Retailers Praise Paris’ Creativity, Excitement

While at times wintry and sober in coloration, the Paris collections kept the French capital in the pole position as a hotbed for creative, exciting fashion.

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PARIS — While at times wintry and sober in coloration, the Paris collections kept the French capital in the pole position as a hotbed for creative, exciting fashion.

This story first appeared in the October 4, 2012 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

That’s the main message from retailers who attended the shows, which wound up Wednesday here.

“Paris presented one of the most highly anticipated seasons in years,” said Colleen Sherin, senior fashion director at Saks Fifth Avenue.

“All eyes were on Raf Simons at Christian Dior and Hedi Slimane at Saint Laurent, encouraging other designers to up the ante in their offerings for spring 2013. This competition was exciting and is crucial for our industry in keeping everyone on the top of their game,” she added.

Many buyers said they would increase investments. Polat Uyal, chief merchandising officer at Istanbul-based Beymen, said Paris would get the lion’s share of its budget increases to feed a vibrant luxury business in Turkey. In Europe, retailers were finding reasons for optimism despite a gloomy economic climate.

“This is going to be a good opportunity for those that know their audience,” said Ed Burstell, managing director of Liberty.

“If you’re somebody who understands who their customer is, and you apply a focus or an edit to it, where the customer responds to it — not just because there is a lot of it, but because they want it almost on an emotional level — I think you’re going to win. All that said, I do think you have to be price sensitive and you have to balance your buys appropriately knowing that there is a shaky economy,” he added.

Buyers praised collections including Balenciaga, Givenchy, Saint Laurent and Dries Van Noten, while cropped jackets, slim pants, tunics, oversize shirts and lower heels were cited among key items.

“There is an overall soft and sensual hand that graced many of the Paris collections,” said Tomoko Ogura, senior fashion director at Barneys New York. “We could feel and visualize this from our seats. Whether the theme was grunge, religion, punk or something more sinister and melancholy in feel, the softness made it beautiful.”

There were some detractors.

“Paris had its ups and downs. There were collections that were dark and somber that seemed more like fall-winter, so they were difficult to identify as new,” said Linda Dresner, owner of the boutique in Birmingham, Mich., that bares her name. “Our buy will likely not increase. The important aspect is to create an exciting and interesting mix in the store that will stimulate the client.”

Here’s more of what buyers had to say:

Ed Burstell, managing director, Liberty, London:
Sound off:
“For me it was very simple. This is the perfect season to start distancing ourselves from trying to find trends. I think all the best collections kind of worked outside of that idea, and played specifically on the individual DNA of each house.”
Favorite collections: Dior, Lanvin, Kenzo, Alexander McQueen, Stella McCartney and Haider Ackermann.
Business: “The ones we’ve seen in Paris so far that we thought were exceptionally strong, we’re going to be buying 15 percent more than last year.”
Raf vs. Hedi: “Dior. I think they both went back to the roots of the house. I think Raf was more successful at making it modern.”

Marigay McKee, chief merchant, Harrods:
Sound off:
“Overall, Paris’ new-found chic commercialism is a recipe for success. We will increase our budgets for spring 2013 in Paris, following the opening of new Stella McCartney and Chloé boutiques, which have been extremely well received. This December, we will also unveil a new contemporary room that will house the first dedicated Carven boutique.”
Trends: “Arm and shoulder candy was bold with huge Hermès Birkins and hula hoop-inspired bags at Chanel. Statement jewelry continued to be prominent with huge hoop earrings at Balmain and oversize pearls at Chanel, which adorned both wrists and necks.”
Favorite collections: Lanvin, Givenchy, Celine, Roland Mouret, Stella McCartney, McQueen, Dior and Chanel.
One to watch: Vionnet.

Ken Downing, senior vice president and fashion director, Neiman Marcus:
“We had two new designers at two houses, which brought a buoyancy to the season, a whole new energy. In a season that’s been obsessed with black, it was nice to see Paris come back with a lot of great color, as well as romance with effusive flounces, ruffles and feminine details. The idea of sheer is a major trend, be it through chiffon, organza and continuation of all the lace. The overriding message is relaxed chic. We saw more relaxed silhouettes for pants and the continuation of the jacket.”
Favorite collections: Balenciaga, Nina Ricci, Givenchy, Stella McCartney, Saint Laurent Paris, Dior, Gareth Pugh and Alexander McQueen.
Raf vs. Hedi: “Sometimes I feel like having an apple and sometimes an orange. They were two entirely different design sensibilities and both delivered beautiful collections for the design vernacular of the houses they represent.”

Stephanie Solomon, vice president of fashion direction, Bloomingdale’s:
Sound off:
“Nothing compares to Paris. Raf Simons for Christian Dior just challenges the status quo. In that one show, he will change the way women dress for spring. And then Chanel, also blockbuster. Karl Lagerfeld went back to his roots. The black-and-white beginning, the pearls, the silhouettes, the balance of the jackets and the dresses — a perfect show. Those two were the absolute highlights of my week in Paris. Paris is the pulse of fashion. Paris is where it all changes. It raises the bar.”
Favorite collections: Dior, Chanel, Dries Van Noten, Roland Mouret and Barbara Bui.
Trends: “We’ve been in a season of dresses for so long, it really looks like spring will be the season of the jacket. The black jacket certainly looks very modern to my eye again.”

Colleen Sherin, senior fashion director, Saks Fifth Avenue:
“Paris, more so than any other city, focused on tailoring, often with a sharp, strong-shouldered silhouette. There was the idea of geometry, both in terms of print, pattern and shape, with the A-line being key. To contrast this, there was a polished femininity, with ruffles and frills and plays on transparency. The sport influence continued, with mesh used in every possible way.”
Favorite collections: Dior, Alexander McQueen, Givenchy, Haider Ackermann, Chanel, Junya Watanabe and Saint Laurent Paris.
Raf vs. Hedi: “Raf Simons exceeded the expectation and proved that he could propel Dior into the 21st century. Hedi Slimane presented a sexy, cool, very rock ’n’ roll collection for Saint Laurent. I am looking forward to seeing both of them up close and personal in the showrooms.”

Tancrède de Lalun, general merchandise manager, men’s and women’s apparel, Printemps:
Sound off:
“Paris was all about elegance. They were ultrafeminine in a very light way, from the hair and makeup to the shoes. There was a lot of airy white and transparency with sheer fabrics and lace. There was nothing aggressive about any of it. Nonetheless, there was enough novelty to keep buyers satisfied. This wasn’t the minimalism of two seasons ago — there was a lot of research into details. ”
Favorite collections: Kenzo, Balenciaga and Givenchy.
Business: “We had a very good month of September, on the heels of a very good month of August. We are still in the process of renovating our women’s ready-to-wear floors, so we are very optimistic.”
Raf vs. Hedi: “Both took the codes of their respective houses and looked at their histories. One came up with a more intellectual take, while the other went for something more obvious and immediately wearable, a little less processed. But the two brands are not in competition.”

Linda Fargo, senior vice president, fashion office and store presentation, Bergdorf Goodman:
Sound off:
“Paris has ended the four-city season on a high note and as the fashion capital.”
Trends: “New cool suiting, jackets and tailoring; romanticism in lengths, ruffles, lingerie details and lace; Le Smoking; wearable volumes; veiling and transparency; leathers and mixed surface complexity; black or white or both were frequent favorites.”
Favorite collections: “Balenciaga and Givenchy turned out exceptional modernist collections. Junya Watanabe, Gareth Pugh, Rick Owens and Haider Ackermann’s shows were moving, not-to-be-missed fusions of the fashion and performance art. Lanvin, Valentino, Chanel and Stella McCartney will be great for us. We valued the balance of editorial newness with wearability and reality. Sarah Burton’s vision for McQueen was an ultimate fashion tour de force.”
Raf vs. Hedi: “Dior and Saint Laurent Paris provided the drama and lived up to the hype, ushering in a new relevance for these important houses.”
Last word: “We are satiated by what we found here.”

Nicole Fischelis, group vice president and fashion director, Macy’s:
Sound off:
“The city was a mess with all the demonstrations. I missed two shows.”
Trends: “The new volume; all the graphic expression in black and white; the clothes are easy and generally pretty wearable; the continuation of masculine and feminine. I see a lot interesting tops, whether they are blouses, or shirts, or tunics or crop. I see a lot of shorts [and] a lot of new proportions in jackets.”
Favorite collections: Lanvin, Dries Van Noten, Jean Paul Gaultier, Chloé, Giambattista Valli, Rochas, Manish Arora, Sharon Wauchob and Thierry Mugler.
Ones to watch: Le Moine Tricote, Damir Doma, Felipe Oliveira Baptista, Cédric Charlier. “I loved the Designers’ Apartment initiative for young French designers, and the CFDA and British Fashion Council showrooms, too. It gives an additional edge, an additional reason to come to Paris.”


Tiziana Cardini, fashion director, La Rinascente, Milan:
Sound off:
“The next generation of great designers for the future, including Haider, Phoebe [Philo], Raf, Hedi and Nicolas [Ghesquière] were all very strong, and they get better and better each season, with a very strong esthetic. It was a very good season in Paris, one of the strongest for a long time.”
Trends: “Graphic and minimal in terms of the purity of design, with no embellishment, true to the DNA of each brand. The clean lines and pared down designs were very elegant and very modern.”
Favorite collections: Celine, Valentino, Balenciaga, Dior and Saint Laurent.

Tomoko Ogura, senior fashion director, Barneys New York:
“We’ve seen a focus on sleeve shapes and sleeve details. The array of ruffles that emerged on the runways looked modern. We saw them in various shapes, sizes and placements. The Balenciaga ruffles were a standout, and we loved the soft ruffles peeking out under tuxedo jackets at Saint Laurent.”
Must-haves: Saint Laurent black tailored short jacket; Sacai peplum motorcycle jacket; Delvaux metallic painted leather and ostrich clutch; Dries Van Noten embroidered robe; Pierre Hardy spray painted wedge sandal, and Junya Watanabe nylon and mesh jacket dress.
Favorite collections: Saint Laurent Paris, Balenciaga, Dries Van Noten and Sacai.
Ones to watch: Cédric Charlier and Paul Andrew.

Barbara Atkin, vice president, fashion direction, Holt Renfrew, Toronto:
Sound off:
“Paris gives us the opportunity to always pick up newness from younger, spirited brands like Kenzo, Carven and Acne, as well as grow and expand the more established brands in all their commodities, including ready-to-wear, accessories, leather goods and footwear. As a result, our budgets for Paris have increased to fuel this growth.”
Trends: “Japanese Eighties influences, feminine ruffles, black and white, print remix, sheer, cutouts and leather. Cropped jackets, slim pants, culottes, tunics, oversize shirts and romantic blouses make our shopping list along with beautiful evening dresses and skirts — both long and cocktail-length.”
Must-haves: “The shoe category is particularly strong and the large-brim fedora will be a must-have item, as Hedi Slimane declared at his Saint Laurent debut show.”
Favorite collections: Dior, Saint Laurent, Dries Van Noten, Balenciaga, Givenchy, Celine, Stella McCartney and Sacai.
Ones to watch: Damir Doma, Cédric Charlier and Pedro Lourenço.

Laura Larbalestier, buying director, Browns, London:
Sound off:
“It’s a mixed season, some designers have lost track of what customers really want, and others have made wonderful new and exciting pieces.”
Must-haves: “More separates all about daywear; check and plaid strongest prints.”
Favorite collections: Dries Van Noten, Kenzo and Haider Ackermann.

Judd Crane, director of women’s wear, Selfridges, London:
Sound off:
“Sheer, wide-leg trousers and tailored jackets are trends which have proven a success for the past couple of seasons, so it’s promising to see their continued relevance. I think that’s an incredibly wearable aesthetic which women are keen to hold on to.”
Trends: “This season we’ve seen a heavier focus on layering and more autumnal references for spring than we usually do.”
Favorite collections: “Standout shows for me have included the designers we’re championing in our Women’s Designer Galleries: Yohji Yamamoto, Haider Ackermann and A.F. Vandevorst.”

Seville Chow, vice president, merchandising, Joyce, Hong Kong:
Sound off:
“It has been an exceptionally positive season in Paris. We’ve seen designers show great effort and energy with new elements. The season of femininity and fluidity was seen throughout the week.
Trends: “Maxi-length silhouettes at Ann Demeulemeester and Gareth Pugh. Dries Van Noten and Rick Owens introduced transparency through working with organza fabric and layering effects. Sporty inspired details and techno fabric influence was seen in Junya Watanabe, Sacai and Stella McCartney.”
Ones to Watch: “We’ve introduced emerging talents Aganovich, Huishan Zhang, Vika Gazinskaya and Yiqing Yin last season and have received positive response.”

Tony Lee, merchandising manager, women’s wear and children’s division, Harvey Nichols, Hong Kong:
“Besides the summer leather, there is also use of special materials to reflect the 21st-century glamor — for example, the studded transparent PVC coat and clutch at Valentino, and the soaking wet and liquid aspect of fabrics used at Dior and Anne Valérie Hash.”
Favorite collections: Azzedine Alaïa, Valentino, Nina Ricci and Alessandra Rich.
Ones to watch: Alessandra Rich, Anthony Vaccarello and Alexandre Vauthier.

Polat Uyal, chief merchandising officer, Beymen, Istanbul:
Sound off:
“The success of younger designers and their ability to adjust their creativity with the maison’s heritage is helping Paris to lead the women’s fashion.”
Trends: “Rich materials like silk or brocade, and their combinations together with prints, will play an important role for us.”
Favorite collections: Dries Van Noten, Haider Ackermann, Lanvin, Saint Laurent, Valentino and Maison Martin Margiela.

Linda Dresner, owner, Linda Dresner, Birmingham, Mich.:
Sound off:
“Wacky and Dalí-esque jewelry from Delfina Delettrez, the crushed aluminum can hats from Comme des Garçons and the exaggerated wigs at Rick Owens were amusing and brilliant. One can still have fun in fashion.”
Trends: “There were many variations of the new ‘smoking’ from Celine, Haider Ackermann and Yohji Yamamoto. Skinny pants with sleeveless long vests.”
Must-haves: “In accessories, flat sandals and lower heels gave a new and graceful proportion, as well as the very small bag.”
Favorite collections: Maison Martin Margiela, Rick Owens and Balenciaga.

Elizabeth Lepore, Jimmy’s, Brooklyn and the Hamptons:
“Asian influences, Sixties silhouettes including cropped jackets, and the boy-meets-girl looks incorporating crisp white fabrics.”
Must-haves: “Haute couture influences in ruffled silhouettes were sensational. The pastels used were both feminine and frothy.”
Favorite collections: Chanel, Chloé, Bouchra Jarrar, Stella McCartney, Giambattista Valli and Azzedine Alaïa.
Business: “Jimmy’s is feeling better about the business and we are optimistic given the uptick of the fall season, providing an increase in our open-to-buy.”

Maiko Shibata, women’s buyer, Restir, Tokyo:
“I think one of the key words was definitely neo-couture, like Balenciaga, Dior and Givenchy, and a Sixties evening look, made by radzimir, taffeta, etc. Some of Chloé’s pieces have Sixties atomosphere, too. A lot of designers took couture details or inspirations from archives, but are using very modern, futuristic materials such as scuba, Neoprene, sporty mesh, which brought all the pieces to the next level. Transparency and cut-outs are also strong, and I felt purest white was a strong color.”
Must-haves: “The Asian market loves prints, but neo-couture minidresses or skirts are also perfect for our body.”
Favorite collections: Balenciaga, Dior and Givenchy.
Business: “Since we have a specific clientele, business is very good at our boutique. But most of the stores in Japan are not doing well. I’m thinking about adding new young designers who have potential, and have a different style. It’s perfect timing to show new talent to Japanese fashion people.”

Polina Kitsenko, co-owner, Podium, Moscow:
Sound off:
“I don’t think we have seen any major new trends, it was not a thrilling season for me.”
Trends: “We hadn’t seen black and white for summer for a while. That was a novelty, and there was the comeback of bright colors, following through from winter. There was a lot of tulle, transparency and layering.”
Favorite collections: Givenchy, Isabel Marant and Chanel.
Ones to watch: “Olympia Le-Tan was a breath of fresh air.”
Business: “We’re very cautious because of the economic climate. We’re trying to buy only when we are really sure about something, but it depends on the brand.”

Ikram Goldman, owner, Ikram, Chicago:
Sound off:
“I think designers met altogether and unanimously decided that this season was going to be designed for real women. It was a spectacular season in that every collection had wearable, feminine and womanly clothing.”
Trends: “I think tuxedos are a really big trend this season. Also blouses and tops were the key [pieces] to buy. The one-shoulder dress was in every show, in every showroom. I saw a lot of black and white on the runway. I also felt a lot of couture in the season.”
Favorite collections: Nina Ricci, Junya Watanabe and Celine.
One to watch: Sacai.


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