By  on October 10, 2006

PARIS — World capital of fashion?

Absolument. Retailers said the international marathon of fashion weeks ended on a high note in Paris, which offered not only jolts on the runway, but great dresses, easy sportswear and other creative styles that should keep the luxury business rolling.

"Paris just keeps glittering more and more," said Janet Brown, owner of Janet Brown in Port Washington, N.Y. "My budget is up 20 to 25 percent in Paris. Even sportswear, which was never the forte of Paris, was very strong this season."

Many buyers said they would increase spending here, citing standout collections from big houses and emerging designers alike. Although trends were diverse and sometimes conflicting — ranging from no-holds-barred futurism to retro Edwardian finery — buyers praised an emphasis on tailoring and athletic and "sportif" influences.

Cropped jackets, romantic blouses, skinny pants, small handbags and platform shoes were frequently cited as key items, while the most lauded collections included Alexander McQueen, Balenciaga, Lanvin, Louis Vuitton, Dries Van Noten and Stella McCartney.

"What excites our clients is newness, quality and surprise, and you can find it here aplenty between the runways and the showrooms," said Linda Fargo, senior vice president, fashion office and store presentation, at Bergdorf Goodman. "Paris always crystallizes the spirit of the season and it's clear that youthful dresses remain the most diverse and dominant must-have category."

Here's what buyers had to say:

Joyce Ma, principal, Joyce Boutique Holdings, Hong Kong: "Thank God for Paris. It was much more interesting than the weeks before. However, it will be a very difficult season. Key trends such as short-shorts and futuristic styles may be difficult for my clientele. Prices are so high. Everything has become very expensive. Alexander McQueen and Yohji Yamamoto were both very, very nice, as were Lanvin and Chanel." Ma said she would be increasing her budget over last year. "We will be spending more; however, the summer is not an easy season for us."

Anna Garner, fashion director, Selfridges, London: "Paris gave sense to what has been overall a difficult season. Key trends that emerged were futurism and athleticism. The silhouette emerging from Paris was sharp and lean with more than a hint of the masculine, although dresses (very short) are still key. The Eighties were a strong reference, particularly at Balenciaga, one of the strongest shows of the season. Alber Elbaz has also sharpened his Lanvin collection with great lean pantsuits and a mix of modern and athletic. Nylon and plastic featured heavily on the runways in a cyber context. Shoes for spring are particularly strong, often with Perspex platforms, and metallics, especially liquid silver or mercury, were prevalent again in shoes and bags. Stella McCartney combined all the key trends, showing a great mix of modern, slightly slouchy athletic rompers and short dresses. Her collection also reinforced the season's obsession with the Sixties microlengths and futuristic influences. Alexander McQueen was a sheer delight with beautiful Edwardian tailoring and fantastic dresses."

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