PARIS -- Retailers left the city extolling the collections.
Fashion directors said sun-bathed Paris provided plenty of wearable and exciting clothes for women for fall, at prices close to a year ago.
U.S. retailers were also generally positive about their first ready-to-wear season centered around the Carrousel, the new fashion center under the Tuileries gardens. "It makes everything so much easier. The temperature is right, there's no more waiting in the cold, and you are not rained on between shows like at the [Cour Carree] tents," said Rose Marie Bravo, president of Saks Fifth Avenue.
But buyers lamented that the schedule was simply too packed. With some 80 collections on the runways, four trade shows and scores of other resources on display in various city hotels, there was just too much to do, they said.
However, this fall organizers have scheduled two free days between the end of the Milan collections and the start of the Paris fashion week, giving buyers and press a long-sought-after breather.
"It's been a sensational week. We saw plenty of options for women and could easily understand where they might be able to wear them," said Ellin Saltzman, senior vice president and fashion director of Bergdorf Goodman.
She raved about the Chanel, Galliano, Jean-Paul Gaultier and Vivienne Westwood collections. Of the latter, she said, "We thought her collection was very exciting and plan to pick up her more expensive line for the first time. I also loved the romance at Valentino, which was very special."
Saltzman rated Empire dresses, sweaters, winter whites and over-the-knee boots as key trends in Paris.
Kal Ruttenstein, senior vice president of fashion direction at Bloomingdale's, said: "Paris was extremely exciting, with great variety. Individuality is the name of the game this spring. We finally are coming up with the style of the Nineties."
Ruttenstein also liked Jean Paul Gaultier's show and was particularly enthusiastic about Karl Lagerfeld's three collections. In Lagerfeld's own line, Ruttenstein liked the silk separates; in Chloe, he cited "the suits with leg-of-mutton and Edwardian sleeves and general attitude of the clothes. Late day was great, especially the cream knits, sweaters and dresses." At Chanel, he thought the athletic stripes gave a youthful look to the collection.Ruttenstein added, "We loved the simplicity of style and color, especially all the grays Emanuel [Ungaro] developed." Ruttenstein also loved the "humor and fun at Westwood -- her take on tartan and the bubble skirts."
Bonnie Pressman, senior vice president of Barneys New York, said key trends were the "importance of knitwear, color, shearlings and the news that chenille isn't dead." Pressman especially liked Dries Van Noten: "It was easy to understand and had a men's wear influence, yet was still very feminine. We plan to increase our orders and put Dries in more stores."
She was also very enthusiastic about Commes des Garcons. "The boiled wool and panne velvets were wonderful," she said. Barneys will add Westwood's second line and will also pick up Martine Sitbon and Paul Smith.
Pressman also praised Chanel, Gaultier, Mariot Chanet and Wim Neels, a Belgium resource that had "simple and coherent clothing and some incredible shearlings."
Bravo of Saks said key trends were layering, boots, shirts and fabric mixing. "There's also been a return of structure which is important," Bravo said. She also noted the importance of outerwear, like the parka and the puff coat.
"We saw greater concern for comfort in fashion. Coziness is important," Bravo added.
Other American buyers pointed to a new wearability in ready-to-wear looks. Marilyn Marks Cooper, president and co-owner of Nan Duskin in Philadelphia, thought Valentino was "wearable and feminine" and also liked Lagerfeld's skintight offerings.
Gemma Taylor, vice president of Isaacson's in Atlanta, was taken with the puffed sleeves at Chloe and loved the evening pieces at Valentino, especially the racer-back dress.
Lanvin will be a newcomer to Isaacson's this fall -- Taylor liked the equestrian spirit of the line, and said, "Lanvin also had the most gorgeous organza blouses I have ever seen."
Sara Barton, owner of Barton Sligh's in Jacksonville, Fla. liked the short dresses for daytime and the longer jackets that could also be worn as coats. "At Chanel, there were so many ideas. Those models that came out on the runway looked like they were dressed for survival, with those boots and portable phones."Chicago's Joan Weinstein, owner of Ultimo, liked Comme des Garcons' off-white, crushed velvet evening dresses, cited Yohji Yamamoto's print-lined kimonos and said Mugler's suits were the best she'd ever seen.
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