PARIS — Optimistic, colorful — and tempered with a modern edge.
That's how buyers summed up a strong fashion week here, headlined by blockbuster shows from Lanvin, Balenciaga, Dries Van Noten and Nina Ricci.
After witnessing a powerful Milan offering, buyers said Paris lived up to its reputation as an epicenter of fashion and further buttressed the European season.
"You could say that France's rugby victory over the weekend, with people pouring into the streets in celebration, sort of summed up the mood of Paris fashion," said Stephanie Solomon, vice president of fashion direction at Bloomingdale's.
Despite the strong euro, buyers voiced little concern that French fashion would price itself beyond their customers' pocketbooks. They applauded the rush of color, prints, ruffles, gossamer fabrics — and such saleable items as voluminous skirts, easy dresses, trenchcoats and strong-shouldered jackets.
"The value of the euro isn't a problem," said Sarah Easley, co-owner of Kirna Zabête in New York. "The most beautiful and individual clothes will sell. The customer expects the best. They keeping crossing the threshold of price."
Retailers lauded the blend of inventiveness and commerciality from Stella McCartney, Rick Owens, Miu Miu and Alexander McQueen. Other favorites included John Galliano, Balmain and Junya Watanabe.
"Paris was as equally brilliant as Milan," said Barbara Atkin, vice president, fashion direction at Canada's Holt Renfrew. "But there was a wonderful men's androgynous look that we saw more of in Paris."
One trend that puzzled retailers — though there were believers — was the dropped-crotch dhoti pant. Most stores preferred cropped trousers as a more viable foil for spring's myriad dresses and skirts. Here's what retailers had to say:
Anna Garner, head of fashion, Selfridges "Paris was an absolute riot of color and print. The season was softer and more feminine with fluidity and transparency on one hand, and couture-like fabrics and silhouettes on the other. The repetitive florals and silhouettes at Balenciaga summed up the season in a way, and there was a lot of repetition at Miu Miu, too. Total look seems to be back and strong colors, like cobalt blue and yellow. My favorites were Stella McCartney, Nina Ricci, Alexander McQueen and Dries Van Noten. Ann Demeulemeester and Vanessa Bruno had nice shows, too. As far as accessories, it was very pared down on the runway, with a clutch or a mini bag. But shoes were great. Maybe a great shoe is the new bag."Jennifer Wheeler, vice president of designer apparel, Nordstrom
"It was a strong week overall. The week began and ended with highlights: techno couture floras from Balenciaga and the ultimate in ease and beauty from Lanvin. Key trends are floral prints, strong color — particularly yellow, green and pink — modern Elizabethan influences, strong shoulders, origami details and Seventies, lingerie and boudoir details. Our favorite collections were Balenciaga, Nina Ricci, Chanel, Stella McCartney and Lanvin. Alber Elbaz outdid himself in creating a collection that captures how a modern woman wants to dress. We also liked Dries [Van Noten] and Junya Watanabe."
Polina Kitsenko, co-owner, Podium, Moscow
"It was a very good season, with so much variety. There was a strong bohemian trend, with lots of flared pants, especially in denim; feathers, and floral prints. Bustier looks, very young and sexy, were also strong. There is still a lot of patent leather, and fuchsia has pushed through. Thankfully red is back." Among her highlights were Balmain, Junya Watanabe, Giambattista Valli, Wunderkind, Limi Feu and Givenchy.
Michael Fink, vice president and women's fashion director at Saks Fifth Avenue
"I love Paris when it sizzles! Color, floral prints, gossamer-weight fabrics and yards and yards of tulle added up to a unique dose of Parisian chic. Every exit at Lanvin was a lesson in luxury dressing in lightweight fabrics and bursts of color. The opening cloud of a print blouse and simple black pant at Ralph Rucci spoke volumes about the grace of chic dressing. I'm absolutely gushing over the floral fantasy at Dries [Van Noten]. [Alexander] McQueen's tailoring and draped dresses were masterful in execution. Space-age fabric technology at Balenciaga was outstanding. Olivier Theyskens' color palette and controlled, flowing shapes [at Nina Ricci] will be in high demand. Every shoe at Miu Miu is a must-have item. Dresses, dresses and more dresses are key for the season. Floral and painterly prints are the 'jewels' for spring. Armfuls of bangles and interesting heels add individuality."
Hirofumi Kurino, managing director and chief creative officer of United Arrows"The best collection was Lanvin by Alber Elbaz. It was so perfect, elegant and chic. Every item was very well-made from daywear jackets to evening dresses." Kurino said key pieces during the week included smoking suits by Lanvin, dresses by Junya Watanabe and accessories by Dries Van Noten. Summer styles were particularly "creative" and "tangible," he said, with an underlying calm and positive vibe. "This was reflected on many prints inspired by nature, such as flower prints."
Ken Downing, senior vice president and fashion director at Neiman Marcus
"We love that fashion is in love with color and prints, and the lightweight fabrics are right on the mark. We're happy to see the multicultural, global influence continue along with the fresh femininity, ruffles and longer dresses for day. Strong-shouldered jackets were also in every collection, and gave a touch of modernity. Balenciaga? Wow. I mean, what prints and color. It really set the tone for Paris." Downing also praised the collections of Dries Van Noten, Lanvin and Stella McCartney.
Sarah Rutson, fashion director, Lane Crawford, Hong Kong
"Paris was amazing. We're feeling bullish and there will be significant increases in budgets for collections we loved." Rutson noted the week started off inauspiciously, but exploded with Dries Van Noten's unique color-blocked prints, Alexander McQueen's perfect tailoring and ombré kimono dresses and Stella McCartney's "perfect way of doing sexy, modern Seventies. It was a retailer's dream." Rutson also gave special mention to Miu Miu and Lanvin. "As a woman, my heart stopped. I wanted and desired beyond belief," she said of Lanvin. "Alber [Elbaz] gave me the ability to dream and go to work in his clothes." Rutson also praised the collections of Sharon Wauchob and Rick Owens. Key trends in Paris included strong shoulders, floral prints and sheer fabrics, she said.
Linda Fargo, senior vice president and fashion director at Bergdorf Goodman
"Paris once again delivered collections which were consistent with the signatures of each designer. A few trends did emerge: floral prints, transparency and layering, movement and languid fabrics and draping. The waist remains the new central focus. Lengths go from the shortest ever, to a declassification of long as only an evening option. Warm applause to Alber Elbaz at Lanvin. He gives women clothing to covet: easy, graceful — never trendy and never trying too hard. Nina Ricci was enchanting, from the staging to the styling. Balenciaga has the most exciting melange of florals of the spring season, bar none. Vivier had the sleekest and chicest shoes and bags, and YSL manages to quietly keep designing some of the most modern yet classic and collectable 'It' bags season after season.Cedric Charbit, vice director of the buying office and general merchandise manager of women's fashion at Printemps
"Lanvin, Balenciaga, Dries Van Noten and Balmain were the strongest collections this season. Lanvin was fantastic, Alber Elbaz showed exquisite taste for colors and proportions. Balenciaga and Dries Van Noten had the same mood, but expressed it very differently in prints that resembled paintings. Glamour is not dead. Some of the pieces at Valentino were exquisite collectors' items." Charbit lamented a lack of daywear. He said the dress would continue to be a strong look for the summer, as well as blazers — some sleeveless — like those shown at Yves Saint Laurent and Chloé. Cindy Ho, fashion merchandise director for Villa Moda Group
"The strongest collections were Lanvin and Dries Van Noten." She also listed Miu Miu, for its "shapes and colors," and Rue du Mail, for a "very modern look," such as origami-like detailing on the backs of dresses, as highlights. Ho lamented many collections lacked vibrancy. "Colors are still too grayish for the summer," she said. "Overall the season is getting more feminine, very pretty with less aggressiveness. A-line dresses will be a key look next season worn with very high heels."
Joan Burstein, owner of Browns, London
"There was a lovely atmosphere in Paris this week, nothing was hard-edged. The collections were both creative and commercial, which is what we need. The greatest moment was Lanvin. I lapped up every piece that came down the runway, and they were all wearable. Dries Van Noten was wonderful for the coloring and the floral patterns. I also loved Stella McCartney's collection for its lightness and the sheer girliness of it all. John Galliano was adorable — all light, floral and girly, yet a bit more sophisticated. There was choice for all of our different kinds of customer."
Joyce Ma, principal, Joyce Boutique Holdings, Hong Kong
"[John] Galliano, for me, was outstanding. It was beautiful, very feminine and wearable. Lanvin was also stunning. Florals were one of the season's great themes, notably in the Balmain and Dries Van Noten collections. One-shoulder looks were also a strong trend, as were togas and feathers. There's such a wide variety here, with some very innovative collections coming from the Japanese designers. I really liked Comme des Garçons, Tao and Junya Watanabe, with all of that draping in front. And Yohji Yamamoto's collection was very beautiful. In terms of color, there were a lot of skin tones as well as brights." Averyl Oates, buying director, Harvey Nichols, LondonOates applauded John Galliano's "exhilarating" show and "instantly grab-able" clothes, Olivier Theyskens' metallic evening dresses for Nina Ricci and Balenciaga's "explosion of color...continuing the strong floral trend of the season and the return to print. Lanvin was a spectacular end to the week which deserved the standing ovation it got. Alber [Elbaz] thrilled us with a collection that got it just right: the marriage between fashionability and wearability." She also pointed to Martin Grant as one of Paris' "unsung heros" for his dresses and tailoring.
Julie Gilhart, senior vice president, fashion director Barneys New York
"Paris, with its talent and diversity, continued to reign as the inspiration of the entire season. The season is not just defined by the major trends — color and print being the two strongest themes — but also in the interpretation. Customers need originality and difference. The designer who did it best was Alber Elbaz at Lanvin, who delivered the clear high note of the season. Balenciaga's masterful collection was another standout with a strong statement of color and precise tailoring. Nina Ricci's cool nature-girl theme was beautifully executed. Dries Van Noten's causal, yet softly elegant collection was the best translation of the trends of color, print and soft dressing. Rick Owens delivered one of his best collections, giving an edge to his aesthetic, and Stella McCartney gave the cool casual clothing that is so desperately needed in a designer market filled with dressed-up clothes. Overall, not everything was good in Paris, but what was good was great. We are leaving with a very positive feeling."
Barbara Atkin, vice president, fashion direction, Holt Renfrew, Canada
"I absolutely loved Paris, with its soft, romantic looks, fantasy florals and voluminous dresses in vivid colors. It was a happy season, with a good balance between bohemian fantasies and sharp looks, like the strong-shouldered suits, such as YSL's sleeveless jackets, and [Alexander] McQueen's emphasis on the waist. I was particularly impressed by the hybridization of clean, fresh modern looks with ethnic styles, like the beautiful scarf-print sheaths at Dries Van Noten, or the dhoti pant, which will be great for us. The bubble shapes of recent seasons softened into tulip shapes and the mid-calf trouser is something our clients will relate to. I loved Nina Ricci, it was a moment in fashion. And the beautiful McQueen show was a great tribute [to Isabella Blow]. Lanvin, with its beautiful colors and light dresses, was a wonderful climax for the season."Nicole Fischelis, vice president and fashion director of women's at Macy's
"It was a star season for Paris. I liked the fact that Paris is still very much about style and individuality. What counts is print power, color, emotion, artistic craftsmanship, a sportswear aesthetic and a nod to exoticism, especially India. There were fewer handbags and a big return to costume jewelry and statement shoes. The dress and trenchcoat continue, and key elements include prints, especially artful prints, skirts with volume, precious blouses, full-leg pants and new jacket silhouettes: anoraks, parkas, bombers and blazers." For top collections, she listed Nina Ricci, Lanvin, Christian Lacroix, Sonia Rykiel, Issey Miyake, John Galliano, Louis Vuitton, Ralph Rucci, Hermès and Vionnet.
Sarah Easley, co-owner, Kirna Zabête, New York
"It was a great season here for colors and prints. Balenciaga was particularly interesting. Florals can be so frumpy, but [Nicolas Ghesquière] made them very modern. And unlike some of his other collections, this one is very accessible. Stella McCartney's mix of the structured blazer with floral prints was an effortless and very interesting combination. She is what my customers want to wear. Rick Owens really fused a bunch of different fabrics in a great way. I think the dropped-crotch, Ali Baba trouser trend, which we saw at Owens and Gaultier, was very unfortunate. Lanvin was spectacular. It was an ageless collection and the clothes had such movement, energy and color." Stephanie Solomon, vice president of fashion direction at Bloomingdale's
"Paris exploded with prints and color. Chloé's painterly prints were great, as were Chanel's pops of color. Stella [McCartney] took a romantic approach to lightness of fabrication. Dries [Van Noten]'s show, with its aesthetically perfect floral arrangements, epitomized the season. We like the skirt, short and full, or long, the maxi and mix-dresses, and the return of the blazer. A blazer over a dress looks fresh. Shorts are still strong. As for pants, they will be cropped and full." Ann Watson, vice president and fashion director, Henri Bendel"Romance and femininity is in the air on the runways. Designers expressed this sentiment through layers of ruffles, chiffon, draping, pleating, feathers and a silhouette that was predominantly soft. Even the few tailored jackets we saw were paired back to a relaxed trouser or flyaway skirt. Floral prints led the way and modern art-inspired prints and ombré patterns looked fresh." According to Watson, the best collections included Sharon Wauchob, Anne Valérie Hash, Rue du Mail, Robert Normand, Chloé and Stella McCartney. "As for silhouettes, the vest and the printed dress are key directions for next season, as are the draped sheath, spring coat and ruffle blouse." Jeffrey Kalinsky, founder of Jeffrey New York, Jeffrey Atlanta
"I found Paris to be overwhelmingly beautiful, so full of creativity and beautiful things. Usually I'm not so much of a trend store, but when a designer like Nicholas Ghesquière at Balenciaga and Dries Van Noten both do florals, it makes me want to go out and buy as many florals as I can find. The little jacket at Junya Watanabe will be one of the most covetable items of the season. And Alber Elbaz at Lanvin was so absolutely joyous, taking us to a beautiful place. And that's where he can take women on a daily basis. Nina Ricci also was beautiful, so serene, that I was moved. Balmain was extremely provocative and Undercover, Rick Owens and Ann Demeulemeester were good as well."
Elizabeth and Dominick Lepore, owners, Jimmy's, Brooklyn and the Hamptons, N.Y.
"Giambattista Valli described his own collection to us when he said 'I love a party.' This was evident in his collection of fuchsia, white and yellow party dresses. At Balmain, rock 'n' roll strapless minidresses in vibrant suedes were knockouts. Elie Saab's Crayola colors of yellow, red, green and blue dresses and gowns were perfect for the red-carpet crowd." Linda Dresner, owner, Linda Dresner, New York and Birmingham, Mich.
"It's been a bright and happy season. There are lots of colors and prints are on the mark. The strong print and color combination will give the store a good feel. I think the longer skirts for summer looked really good. There's maybe an ethnic edge all around that will be very successful for summer." Dresner praised collections by Balenciaga, Dries Van Noten, Chloé, Comme des Garçons, John Galliano, Undercover, Junya Watanabe and Tao Comme des Garçons. "We're buying carefully. The [weak] dollar is a reality. We'll have to choose pieces that will make an impression and make our store stand out in an original way."
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