Paris — With the clouds continuing to gather on the economic horizon and business tougher than it has been in years, trade show organizers here are strategizing about how to beat the bad omens.

In the last few seasons, the majority of Paris’s fairs have spruced up significantly, adding new services or upgrading their exhibitor selection. Many have cultivated a more luxurious and fashionable image.

Indeed, their efforts have born fruit: Paris’s trade shows look better than they have in years.

But after pouring so much energy into image building, organizers say they face the pragmatic dilemma of merely getting visitors in the door.

"We feel very good about the physical overhaul that we’ve carried out over the last few sessions," explained Jean-Pierre Mocho, who heads the Prêt-à-Porter, the largest fashion forum here. "But now we need to get the visitors. It’s not because the carpet is now blue that they’re going to come."

Mocho explained that the Prêt, which will run Jan. 24 to 27 at the exhibit halls at the Porte de Versailles, has been actively marketing its show around the world, including in Japan, Germany and the U.S.

"There’s a lot of untapped opportunity out there," Mocho said. "We can’t wait for people to come to us. We have to reach out to them. This is a very difficult marketplace."

Meanwhile, Mocho said the Prêt would continue freshening its image by growing the Atmosphere section of the show, which will be organized by Hervé Huchet for the second season. Atmosphere will continue to become more designer-oriented, Mocho said.

Mocho added that Casabo, a men’s forum organized by Christine Walter Bonini, would join the Prêt for the first time. Walter Bonini will continue to organize the By Casabo women’s designer forum.

To welcome visitors to Paris’s many trade events, the city has launched an initiative encompassing 15 shows held throughout the year. Paris Capitale de la Creation, as the initiative is known, intends to offer car services to and from shows, organize cultural events and generally meet any needs visitors may have.At Who’s Next, organizers Bertrand Foache and Xavier Clergerie changed their show radically last season, moving away from its traditional jeans and streetwear image to a focus more on designer fashion. Foache said the show would continue in this direction at its next edition, which runs concurrent with the Prêt at the Porte de Versailles.

He said Who’s Next will grow the Fame section, one of the designer forums in the show. Fame, organized by Sophie Guyot, made its debut last season with some 80 exhibitors; this year it will feature about 100 firms.

"In the marketplace now, it’s quality that wins out," Foache said. "Our big challenge is to continue to improve the quality of the exhibitors."

But the main change at the show this year is the addition of 90,000 square feet of showing space, which will bring in new exhibitors as well as give existing exhibitors more space to show their wares.

Meanwhile, Foache, who with Clergerie also co-runs the Premiere Classe accessories show, held within the Prêt Jan. 24 to 27, and later in the tents in the Tuileries Gardens March 13 to 16, said the show would change only slightly.

"We have a big problem at Premiere Classe," Foache said. "And that is that we don’t have enough space to bring in everyone that we should. But for the moment we don’t have an alternative space. Otherwise, the show will continue to move up in quality."

At the Salon International de la Lingerie and its accompanying event, Interfiliere, an innerwear fabric and yarn show at the Porte de Versailles, Jan. 24 to 27, director Claire Jonathan said the fair will feature more designer lingerie lines.

"More and more fashion houses are launching lingerie lines," said Jonathan, citing John Galliano, Christian Dior and Guy Laroche as examples. Jonathan added that the show would feature more "home wear," or loungewear, than in the past as lingerie brands expand into the category.

Jonathan said the Salon International de la Lingerie would this year concentrate on "surprising" and "accommodating" visitors. To this end, the show will organize multiple trend conferences and feature a new lingerie retail concept."In the business environment we need to give visitors all of the tools to make the right decisions," Jonathan said. "They need to know what’s going on in the marketplace. We have to present that information in a clear way."

Bijorhca/Eclat de Mode, the jewelry forum at the Porte de Versailles, Jan. 24 to 27, is upping the level of creativity of its exhibitors.

"We’re developing fashion and costume jewelry more and more," said Sylvie Gaudy, director of the show. She added that the show would add two trend forums to the two it traditionally organizes. She echoed many event organizers’ sentiments by saying that buyers, more than ever, need to be dead-on with their buy.

"Buyers can’t make mistakes in this business environment," she said. "The margin for error has disappeared. Our job is to make it harder for them to miss the mark."

Premiere Vision, Europe’s foremost fabric fair, will run at the Villepint exhibit space just outside of Paris from Feb. 12 to 15, roughly two weeks earlier than usual.

Daniel Faure, who runs the show, said the advance dates were because of scheduling problems at the hall where PV shows.

"I hope we can go back to our usual dates next year," he said. "The early dates put a lot of pressure on exhibitors to have all of their goods ready."

Faure said the show aims to be "more reactive" with the amount of fashion information it provides in its trend forums. Meanwhile, he said the show intends to "facilitate the lives of everybody, whether it’s the exhibitors or the visitors. But we believe that in the hard business environment today we need to provide everyone with the tools they need to make the correct decisions."

Expofil, the yarn fair, will convene at Villepint Dec. 3 to 5. Its sister show, Fil Event, which bowed last year, will run concurrent with PV. The show will switch halls, to Hall 6, moving adjacent to PV. The show will also create a new "fibers" section and will run three days instead of last year’s two.Texworld, acquired in 2001 by Germany’s Messe Frankfurt, will run at the CNIT complex at La Defense, the business district on the western outskirts of Paris, from Feb. 11 to 14. It is the mass-market counterpart to the upscale PV show. Stephanie Keukert, who oversees the show, said it was courting more foreign visitors, the special priority being the U.S.

"We still might improve some of the technical parts of the show," Keukert said. "But our main challenge is fitting everyone into the space we have available. The quality of our exhibitors will continue to improve."

Paris is also known for its innovative small fairs. Workshop, the designer show owned by Sarah Tenot, will run March 12 to 16 at the Cercle Republican. Tenot said Workshop would have a second venue, too, this year. The exact location has yet to be determined but Tenot wants to add another 30 exhibitors. Last season the show featured 69 fashion and accessories firms.

Tranoi, the fashion fair organized by Muriel Gamboa,intends to show at the Espace Austerlitz, from March 13 to 16. Tranoi Shoe, dedicated to footwear, will also show for the second time, at the Bourse de Commerce, on the same days. Gamboa’s smaller Tranoi Preview show will run at the Bourse venue from Jan. 24 to 27.

Meanwhile, Muriel Guyot said she would continue to refine Paris Sur Mode, a designer show in the tents in the Tuileries Gardens March 13 to 16. "People will only come if you can offer them something good," said Guyot. "Our objective is to improve what we have to offer with each session."

Talking Turkey

Turkey wants to make its mark on the fashion map. A manufacturing behemoth, with some $31 billion in textile exports last year, the country has only a handful of internationally recognizable brands. The majority of its business comes from international fashion firms that turn to the country to source their private label business.

But the Istanbul Ready-to-Wear Exporters Association, or ITKIB, has been strategizing the last few years over how to grow Turkey’s fashion brands.

One of the principal reasons is the looming abolition of trade quotas around the world, including those on textiles, in 2005. (See related story on page 30).Textile quotas traditionally have worked both for and against the country. They have reined in the amount of business Turkey does with its main trading partners. But they have also limited exports from its cheaper competitors, such as China and Indonesia.

Building more recognizable brands is a way for Turkey to evolve its business away from basics to more value-added fashion products.

ITKIB, which is government sponsored, has given financial assistance to several designers, such as Hussein Chalayan and Dice Kayek, both of whom show in Paris. Now they want to bring the fashion to Istanbul.

Seda Lafci, ITKIB’s manager, said the organization plans to create a young designer fair and competition that would debut in Istanbul in 2004.

"It would be something along the lines of the young designer festival in Hyères," explained Lafci. "We would invite young fashion designers from around the world to participate."

Hyères, a sleepy town in southern France, has grown in stature due to the fashion and artistic festivals it has organized over the last 10 years. ITKIB hopes that formula will work in building recognition for Turkish fashion.

Lafci said ITKIB would continue to assist Turkish brands to show at international trade shows, including the Prêt-à-Porter in Paris, Düsseldorf’s CPD and WWDMagic in Las Vegas.

ITKIB also sponsors a show of Turkish fabrics in New York, which will run Jan. 22-23, at Cipriani, 110 East 42nd Street. This year, the show will also include a small apparel offering.

Meanwhile, there are several trade shows in Istanbul, including the International Textile and Apparel Sourcing Exhibition, or ITSE, which will convene at the CNR Expo Center, Feb. 27 to March 1. The Istanbul Fashion Fair, for its part, will be held June 25-28 at the TUYAP fairgrounds.

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