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."

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