PARIS — What a novel idea.

After several seasons of showing fabrics that left many buyers uninspired, exhibitors at last week’s Première Vision, which ended its four-day run at the Parc d’Expositions on Saturday, showcased an abundance of novelty looks — in jacquards and prints — as well as strong pops of color that included various shades of pink, red and purple.

This helped create a renewed spirit at the show that had not been seen in the four seasons since the attacks of 9/11. The economic downslide that followed that trauma, meanwhile, seemed to be easing, as well — something that was music to many exhibitors’ ears.

“The climate is definitely better,” said Flavio Ortile, sales manager at Bonotto. “The feeling is more positive at this show than it’s been in many seasons.”

“I’m truly impressed with the number of people here,” said François Damide, president of the U.S. arm of Solstiss, Bucol and Bouton-Renaud. “And the mood is definitely easier and happier.”

Despite the timing of the fair, which once again ran concurrently with the New York designer collections, exhibitors noticed a solid increase in U.S. attendance — something that was confirmed by the show’s producers.

Nevertheless, timing continued to be an issue.

“First buyers said the show was too late, so we changed it to run earlier,” said Daniel Faure, president of Première Vision. “Then they said it was too early. It’s hard to satisfy everyone.”

Faure said the next edition set for Feb. 25-28 is a a little later than this year’s spring edition that ran Feb. 12-15, thus separating it from the New York runway shows by 12 days. “We’re hoping that they don’t change their dates,” he added.

Basic looks were hard to find at the show and buyers were pleased with all the patterns. Even mills that are traditionally more reserved in their offerings, such as Italian knit mill Jackytex, were showing more novelty styles. Overall, themes included a variety of graphic, Sixties’-style geometrics and designs influenced by the Art Nouveau and Art Deco eras, as well as tweed textures, many of which featured metallic accents in gold or silver. For many exhibitors, archival documents and fabrics continued to play an important role in designing many of these looks.Several mills, Bianchini Férier and Mantero included, had archive books in their booths for buyers to peruse.

“We have so many requests by designers to see our archives,” said Cédric Brochier, president of Bianchini. “They’re important for inspiration.”

Brochier noted that he will offer exclusives to designers, much in the same way Mantero did with Prada for this fall’s collection.

At Etro, designer Jacobo Etro looked back to create much of the collection. He said: “We’re renewing many themes from the past — taking classics and reworking them with modern colors or finishing techniques.”

Among the new selections were prints on tweeds and tartans in untraditional colors. Etro’s signature paisley was also brightly displayed on dark grounds.

Alessandro Geloso Grosso, in sales at Gamma Seta, said buyers were feeling strongly about optical looks, as well as fabrics with a slight ethnic feel, specifically Asian.

“There’s also still a large request for metallics,” he said, noting a silk print featuring a satin stripe finished with a metallic pattern on top.

At Mahlia, a French mill known for its novelty looks, introductions included many with ribbons or patchwork.

“It’s taken a while to develop these styles because the technology is not so easy to understand,” said stylist Eve Corrigan. “It’s was like a technical nightmare that became a fairy tale.” At Erica, layered looks were also key. “It continues to be important to offer a variety of looks in one piece,” said Denise De Lange, designer at the Italian mill. Three notables there included a black and silver geometric jacquard flocked in black; an abstract plaid print in pink, blue and green, and a pink, green and gray jacquard with a hint of metallic.

Gilles Mendel, designer at J. Mendel, was also keen on layering. At Jakob Schlaepfer, he noted engineered floating sequins on silk and cut on the bias that would be perfect mixed with a plaid of some sort, even a tartan.

“Mixing classics with unexpected elements from different periods is something of an identity for us,” he said.Graphic patterning in the spirit of plaids and other men’s wear looks were on display at many British exhibitors’ booths. At Johnstons of Elgin, a large houndstooth in black and gray was featured on cashmere, while at Moon, colorful retro patterns were seen on wool.

In addition to unabashed patterning, many mills were also offering more handcrafted looks in contrasting tones that were graphic in their own right.

At Mantero, a black-and-white wool and silk blend featured a flat texture juxtaposed against a more raised one for a soft textural effect. At Lanificio F.lli Cerruti, Nino Cerruti said, “A fabric doesn’t have to be strange to be right. We need to start considering the soul of a fabric.”

There, a plaid in wool and nylon had a high-low effect as well. Also notable was a straw-colored cashmere with a small, dobby-like texture.

At Laurent Garigue, a simple basketweave created from a multicolored yarn had maximum effect thanks to the bright colors used and the heavy construction of the cloth.

“There are no set rules this season,” said Garigue. “We’re interested in doing things that are about quality.”

Edward Wilkerson, designer at Lafayette 148, appreciated many of the hand-crafted looks he saw.

“I’m feeling a direction towards eclectic textures, things that give a fabric more volume,” he said, noting that inspiration came from ethnic influences and from nature. “That makes it more grounded.”

Color, meanwhile, was everywhere, with a strong concentrations of pinks, reds and purples. Guigou’s knits were offered in drenched tones that included a royal purple in wool and nylon. Other colorful examples included a red, purple and gold jacquard in a silk blend at Bucol; a multicolored block print on five-layers of metal and polyester at Jakob Schlaepfer; rayon blended velvets in hot pink and red at Jackytex; Sarti’s red and black range of wool blended wovens, Bianchini’s multicolored burnout silk velvet, and Ratti’s graphic oversized houndstooth in red and cream on a new soybean fiber.

Many designers voiced their enthusiasm about all the color on display. Tuleh’s Bryan Bradley was looking to complement his “frightening Victorian garden” theme with interesting color combinations, such as yellow and purple or ink blue and black. “The feeling is very dark and sexy, and I think those colors are perfect,” he said.Yeohlee’s standouts included “royal purple, gold and the reds — from orange to deep burgundy,” she noted.

At Alice Roi, design director Jason Cauchi was just beginning to formulate a color direction for fall 2004.

“We’re going to avoiding black this season, for sure,” he said. “We rarely use red and I think it will be a really cool challenge to use that color. Alice likes to put colors together in unexpected ways and it will be interesting to see how she would use red.”

Other designers were a bit more artistic in their approach. In place of pinpointing a specific theme or color for the season, Lanvin’s Alber Elbaz said, “I’m very open when I come to PV. I don’t have any expectations, I just look for fabrics that make me dream. It’s not about georgette or techno, per se, it’s about something that’s more thought out. Today, you have to offer fabrics that are more than just beautiful. They have to be smart.”

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