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PARIS — Ethnic details, crochet and woven bags, silver and gold jewelry and a big splash of color led the trends at the latest edition of Première Classe, the accessories show held in the Tuileries Gardens.

This story first appeared in the October 21, 2002 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

Despite the economic downturn, buyers said they planned to stay on target and not reduce buying budgets for next spring.

“The environment is tough, but I’m increasing my budget slightly,” said Briget Assil, who owns four Madison shoe and accessories boutiques in Beverly Hills. “But I’ve had to become very selective in my buying. Now, if it’s not right on the money, the customer doesn’t want it.”

Assil, who sells a mix of brands such as Yves Saint Laurent, Marni and Dolce & Gabbana, said quality has become more important.

“Before, I just bought pieces if they were pretty,” she said. “Now, I open the bag, turn it inside out, and examine all of the finishes to make sure they’re impeccably done. Customers demand quality right now.”

Sandra Wilson, accessories fashion director at Neiman Marcus, said she liked soft handbags in clutches or wristlet styles.

“Metallic, whether in gold or silver, is important both in leather and in metal jewelry,” said Wilson. “Inspirations from India with vibrant colors or orange fuchsia and lime influence soft accessories.”

Eileen Warner, vice president and divisional merchandise manager at Saks Fifth Avenue, said ethnic influences and glamour are key.

“A whole kind of culture club influences accessories design now,” she said. “There are ethnic inspirations that are combined with just about everything else. Crochet and woven materials are strong, and utilitarian pockets are also important.”

Yoshihisa Inagaki, who runs the Tri-X buying office in Paris, which works with Japanese stores such as Beams, Revolution and Baybrook, said African and South Asian influences looked fresh.

“Very colorful pieces and pieces with a lot of craft to them, such as Indian details in jewelry and bags, are my favorites,” he said. “There’s a lot of innovation in accessories right now and that means good business.”

Still, Inagaki said his clients have become more cost conscious. He said that, despite difficult business conditions in Japan, his buying budget has increased this season.

“The Japanese will spend for foreign brands,” he said.

Christine Chen, buyer at Bazzurro in Taiwan, cited a landslide of creativity in accessories at the moment.

“Accessories have become more interesting, creatively, than clothes now,” she said. “For something to sell in this market, which is very difficult, it has to be very special.”

More than 350 firms participated in the fair, which closed Oct. 13 after a four-day run. Organizers said 11,686 buyers visited, up 35 percent from last year. They attributed the increase to buyers resuming travel a year after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

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