By  on February 9, 2010

PARIS — Buyers shopped with flat budgets and with an eye to good value at the recent Prêt-à-Porter and Who’s Next trade shows at the Porte de Versailles, which ended their four-day run on Jan. 26.

“The ranges have to be very smart and very sharp now. They have to sell,” said Jennifer Conway, owner of Jenny’s Boutique, based in County Meath, Ireland. “The budget is level with last year, but there has already been a big cut by 30 percent.”

“We are just more selective. Ireland is suffering considerably, but we haven’t made a lot of cuts. We have streamlined things,” echoed Geraldine Waldron, buyer controller for Clerys department store in Dublin.

Among some of the brands doing brisk business were those offering competitive price points, such as at Cassiopee, where bestsellers included a classic skirt and jacket combo.

While buyers praised the arrival of more color, many focused on no-risk basics with an eye on items that could be mixed and matched. As such, black, beige and gray items were still a staple this year. “The trend is definitely back to basics. Our clients are looking for things that go with other pieces,” said Kim Figueroia, head of export for Spanish knitwear brand Mariona Gen.

Established brands like Bleu Blanc Rouge and Paul Briel continued to reel in business, as well as Elisa Cavaletti from Italy, where the detailing and feminine styles were appreciated.

“Every item has to have something special about it, and clients are very interested in price points. I mean, they cut their budgets so much last year, they haven’t got much more to take off,” said Lorraine Gainfort from Mac Fashions, a U.K.-based agency that represents the Bleu Blanc Rouge brand. Another hub of activity was found in the Shibuya section at hip French sportswear brand Princesse Nomade/Les Frangines.

Colorful collections also stood out at the Who’s Next show, notably Spanish labels Desigual and Smash.Also from Spain was Barcelona-based knitwear brand Mariona Gen, while Little Marcel from France paraded its signature striped tops.

Niche brands, on the other hand, proved to be a riskier undertaking for buyers. In contrast to last year, the So Ethic eco-friendly section lost favor with visitors. “It was very quiet. I think consumers like to stick to brands they know,” said Clerys’ Waldron. Similarly, the atmosphere in the Fresh area, dedicated to emerging designers at Who’s Next, was subdued.

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