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PARIS — In a week of intense drama off the catwalk, retailers found plenty to like about fashion week here, cutting through the chatter about who will replace John Galliano as Christian Dior’s couturier to focus on investment pieces with a polished edge.

This story first appeared in the March 10, 2011 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.


“Our budgets are up, as our designer business is better than ever, and Paris is filled with clothes that made us see dollar signs,” said Jeffrey Kalinsky, executive vice president of designer merchandising at Nordstrom.
Collections by Haider Ackermann, Alexander McQueen, Valentino, Balenciaga, Junya Watanabe, Givenchy, Lanvin and Celine were widely cited among the season’s standouts.


Buyers praised the preponderance of fur and leather — emblematic of heightened luxury — and spied a range of saleable fashion items, including pencil skirts, flat-soled pumps, frame handbags and exceptional coats and capes.


“Working the showrooms this week has actually been a buyer’s dream. It has been very easy to work an exciting and desirable edit,” said Sarah Rutson, fashion director at Lane Crawford in Hong Kong.


Barbara Atkin, vice president of fashion direction at Canada’s Holt Renfrew, said more sober presentations signaled “the end of a chapter of frivolous, artful fantasy and the start of a new decade of serious, more commercially viable clothes with retail credibility.”


The minimalist vibe that has gripped Paris for several seasons is now offering a glimpse of greater individualism, retailers noted.


“It feels as if our clients are challenging us to step outside of the safer, more comfortable zone we’ve occupied and to dazzle them,” said Ruth Runberg, buying director at Browns. “The sentiment is moving to be less about investing in a pared-down classic and more about investing in an heirloom made special by exquisite handwork, the perfect tailoring, the most remarkable of textiles or an unusual color combination.”


Ed Burstell, managing director of Liberty, cautioned, however, that the standout pieces could be a hard sell.
“One has to be careful. Editorial looks are expensive, often difficult to wear and deliver late. It really highlights the importance of pre-collections,” he noted.


Here is what retailers had to say about Paris Fashion Week.

Ken Downing, senior vice president and fashion director, Neiman Marcus
Standout collections:
Haider Ackermann, Rick Owens, Valentino, Celine and Alexander McQueen.
Key trends — keepers: Gorgeous jackets, strict pencil skirts, hand-held handbags, pleated details, leather and fur. A single-sole, sexy pump looks wildly new to the eye. And I love the idea of a jade green dress.

Kelly Golden, owner, Neapolitan, Winnetka, Ill.
Standout collections:
Alexander McQueen, Christian Dior, Andrew Gn, Valentino and Loewe.
Key trends — keepers: The Sixties influence, the structured silhouette, leather, lace and fur. Pants are back in a big way, lots of outerwear. Handbags are still strong sellers for us, and this season [customers] will be investing in a more structured frame bag.
Sound off: I feel confident that Dior will continue to produce beautiful, over-the-top collections. It’s just frustrating to see yet another fashion genius end his career prematurely.
Barbara Atkin, vice president, fashion direction, Holt Renfrew
Standout collections:
Akris, Balenciaga, Celine, Lanvin, Haider Ackermann, Nina Ricci, Sharon Wauchob, Dries Van Noten and Stella McCartney. Off the runway, we loved Carven, Peter Pilotto, Christian Wijnants and Sacai.
Key trends — keepers: Beautiful, classic sportswear returned: luxurious coats, well-tailored suits, a variety of skirt and pant silhouettes, feminine day dresses, evening gowns, knitwear, beautiful blouses, fur, leather and lots of color and print.
Key trends — losers: Overly stiff, heavily bonded fabrics.
Linda Fargo, senior vice president, fashion office and store presentation, Bergdorf Goodman
Standout collections:
Haider Ackermann, Miu Miu, Junya Watanabe, Lanvin, Rick Owens, Celine, Alexander McQueen, Akris and Valentino.
Key trends — keepers: Color as a direction, tonal or in blocks — wine, emeralds, winter white and muted earth. We’re in the mood to be dressed up versus dressed down. Outerwear options are plentiful and will be the new wardrobe. Materials — mixed media, velvet, leather, python, lace, Lurex, fur.
Sound off: Applause to Dior for their dignity and grace under fire. Clearly the recent unsettling events have given us collective cause for industry introspection and concern for nurturing talent.
Sarah Rutson, fashion director, Lane Crawford, Hong Kong
Standout collections:
Alexander McQueen, Haider Ackermann, Givenchy, Balenciaga, Yves Saint Laurent, Chanel and Sacai. Our shoe business with Tabitha Simmons and Nicholas Kirkwood continues to gain massive momentum.
Key trends — keepers: Couturelike volumes and finishes, such as cape backs; shots of sexuality-sex with leather, bondage references and skin-peeking sheers. Actually, after so much color in New York and Milan, which is wonderful, it is perfect now that we have that balance of black and white.

Ed Burstell, managing director, Liberty
Standout collections:
Dries Van Noten, Sharon Wauchob, Carven, Ann Demeulemeester and Rick Owens.
Key trends — keepers: Intricate leather trims, a spice color palette, modern corduroy, masculine-boyish tailoring and a feminine touch of the Forties.
Key trends — losers: The Seventies, the Eighties, the Nineties.
Sound off: Designers touted as the ones to watch-next big things-the future…whose ideas were best when we first saw them years ago on other designers’ runways. Wearing a Christmas tree on your head in order to get your picture taken. The almost unbearable Paris traffic.

Holli Rogers, buying director, Net-a-porter
Standout collections:
Miu Miu, Yves Saint Laurent, Junya Watanabe, Carven, Lanvin.
Key trends — keepers: Colorblocking, eye-catching prints, palazzo pants to sweeping maxidresses and cocoon skirts, a mix of muted Seventies colors alongside richer jewel tones in plum, sapphire and emerald. The Seventies trend wide legged, flared and bell-bottom pants were still a key silhouette at the shows.

Cindy Ho, fashion director of Three Sixty Style, Kuwait
Standout collections:
Celine, Haider Ackermann and Dries Van Noten.
Key trends — keepers: Accessories are still the strongest, the dress look in general.
Business outlook: Our business has been strong. We have increased 30 percent of the buy. We saw the pants look was very strong in [fall 2010] but it will move to the skirt for next fall. Also, the consumer is looking for unique pieces, though the price is comparatively high.
Seville Chow, vice president, merchandising, Joyce, Hong Kong
Standout collections:
Alexander McQueen, Balenciaga, Haider Ackermann and Lanvin. As a new brand, we will launch Mugler.
Key trends — winners: Outerwear, fur, leather and textural fabric. The return of sophisticated dressing of a modern woman was expressed across a number of collections.
Sound off: We are excited about what we have seen over the past week. There is a great sense of balance in creativity, workmanship, luxurious fabrication and accessibility.
Outlook: Due to the expansion of the business, our first Beijing store opening this fall and as a consequence of a positive spring-summer season, we are looking at a double-digit growth in our budget.

Tiziana Cardini, fashion director, La Rinascente
Standout collections:
Balenciaga, Celine, Alexander McQueen, Yves Saint Laurent, John Galliano, Comme des Garçons, Valentino.
Key trends — winners: Clean and essential lines and a focus on outerwear, texture and cuts. There was a lot of daywear to deliver a solid elegance for daily life. The play between masculine and feminine for a sophisticated androgyny.

Amanda Brooks, fashion director, Barneys New York
Standout collections:
Haider Ackermann, Lanvin, Balenciaga, Carven and Alexander McQueen.
Key trends — keepers: More polished, ladylike looks at Lanvin, Rochas, Nina Ricci. Baseball-inspired jackets at Givenchy, Stella McCartney and Yves Saint Laurent. Novelty fur at Celine, Giambattista Valli. Longer, asymmetric skirts at Haider Ackermann, Balenciaga. Loafers at Lanvin, Celine and YSL. And python everywhere. And the color burgundy everywhere. And capes everywhere.
Sound off: In general, I found the runway trends quite easy to wear this season, with the exception of the more Mod Sixties-inspired looks, which don’t translate as well to how most women want to dress today.
Colleen Sherin, senior fashion director, Saks Fifth Avenue
Standout collections: Christian Dior, Haider Ackermann, Chanel, Celine and Alexander McQueen.
Key trends — keepers: There are two clear looks coming from the Paris collections. One is about a richness of textures, achieved through a luxurious mix of materials and fabrications, combining fur, leather, suede, velvet, lace and tweeds. The other is sleek and chic, with streamlined, minimalist and graphic designs, where the focus is on the precise cut of a garment.
Sound off: Some of the weights of fabrications are getting a bit extreme, and will not fare well in warmer parts of the world. Clearly, designers believe we will be having another long, cold winter.
Laura Larbalestier, designerwear buying manager, Selfridges
Standout collections:
Dries Van Noten, for his mixture of David Bowie-meets-Russian ballet, and Isabel Marant for a collection that all women want to wear for everyday.
Key trends — keepers: Colorblocking, chunky knits. The ultimate statement is a coat — every woman needs several for next season.
Sound off: It takes so long to get around Paris, we need another week.
Ruth Runberg, buying director, Browns
Standout collections:
Ann Demeulemeester, Lanvin, Nina Ricci, Junya Watanabe, Celine, Chloé, Miharayasuhiro. In accessories, Olympia Le-Tan’s handbags and Marie-Hélène de Taillac’s new jewels.
Business outlook: We are confident in what we have seen from the fall runways in Paris. Commercially, Paris designers strike the perfect balance of elegance and newness for our clients. I certainly am hoping for another very cold winter, as we have seen and invested in beautiful, proper winter coats from almost every collection.
Sound off: The fashion industry is speeding up so dramatically and is so bottom-line focused that some of the joy in the process of finding and selling is lost. I think this is evidenced by the tragic losses of some of the most sensitive and brilliant minds in our industry over the last few years.
Ikram Goldman, owner, Ikram, Chicago
Standout collections:
Chanel, Lanvin and Celine were three of my favorite collections this season.
Key trends — keepers: Again this season, I felt that the coats were really important, as in capes. Capes were unbelievable. I also saw a lot of lace and a lot of fur everywhere. A bag is always important, but I feel this season more so. Also, heavy knitwear — lots and lots of heavy sweaters. 

Linda Dresner, owner, Linda Dresner, Birmingham, Mich.
Standout collections:
Balenciaga, Junya Watanabe, Yohji Yamamoto, Martin Margiela, Anthony Vaccarello, Haider Ackermann and Gianfranco Scotti.
Key trends — keepers: Clothing with a relaxed and fluid sensibility that can be easily mixed with other important pieces. Generous knits, easy shapes, furs that are accessible and sporty.
Key trends — losers: Collections that are too deliberate and overdone [and] do not feel modern.

Jeffrey Kalinsky, executive vice president, designer merchandising, Nordstrom
Standout collections:
Lanvin, Haider Ackermann, Givenchy, Dries Van Noten and Junya Watanabe.
Key trends — keepers: Velvet, black leather, the color white, fur as well as other luxe materials and beautiful prints.

Averyl Oates, chief buying director, Harvey Nichols

Standout collections: Haider Ackermann, Alexander McQueen, Givenchy, Stella McCartney, Vionnet and Lanvin.
Business outlook: We are pushing budgets on our key performers within the international and contemporary sphere, but adopting a ruthless approach to nonperformers. Our confidence is therefore polarized to reflect the current business pattern in our stores based on sales. Whilst we continue to have a strong demand for the identifiable and important pieces of the collections, we are also finding that our customers are seeking more accessible price points and clothes that have a more universal appeal.
Key trends — keepers: Seventies, elegant-ladylike, capes-outerwear. Maxiskirts were also a micro trend across the catwalks.

Polina Kitsenko, co-owner, Podium, Moscow
Standout collections:
Isabel Marant, Ann Demeulemeester, Nina Ricci, Chanel, Celine.
Key trends — keepers: Western; tribal; Seventies, but not of the flare variety, more midi, maxi lengths and wide and high-waisted pants; long skirts or long silk dresses with oversized sweaters; lots of oversized outerwear, like long parkas. Colors were not typical for winter, like pastels, beiges and milky colors. There were also lots of greens and dark navy, but black is still always there. Lots of rigid-shaped bags and massive, thick-heeled shoes.
Sound off: We would like fewer delays at shows.

Elizabeth Lepore, owner, Jimmy’s, Brooklyn and The Hamptons:
Standout collections: Maison Martin Margiela, Thierry Mugler, Rue du Mail.
Key trends — keepers: In the realm of eveningwear à la Studio 54, dolman-sleeved, bugle-beaded minis and black short dresses by Jay Ahr. Ultimate couture dressing at Zuhair Murad, with sexy corseted, provocative gowns combining black lace with the delicacy of pale pink.
Claudio Antonioli, owner, Antonioli, Milan
Standout collections: Rick Owens, Haider Ackermann and Gareth Pugh.
Key trends — losers: I saw a lot of fur, which I refuse to buy for ethical reasons.
Tumultuous week: For commercial brands, scandals are a way to generate some kind of buzz around them. This season, I noticed a drop in the presence of buyers due to the global economic crisis, but I think that Paris remains the ultimate destination if you want to buy innovative collections.

Leonardo Girombelli, brand manager, TheCorner.com
Standout collection: Haider Ackermann.
Key trends — keepers: Architectural designs, sophisticated forms of minimalism without the tough edge of the past few seasons. The longer lengths, fluid shapes and chic layers.


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