By and  on September 18, 2007

PARIS — Next summer's ingenue is smartening up with more sophisticated looks, including slimmer fits, longer hemlines and more elegant tailoring.

At least that was the main fashion message at the Prêt à Porter and Who's Next apparel trade shows, which ended their four-day runs at the Porte de Versailles here on Sept. 9.

"Styles are not as naïve, which is a welcome change as customers were getting tired of it," said Yaël Kouprianoff, owner and buyer of Biba, a contemporary fashion boutique in the heart of Paris' Saint Germain.

"There is much less of the baby-doll look, which is a good thing," agreed Ludivine Grégoire, whose store in New York's West Village specializes in the latest Parisian styles. Grégoire, who placed orders with Les Prairies de Paris, Noro, Forte_Forte and Paspourtous, among others, said she expects subdued color palettes with occasional punctuations of bright yellow and dusty orange to be musts next summer.

While Grégoire flew to Paris for the shows specifically, she noted a general lack of retailers from North America.

"Manufacturers are doing more with Russian clients than retailers from North America," agreed Darren Mason, president of Andrew's, a 12,000-square-foot high-end women's fashion and accessories store in Toronto. Mason noted a "complete absence of color" with beige, white and gray dominating color palettes here. "Sizes are very small for the North American market; it is a challenge for us to find the right fit," Mason added.

Despite the lack of North American retailers, order writing was strong, with buyers searching for feminine — albeit increasingly seasonless — styles. Increasing spending for next season by as much as 20 percent, retailers said they were saving portions of their budget for immediate orders.

"Due to the weather, I hoped to see late-winter delivery in order to begin the season with fresh but appropriate merchandise. It was all very summer-oriented," said Cedric Charbit, general merchandise manager of women's fashion at Printemps.

Charbit said he placed orders at American Vintage for T-shirts, knitwear at BA&SH, dresses at April, May, as well as Diabless, Iro and Paul & Joe Sister.Retailers applauded efforts by contemporary brands to fight off fierce competition from fast-fashion chains by increasing their use of fabrics such as cottons and linens.

"Today brands are focusing on an easy-to-wear style that is approximately 40 percent more expensive than Zara, adding more quality, personality and cachet in an attempt to build brand awareness," Charbit added. He noted that loose T-shirts, some very short, worn over wide-leg, Jane Birkin-like jeans; lengthy bohemian dresses; blazers, and T-shirt dresses would be next summer's look du jour.

While not as voluminous as previous seasons, loose-fitting dresses as well as lightweight pants and jodhpurs were also surfacing as an alternative to denim for the summer, according to retailers.

Meanwhile, exhibit­ors reported good business overall, despite a low turnout of Americans.

"There are hardly any Americans," said Laetitia Ivanez, who designs the French contemporary Les Prairies de Paris line, which she presented at Who's Next. Ivanez disclosed she would make her Paris runway debut in October 2008 and noted an online shopping site was also in the works.

Also at Who's Next, Paris-based American Retro continued to expand its reach, adding more fashion categories to its offering such as "Cocktail Hour" for dresses and "Garden Party" for sporty-chic styles. "We increased our sales over last year," said David Pariente, president of American Retro and Zoë Tee's, its budding T-shirt and dress label made from ultrafine jerseys for around 35 euros, or $48.60, at wholesale. Pariente said he would add organic cotton T-shirts to the Zoë Tee's line.

Pariente also unveiled a denim label, dubbed My Lovely Jean. The denim line, which retails for 150 euros, or $208, boasts a selection of high-waist, wide-leg denim with a Woodstock feel. "We believe timely fashion denim, such as wide-leg jeans, is crucial to a collection, but women are replacing the basic denim styles with dresses and pants," he said.

At Copenhagen-based Munthe Plus Simonsen, summer dresses in soft tones for 96 euros, or $133.25, at wholesale dominated the collection with punctuations of vivid greens and feminine prints. "The dress, especially white, with a slightly elongated silhouette is becoming a standard and proving to be a good alternative to classic denim styles," said Anoushka Gresvig Mac-Crohon, co-owner of Paris-based D Collection Showroom, an agent for the brand in France."Feminine Liberty print dresses have been a great success," said budding designer Diane Hanouna, whose swimwear-inspired ready-to-wear brand, Naelie, was a hit among Japanese clients at the show.

At the Prêt à Porter, French actress Lou Doillon presented her fashion and denim collection for Lee Cooper, while for its 60th anniversary, Repetto unveiled its exhibition of tutus designed by Doillon's sister, Charlotte Gainsbourg, as well as Comme des Garçons, Audrey Marnay and Jean Paul Gaultier, to name a few. The exhibit will travel to other international venues.

While contemporary brands continue to flood trade shows, organizers maintain efforts to boost fledging designers.

At the Prêt, Turkish designer Deniz Yegin presented her Yegi Nim collection of youthful white dresses, with intricate folds and portraits of close family and friends embroidered into dress linings. "The collection is about letters," said Yegin, whose styles wholesale for around 150 to 250 euros, or $208.20 to $347.

The Prêt's So Ethic section continues to expand and in March will stage a separate luxury ethical show for higher-end brands, said the section's sales director, Matthew Allen. Eco-friendly stalwarts with higher price points including Stewart+Brown, Katharine Hamnett and Del Forte will be presented there during March rtw shows. Buyers lauded the increased fashion focus of the salon's So Ethic section.

"There's more style than before, the cuts are more stylish and materials more refined," said Peggy Silberling, a buyer at Galeries Lafayette. She cited Bluebretzel, Sobiotiful and Katharine Hamnett as standout collections. "The eco-fashion movement is moving away from the organic, yoga look."

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