By  on September 24, 2007

PARIS — Cross-seasonal product proved one of the dominant trends at the latest editions of the Premiere Classe and Eclat de Mode trade fairs that ended four-day runs at the Porte de Versailles here on Sept. 9.

Premiere Classe registered a 5 percent increase in visitors compared with last year, though entries are also for the Who's Next salon that shares the same hall. The number of foreign visitors to Premiere Classe was estimated to be up 5 percent.

Buyers on the hunt for holiday items expressed demand for lighter product. Many retailers said much of the spring collections were less summery.

"The seasons have become less clearly defined," said Amanda Ware, accessories buyer for Fortnum & Mason in London, noting that wintry tones such as white, black and gray were an unexpected element of many collections at Premiere Classe. "We noticed a lot of monochrome and, surprisingly, there's still a lot of Swarovski around," she added, lauding Hélène Zubeldia's "twinkly" rhinestone jewelry range.

"We're after mid-seasonal textiles with cotton mixes," said Isabelle Cuisset, accessories buyer for Franck et Fils in Paris, who balanced a slight rise in spending for bags with a lower budget for textiles.

Echo's scarves were particularly on trend, made from a combination of Lurex and cotton, she said.

"Strong colors are also going to be big for spring, pushing right through to neons," Cuisset said, adding that, bag-wise, itty-bitty leather goods will be all the rage. "I particularly liked X Creation's metallic designs," she said.

Dauphine de Jerphan­ion, an accessories and per­fume buyer for Le Bon Marché in Paris, said, "Color is back, as are bold prints." The season's main trends, she said, split into opposing graphic and "hippy-chic" stories.

Exhibitors, meanwhile, reported unprecedented demand for waterproof styles.

"We've sold a lot of hats in PVC and waxed cotton for spring, which hardly existed in the past," said Jos Verhoeven, managing director of the eponymous Dutch hat brand.

Though business was generally slower, "healthy" orders came from key clients such as Fred Segal, she said."When it comes to high-end creative pieces, American clients are less worried about the extra cost," she said, referring to the euro-dollar divide.

Following a mild winter, glove designers also noted a lull in orders. Remaining fashion-forward is the key to survival.

"We make gloves that dress hands as much as they protect them," said Maison Fabre's director, Olivier Fabre, citing one quirky silver model with a mini purse attached to it as well as exotic styles in crocodile and even kangaroo skin. "The patent leather style has been especially popular."

But the weather hadn't dampened everybody's spirits.

"More people are taking vacations to make up for the lack of sunshine, which has meant booming business for us in July and August," said Claudine Davies, director of Biondi, a beachwear specialist in London.

Searching for summery bags and shoes, she had detected a move away from ethnic to more feminine, sophisticated fare.

Jewelry also had taken a delicate turn. "I was very surprised by the amount of dainty pieces with charms," said Fortnum & Mason's Ware, lauding Y Eyes' brushed-metal chains dangling with handcrafted lucky charm pendants.

"Airy, neo-romantic styles are still prevalent, in soft tones," said de Jerphanion of Le Bon Marché, who also predicted that coupling leather goods in both big and mini volumes will be a hot trend. "The idea is that you can carry a clutch or small purse in an oversize bag. Combining different colors and textures makes the trend all the more fun — pairing a bright yellow clutch with a brown canvas day bag, for example."

Although the fair's eco-friendly accessories section, "Nomad Lounge World," attracted interest, many buyers said the phenomenon has not caught on in the accessories category.

"The product has to appeal first, before other matters come into play," said Isabelle Grandval, owner of ZaZa Factory, which makes jewelry, bags and flip-flops in recycled PVC.

Sales staff from the South Korean leather goods brand Ssamzie said its new Ssamzie Recycle bag line, made from reversible leather and nylon, had proved a bestseller.

"It's been insane," said a spokesman for the brand. "Surprisingly, retailers love the idea of receiving surprise one-off designs."Inflated prices and lack of new directions, meanwhile, were among recurrent gripes voiced by many visitors to both fairs, with the euro proving a sore point for retailers based outside of Europe.

"The euro is ridiculous," said Cigdem Cimenbicer, who owns five fashion stores in Australia named Vontroska.

However, after a "particularly good" sell-through last season on product from Premiere Classe designers, she was back for interest pieces for her store. "I do the rest of [the] buying locally or in China, or we make it ourselves," she said.

The number of visitors to Eclat de Mode remained stable at 11,005.

"Buyers aren't hesitating about making orders, but it's been much quieter than usual, particularly in terms of French clients," said Berny Cao, a sales representative for French jewelry brand Scooter.

Stanislas Stepien, director of Natalex, which specializes in amber jewelry, said the firm had enjoyed better business than usual, though clients were more demanding.

"The fact that we have a repair service helps smooth along orders," said Stepien, adding that buyers were focusing more on the brand's entry-level, fantasy ranges.

"I feel like the price points are up, so we've spent more time comparing brands," said Leung Tsing, accessories buyer for Masterwin Group Ltd., a Hong Kong-based wholesaler. "But at the end of the day, the price isn't the main issue, it's the overall lack of interesting pieces that we've found this time around to warrant the spending."

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