By and  on March 21, 2007

PARIS — With a plethora of new labels and edgy styles, the most recent round of boutique apparel shows confirmed Paris' stronghold as the epicenter of creativity and freshness, buyers said.

Retailers who attended the events, which included the Vendôme Luxury Trade Show, Paris Sur Mode, Atmosphère d'Hiver, Tranoi and Rendez-Vous, and ran in tandem with Paris Fashion Week, lauded the shows for creativity. They wrapped up their four-day runs March 5.

"The Paris trade shows are the place where young creative brands are the most efficient, as well as New York and Tokyo," said Cedric Charbit, general merchandise manager of women's fashion at Printemps.

French contemporary brands such as Les Prairies de Paris, April May, Iro and Eurythmic were highlights, while foreign labels like New York's Milly, Issa and Italy's Golden Goose offered solid collections, Charbit said, adding that knitwear and dresses would continue to be a winter staple.

"The Paris shows offer a creative edge you don't see elsewhere," said Janet Wong, accessories and ready-to-wear buyer for New York's Atrium.

Wong said bubble skirts and dresses, as well as shift dresses, would continue into next fall but noted that the increase of American labels at the shows was not necessarily beneficial.

"We can view American brands in the U.S. We would rather focus on European labels, brands that no other store carries," said Wong, who plans to increase her budget over last year, especially to include new designer labels such as Sweden's Fifth Avenue Shoe Repair.

Many retailers said they were increasing budgets over last season.

Jenny Cole, buyer for the New Zea­land [Auckland]-based multibrand shop Adorno, noted that she had boosted her spending plan by as much as 15 to 25 percent. Cole said she was "looking for an end to the baby doll look." Instead, she opted for "stronger and more wearable lines, a more feminine silhouette and roomier jumpers."

In terms of trends, retailers said the shows echoed runway styles.

"It was a very strong jacket season, whether it's fitted, sharper shoulders or soft details, there are lots of desirable clothes to choose from," said Ken Downing, Neiman Marcus senior vice president and fashion director. "Even though black is important, the return to color is really reassuring to us because our customer loves color. We're feeling dressed up and what we call the 'new polish' is very important, from the opaque legs to the return of pumps and clutches."At Tranoi, Brazil's Osklen offered colors inspired by the feathers of an Ama­zonian bird. "Osklen takes elements of nature and elements of the street and translates it into a high-end fashion label," said Constança Costes, co-owner of Paris-based D Collection Showroom, an agent for the brand in France.

The collection's sophisticated take on streetwear was a favorite among retailers who lauded dresses made from sweatshirt material with feather embellishments as well as organza tunics for between 200 euros, or $266 at wholesale, and 250 euros, or $332. Conversions are based on current exchange.

Meanwhile, Swedish label Fifth Avenue Shoe Repair was a favorite for buyers on the hunt for sharp silhouettes in somber tones. "We are most known for our combination of draping with tailored pieces," said Anna Wallén, international sales manager for the brand.

Highlights included an oversized coat with draped pockets and dresses with origami folds wholesaling for 242 euros, or $322, and 95 euros, or $126, respectively.

At Rendez-Vous, which picked a more alternative address in the 10th arrondissement to show its batch of budding designers, retailers agreed the show was awash with new names.

"It's a real opportunity for young designers," said Johanna Dauphin, who launched her J Dauphin collection, a high-end denim and accessories label with an urban edge, at the show. She wholesales her jeans for around 100 euros, or $133, and said a sleeveless military jacket was a bestseller at the show.

Organizers said that American and Japanese buyers were in full force at the shows and reported a hike in attendance figures across the board.

Atmosphère d'Hiver said there were more than 5,000 buyers in attendance, led by the U.S., Italy and Japan, but with notable increases among northern European countries such as Finland, Denmark and Ireland, as well as a surge in Russian and Romanian visitors.

Vendor Holly Hikido of Florence-based Clementine & Pixie, which specializes in shirts, said that she had noticed a greater diversity in visitors as well as a dip in American buyers because of the weak dollar. "But those [Americans] who were here were very positive and serious about buying," she said.Hikido said that she was seeing a shift in buying trends away from ruffles toward more tailored and elegant tuxedo shirts, and that stretch silk satin blouses in all shades of gray had been the strongest sellers.

Paris sur Mode saw a 30 percent increase in attendance in this season's edition, reported show organizer Muriel Guyot, noting that Didier Ludot's La Petite Robe Noire was popular with buyers.

The Vendôme Luxury Trade Show at the Park Hyatt, the Ritz and the Meurice indicated that entry-level priced brands and luxury brands outperformed expectations, while mid-level brands found business more difficult.

Present at the Ritz was the two-year-old label Jasmine di Milo, designed by Jasmine Al-Fayed, which held its first on-calendar show in Paris this season. Katie Manderson, marketing manager for the brand, noted that while American spending was "solid," Russian buyers were the "power spend of the moment."

Best-selling items included cashmere coats, a yellow bustier dress and its new line of children's clothes, as photographed on Suri Cruise. The Japanese department store Isetan was among the new clients.

At the Meurice, Stephanie Perez, international sales manager for Luella, said that changing venues had helped business and that the improved environment and quality of buyers had resulted in increased orders in Paris as compared with New York or London.

"The American market is slowest, even though that is where we are the most developed," she observed, adding that the Hong Kong, Korean, Russian and Middle Eastern markets are substantially higher season-on-season.

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