houses, which brought a buoyancy to the season, a whole new energy. In a season that’s been obsessed with black, it was nice to see Paris come back with a lot of great color, as well as romance with effusive flounces, ruffles and feminine details. The idea of sheer is a major trend, be it through chiffon, organza and continuation of all the lace. The overriding message is relaxed chic. We saw more relaxed silhouettes for pants and the continuation of the jacket.”
Favorite collections: Balenciaga, Nina Ricci, Givenchy, Stella McCartney, Saint Laurent Paris, Dior, Gareth Pugh and Alexander McQueen.
Raf vs. Hedi: “Sometimes I feel like having an apple and sometimes an orange. They were two entirely different design sensibilities and both delivered beautiful collections for the design vernacular of the houses they represent.”

Stephanie Solomon, vice president of fashion direction, Bloomingdale’s:
Sound off:
“Nothing compares to Paris. Raf Simons for Christian Dior just challenges the status quo. In that one show, he will change the way women dress for spring. And then Chanel, also blockbuster. Karl Lagerfeld went back to his roots. The black-and-white beginning, the pearls, the silhouettes, the balance of the jackets and the dresses — a perfect show. Those two were the absolute highlights of my week in Paris. Paris is the pulse of fashion. Paris is where it all changes. It raises the bar.”
Favorite collections: Dior, Chanel, Dries Van Noten, Roland Mouret and Barbara Bui.
Trends: “We’ve been in a season of dresses for so long, it really looks like spring will be the season of the jacket. The black jacket certainly looks very modern to my eye again.”

Colleen Sherin, senior fashion director,Saks Fifth Avenue:
“Paris, more so than any other city, focused on tailoring, often with a sharp, strong-shouldered silhouette. There was the idea of geometry, both in terms of print, pattern and shape, with the A-line being key. To contrast this, there was a polished femininity, with ruffles and frills and plays on transparency. The sport influence continued, with mesh used in every possible way.”
Favorite collections: Dior, Alexander McQueen, Givenchy, Haider Ackermann, Chanel, Junya Watanabe and Saint Laurent Paris.
Raf vs. Hedi: “Raf Simons exceeded the expectation and proved that he could propel Dior into the 21st century. Hedi Slimane presented a sexy, cool, very rock ’n’ roll collection for Saint Laurent. I am looking forward to seeing both of them up close and personal in the showrooms.”

Tancrède de Lalun, general merchandise manager, men’s and women’s apparel, Printemps:
Sound off:
“Paris was all about elegance. They were ultrafeminine in a very light way, from the hair and makeup to the shoes. There was a lot of airy white and transparency with sheer fabrics and lace. There was nothing aggressive about any of it. Nonetheless, there was enough novelty to keep buyers satisfied. This wasn’t the minimalism of two seasons ago — there was a lot of research into details. ”
Favorite collections: Kenzo, Balenciaga and Givenchy.
Business: “We had a very good month of September, on the heels of a very good month of August. We are still in the process of renovating our women’s ready-to-wear floors, so we are very optimistic.”
Raf vs. Hedi: “Both took the codes of their respective houses and looked at their histories. One came up with a more intellectual take, while the other went for something more obvious and immediately wearable, a little less processed. But the two brands are not in competition.”

Linda Fargo, senior vice president, fashion office and store presentation, Bergdorf Goodman:
Sound off:
“Paris has ended the four-city season on a high note and as the fashion capital.”
Trends: “New cool suiting, jackets and tailoring; romanticism in lengths, ruffles, lingerie details and lace; Le Smoking; wearable volumes; veiling and transparency; leathers and mixed surface complexity; black or white or both were frequent favorites.”
Favorite collections: “Balenciaga and Givenchy turned out exceptional modernist collections. Junya Watanabe, Gareth Pugh, Rick Owens and Haider Ackermann’s shows were moving, not-to-be-missed fusions of the fashion and performance art. Lanvin, Valentino, Chanel and Stella McCartney will be great for us. We valued the balance of editorial newness with wearability and reality. Sarah Burton’s vision for McQueen was an ultimate fashion tour de force.”
Raf vs. Hedi: “Dior and Saint Laurent Paris provided the drama and lived up to the hype, ushering in a new relevance for these important houses.”
Last word: “We are satiated by what we found here.”

Nicole Fischelis, group vice president and fashion director, Macy’s:
Sound off:
“The city was a mess with all the demonstrations. I missed two shows.”
Trends: “The new volume; all the graphic expression in black and white; the clothes are easy and generally pretty wearable; the continuation of masculine and feminine. I see a lot interesting tops, whether they are blouses, or shirts, or tunics or crop. I see a lot of shorts [and] a lot of new proportions in jackets.”
Favorite collections: Lanvin, Dries Van Noten, Jean Paul Gaultier, Chloé, Giambattista Valli, Rochas, Manish Arora, Sharon Wauchob and Thierry Mugler.
Ones to watch: Le Moine Tricote, Damir Doma, Felipe Oliveira Baptista, Cédric Charlier. “I loved the Designers’ Apartment initiative for young French designers, and the CFDA and British Fashion Council showrooms, too. It gives an additional edge, an additional reason to come to Paris.”

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