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Buyers Stick to Budgets After Strong Paris Season

Retailers arrived at the end of the marathon of international collections with their measured optimism intact.

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Dries Van Noten RTW Spring 2012

Giovanni Giannoni

Alexander McQueen RTW Spring 2012

Alexander McQueen RTW Spring 2012

GIOVANNI GIANNONI

Celine RTW Spring 2012

Celine RTW Spring 2012

Giovanni Giannoni

PARIS — Retailers arrived at the end of the marathon of international collections with their measured optimism intact — despite punishing heat in Paris and a stream of sour economic news.

“We are still experiencing a strong business trend and our job is to fuel that trend cautiously,” said Barbara Atkin, vice president, fashion direction at Holt Renfrew, Canada. “The good news is that Paris has delivered a fresh new season of lighthearted, gentle clothes enriched with intricate, couturelike craftsmanship. Anything too hard-edged, dark and somber seems out of step.”

“Our business so far remains very promising, but we are also cautious about what may happen in the coming months,” added Cindy Ho, fashion director of 360 Style in Kuwait.

Many buyers cited flat budgets, while praising a season where safe and salable took priority over runway fireworks.

“Strong fashion brands are still strong. Many brands are still growing, even in Japan,” said Takehiko Furuya, director, operating officer and general manager of the women’s department at Matsuya Co. Ltd. in Tokyo.

While fears of a dip in China manufacturing have dented stock markets, Sarah Rutson, fashion director at Hong Kong-based Lane Crawford, cited “constant” growth through August, September and the first days of October, in all its locations.

“There is a strong reason to continue our faith in the strong market of China,” she said. “We are buying with confidence and conviction based on the dialogue of something new to say to the customer.”

Buyers cited an array of appealing trends and items, including fuller skirts, silky blouses, lace, sheer fabrics, peplums and a preponderance of white and icy pastels. Top accessories trends include flat shoes — especially in white and silver — and envelope clutches, often oversize.

Among collections widely lauded by retailers were Celine, Dries Van Noten, Chanel, Valentino, Junya Watanabe, Alexander McQueen, Haider Ackermann and Stella McCartney.

Here’s what retailers had to say:

Jeffrey Kalinsky, executive vice president of design, Nordstrom, Seattle:
Sound off:
Our overall business and our designer business both remain strong, and our budgets for Paris remain unchanged. There seemed to be couture influences in all of our favorite Paris collections, and this mixture of art and commerce really got us excited.
Trendspotting: Color — either vibrant or soft — and prints will drive our business next season in separates and dresses for day, as well as for night.”

Ken Downing, senior vice president, fashion director, Neiman Marcus, Dallas:
Sound off:
Despite the news that’s in the headlines, customers continue to be very enthusiastic about beautiful clothes and relevant trends. The sophisticated, polished elegance we saw for fall — which is strong at retail — is continuing here in Paris.
Trendspotting: It’s a gorgeous season here. We are loving the transparency; how it’s being interpreted in such a sophisticated way. It’s interesting to see all the volume happening with peplums and fuller skirts: bias cut, pleated or with gathers.

Takehiko Furuya, director, operating officer, general manager, women’s department, Matsuya Co. Ltd., Tokyo:
Sound off:
Everybody did a good job, with plenty of beautiful clothes, but nothing really made a huge impact. It wasn’t a very entertaining season. Collections were clean and beautiful, but safe.

Nicole Fischelis, group vice president and fashion director, Macy’s, New York:
Trendspotting:
Feminine, fuller skirts, with tons of pleats; full pants, short shorts and track pants; the new tuxedo on the old interpretation; the deconstructed, elongated, sleeveless blazer; the baseball jacket; the amount of new types of shirting and shirtdresses, and the importance of the dress.

Barbara Atkin, vice president, fashion direction, Holt Renfrew, Toronto:
Sound off:
The unbearable heat wave that we experienced this week only stands to remind us that unpredictable weather patterns will force the industry to look differently at seasonal deliveries, requiring clothes to be designed with “seasonless” fabrics in a “buy now, wear now” mentality.
Trendspotting: Feminine dresses, lightweight toppers and jackets, romantic blouses, pleated skirts, fluid trousers and soft, lightweight suits are on our must-have list.

Sarah Rutson, fashion director, Lane Crawford, Hong Kong:
Sound off:
Emotion is everything and Paris delivered intelligent, emotional, desirable and wearable clothes.
Trendspotting: We are delighted with the new language of femininity — lace, sheers, pleats and peplums — with a sense of precision. Dresses continue as a key category, but the skirt returned in force down runways.

Tancrède de Lalun, general merchandise manager, men’s and women’s apparel, Printemps:
Sound off:
Compared with 2008-09, when we experienced the first economic tremors, we still have time to be cautious with our budgets. We are ready to cut them if needed, and we are focusing on star products like the dress. It was quite a pretty season overall.
Trendspotting: White, black and pastel shades; fluid, feminine textures; peplums and frills.

Averyl Oates, buying director, Harvey Nichols, London:
Trendspotting:
We were treated to plenty of fresh, crisp whites alongside softer, more whimsical utilization of the color. This was in stark contrast to New York and London’s heavy use of tropical and digitalized prints. Kanye West’s debut offering was another hot topic. He may have received a less-than-warm reception for his undertakings, but it has certainly got everybody talking.
Sound off: Paris has showcased some exquisite handwork and creativity, from some of the most influential brands in the world, and I always leave with a sense of beauty and a sense of optimism for the season ahead. My only complaint was the dry dust from Les Tuileries — I arrived at many of the shows with half the Parisian garden in my shoes and on my feet. The heat and delayed show starts were a little challenging at times, too.
Favorite collections: Haider Ackermann, Celine, Isabel Marant, Giambattista Valli, Givenchy.

Colleen Sherin, senior fashion director, Saks Fifth Avenue, New York:
Sound off:
There was the idea of the dressed-up lady, with Fifties couture inspirations. And then there was a more urban, sporty mood, with designers taking inspiration from athleticwear.
Trendspotting: There was an air of lightness, with translucent layers of sheer fabrications — organza, gazar and silk chiffon — reflecting the romantic mood of the season. Pleating, peplums, ruffles, and flounces were among pretty details seen throughout.

Kelly Golden, owner, Neapolitan, Winnetka, Ill.:
Sound off:
Sensibility and wearability continue to be key trends. With the uncertainty in the financial markets as well as the future of many fashion houses, most designers played it safe.
Trendspotting: Sportswear continues to be a big theme this season. Peplums and references to the Fifties and Sixties were popular as well. References to the sea and ocean were other big trends. I was pleased to see so many flats.

Rosi Biffi, owner, Banner and Biffi, Milan:
Sound off:
We remain cautious. Considering the economic scenario, we obviously had to cut our budgets. Thankfully, the relationships we have built with far-sighted entrepreneurs are helping. It’s fundamental to collaborate in these hard times.
Trendspotting: Shoes and dresses; fluid and lightweight fabrics; wonderful silks; a lot of white; ultradelicate pastel colors; tons of prints elaborated in delicate tones, from white to pink and pale blue.

Ruth Runberg, buying director at Browns, London:
Trendspotting:
Generally, there were beautiful laces and embroideries, always kept light as a feather and never too chunky or heavily adorned. We loved the turquoises, apricots, terra-cottas and shimmery silvers and bronzes.

Amanda Brooks, women’s fashion director, Barneys New York:
Sound off:
We’re encouraging designers to think about when the clothes are going to hit the stores. There is a strong need for that, like not using fur in a collection that will arrive in stores for summer. Air-conditioning in Paris would be good.
Trendspotting: There has been a big move toward femininity and softness, and the couture style. Also lots of embellishments, like guipure and florals.

Sebastian Manes, buying and merchandising director at Selfridges, London:
Sound off:
All our budgets are going up. We’re investing in our business [Selfridges is refurbishing its women’s wear departments on the second and third floors], creating new departments, so we continue to spend more. Last year we opened the shoe galleries and that’s still doing very well for us, so we think [the store will have] some growth across accessories, shoes and obviously ready-to-wear, because it’s a large focus for us in 2012.
Trendspotting: We found some very interesting trousers this season from different brands, bringing a fresh look. You have the variation between a very wide one into the skinny, and some more avant-garde silhouettes as well.
Favorite collections: Chanel, Rick Owens, Haider Ackermann, Alexander McQueen, Lanvin.

Ikram Goldman, owner, Ikram, Chicago:
Sound off:
This was overall a very couture-driven season in that every piece mattered. It’s an investment piece for a lifetime, and I love that.
Trendspotting: When you have a lace with a pleat and a chiffon and a print and great colors, you can’t go wrong.
Favorite collections: Celine, Junya Watanabe, Lanvin, Rick Owens.

Carla Sozzani, owner, 10 Corso Como, Milan:
Sound off:
It’s a good season — the collections are very wearable. In the current context, I have to be more careful, and concentrate on the brands I really have a crush on.
Trendspotting: The tailoring and couture influence, beautiful cuts. For me, cut is the most important thing, even in sportswear.

Stephanie Solomon, v.p. of fashion direction, Bloomingdale’s:
Sound off:
Craftsmanship and couture details are returning to the runways. All of the new designers from Paris were feeling the same vibration, and that was making women feel beautiful.
Trendspotting: Christian Dior’s New Look — that hourglass silhouette is returning; pretty pastel colors and prints; white, the symbol of innocence and purity.

Helen David, women’s wear gmm, Harrods, London:
Sound off:
We will not be altering any budgets due to the economic volatility. [The Paris collections brought] no disappointments whatsoever, with beautiful clothing. [However] A.C. was needed at shows as we sat in 100 degrees for many of them, particularly Lanvin!
Trendspotting: Paris was the highlight of the season by far. I foresee lots of girls in beaded micro minidresses for spring. Among the key trends, David cited leather, blouses, maxiskirts and dresses, shorts, lace and the colors coral and cobalt blue.
Favorite collections: Balmain, Givenchy, Chanel, Valentino, Louis Vuitton.

Pascale Camart, director of women’s wear, Galeries Lafayette, Paris:
Sound off:
We are hoping that business will have picked up again by next summer, and have not changed our budgets or allocations. It was a shame that the Employment Forum was being held on the Place de la Concorde. That was very impractical.
Trendspotting: We’re not going to be lacking in ideas. There was a very chic side, and clearly, color and “flou” are going to be very strong. White is always strong for summer, but was particularly visible this season.

Linda Dresner, owner, Linda Dresner, Birmingham, Mich.:
Sound off:
The economy still feels very fragile and our customers are on the timid side. We are not spending more. But in the collections we buy, we found a lot to like.
Trendspotting: Lots of white, black-and-white combos, vintage couture Balenciaga shapes, a lot of shift shapes and embroideries. We like sleeveless jackets, lingerie looks and the bohemian and Moroccan influences.

Linda Fargo, svp, fashion office and store presentation, Bergdorf Goodman, New York:
Sound off:
Our clients consistently respond to exceptional and emotional product, and Paris came through with plenty of it. Artistry and creativity are definitely in stock.
Trendspotting: We are hesitant to define the season here by trend or items, but [rather] by the strength of each house and its uniqueness. We remain enthused about color, prints and ease to energize the season.

Cindy Ho, fashion director, 360 Style, Kuwait:
Sound off:
Too much time spent traveling from one venue to another — sometimes it took more than an hour. I wish the brands would communicate more with each other in order to avoid this.
Trendspotting: Lace, with all kinds of treatments, and fabric combinations. The shoes were also incredible in most of the shows, in terms of colors, materials, different types of heels, like heel-wedge combinations.

Elizabeth and Emily Lepore, Jimmy’s, Brooklyn and The Hamptons:
Trendspotting:
We saw quite a mix of themes and styles focusing on short, sexy and flirty daywear for the confident girl. It was great to see that the glamour of the Parisian fashion houses infused their couture tailoring with modern, everyday sleekness.

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