DUSSELDORF -- There was more fashion to see and there were more buyers than ever to see it as the fall-winter season got off to a highly promising start at the CPD trade show here.
According to show management, about 54,000 buyers came to the four-day fair, which closed Wednesday, compared with 48,000 last year.
Although German retailers have a weak December and January behind them, "their mood was surprisingly good. They've been able to finally clear out their stock," German ready-to-wear giant Klaus Steilmann reported of his domestic customers.
Moreover, retailers here are ready for something new, noted Pradeep Virmani, founder and designer of the German contemporary Virmani collection. "Formerly, retailers here did good business and didn't want to change anything. They wouldn't take risks, but now they're ready to accept new ideas," he said.
The German rtw industry has been hard at work to offer a broader range of fabrics, shapes and fashion orientations for fall/winter as it begins to pick up on "occasion dressing."
Although moderately priced and moderately styled apparel remains the German forte, collections have shed their narrow, tailored city-wear emphasis to include more overtly feminine city separates, rugged country weekend looks and romantic themes for day and evening.
Intricate detailing and novelty touches such as beading, embroidery, fringe, velvet or fur accents have given spice to even the most basic coordinates. So has the expanded array of fabrics, going from crinkle crepes and sheer wools to sueded cottons and natural tweeds, all to be freely mixed and layered.
Long looks continue to share the spotlight for fall with the mini, now reemerging in a new A-line. Pants, the all-important sales leaders, continue in slim, shorter, wide and flowing pajama silhouettes. The dress made an impact in Empire and trapeze styles, knit slinks, evening sheaths and schoolgirl jumpers. The neo-blazer category ranges from short, waisted looks and cropped boleros to long cutaways. Outerwear has gone primarily short, except for the continuation of the officer's coat.
The whole fair looked perkier; manufacturers exhibiting in the halls seemed to have invested more time and money on their stands. The halls, 12 in all, were also far easier to shop. The Igedo show management reorganized them into clearer and more consistent market segments, such as halls for modern woman, young fashion, separates and knitwear, and two new areas for the growing country market, including traditional folkloric resources.Two noteworthy collections premiered at CPD: Escada Sport and the Daniel Hechter collection, produced by Steilmann for the German, Swiss, Austrian and Benelux markets.
Escada Sport, a 60-piece unisex collection of deluxe casual sportswear, such as sweatshirts, jeans, T-shirts and lumberjack toppers, will be piloted in Escada shops and at key accounts worldwide.
Prices for the new sportswear run approximately 40 percent below the 900-piece Escada range, and Escada head Wolfgang Ley projected first season sales at 75,000 to 80,000 pieces for fall-winter worldwide.
Reflecting its international status, CPD claimed more than 2,200 exhibitors from more than 34 countries. American participation, however, continues to be extremely minimal, though there were signs that may change. A group of 17 American manufacturers - in a trip coordinated by the U.S. Department of Commerce -- attended the show to gather information and evaluate chances for entering Germany and other European markets.
"We already have a beachhead in Europe, and there's no doubt that there's a tremendous market for us in Germany," said Richard Einstein Jr., president of Koret International, the international division of Koret California. "But German resources are spectacular. They have the finest quality and are in the backyard of the German consumer, which makes entry a bit daunting. We have our job cut out for us, but we'll get our toe in the door here, no later than spring," he said.
Einstein said he was working with three prospects: a German manufacturer of a higher-priced line looking to fill a market niche, and two people in the Dusseldorf Fashion House interested in repping the line. Whichever is chosen, he said Koret was interested in making a "slow, progressive entry. We have to make sure we can sell -- and deliver," he stressed.
"It's crucial that our own infrastructure is working here, and our goal would be to sell about 10,000 units the first season, maybe 14,000 the next."
Robert Miller, president of Jules Miller & Son Ltd., New York, manufacturers of women's coats and suits, was enthusiastic.
"I've only been in halls 4, 5, and 6 so far, but it's terrific and energizing," he said. "American garment manufacturers think they're the center of the earth, but they're not."Miller said he had to carefully evaluate the costs of exhibiting at CPD and determine the possible returns, but was convinced that his line would perform well in Germany.
"My stuff looks nothing like anything here, and my fall suit line is ready. We just showed in Dallas, so timing is not a problem."
Ben Berookhim, president of Lavan Fashions Inc., New York, producer of women's sportswear and coats, was exhibiting in the more exclusive Dusseldorf Gallery at the fair for the first time.
"We got some very good feedback, but it's our first time here, so buyers are hesitant. Even in the States, stores have to know you. They want to see you more than once before they place an order, and I don't see why it should be different here," he said, adding that Lavan plans to show again here.
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