PARIS — With their budgets as much as 20 percent higher, buyers were thinking big — and soft — at the Premiere Classe accessories fair.
"Overall, accessories are very strong again, with fresh looks for fall across a lot of categories," said June Lawlor, director of beauty and fashion accessories at London's House of Fraser.
She heralded soft styles as a key trend, with a focus on hand knits, such as Eugenia Kim's wool hats.
Fall's other focus is on proportion, with voluminous bags, oversize hats and chunky jewelry generating strong orders. Glove manufacturers, such as Agnelle, reported a jump in new orders, citing demand for intricate styles in luxurious fabrics.
"Gloves are a huge trend on the runways — fingerless gloves or long and above the elbow," said Elizabeth Kafner, director of women's accessories at Saks Fifth Avenue.
A total of 12,708 visitors attended the four-day show that ended March 6, an increase of 4 percent over last year. Like a lot of the buyers, Kafner was scouting for novelty.
"As usual, we're negotiating exclusives for pieces that will make the store look different," she said, adding that euro price tags are not an issue. "We're looking for that must-have item."
"We're here for unusual finds," agreed Helga Valfells, who plans to open what she billed as Iceland's first high-end, multi-brand emporium, dubbed 06.10, this fall.
Valfells' buying consultant, Johann Philippeson, a former assistant to Colette's Sarah Lerfel, commended the fair's selection of Japanese brands for their reasonably priced, high-quality goods.
"We found To&Co's designs original and well made," Philippeson said. "They have a fun, Oliver Twist-y look about them."
Claudio Antonioli, who was scouting for fillers for his Italian multi-brand boutique, Antonioli, which has locations in Switzerland and Italy, also said there were strong brands from Japan.
"I already have all I need from the designers I stock, such as Rick Owens and Martin Margiela, so I really am just looking for exceptional pieces here," he said.
Brass trinkets from jeweler Goti, English caps from Stephen Jones and bags from Kenjiikeda were on his shopping list.However, some buyers found the show lacked fresh ideas.
"We're looking for elegance with a touch of spice, but all we've seen is embossed leather and bohemian styles," said Daisuke Hirata, buyer for 1,000-square-foot accessories store Jolisac in Hyogo, Japan.
"What we've seen is good, but not necessarily new," said Carrie Chapman, women's accessories buyer for Barneys New York, who has a crop of new stores to fill, with new co-ops in Georgetown in Washington, D.C., and Houston, as well as two new flagships in Boston and Dallas.
Chapman praised the jewelry, especially the refined, eccentric styles in rose gold and oxidized metals, as well as some of the more original bag designs.
"Charlott Vasberg's bags have nice details and fit with the season's tones," she said. "Fall is all about muted colors such as gray, taupe, mud and ivory."
Carrie Forbes, who relaunched her popular bag line in 2004, said she sensed more interest in young designer accessories.
"The designer bag has been blown out so much, it's ready for a downturn," said Forbes, who added that she had healthy demand for her signature hand-crocheted tote, including an order from Bloomingdale's.
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