PARIS — Slow traffic and heightened security following the November Paris attacks contributed to a mixed mood among buyers and exhibitors at the recent Bijorhca and Première Classe jewelry and accessories trade shows here, dampening an already sluggish market.
Bijorhca’s operator Reed Expositions France confirmed a drop in international visitors, notably from the Japanese, Russian and Chinese markets. Attendance from Europe, the Middle East the U.S. remained stable, they stated.
“I did notice less attendance of international buyers and exhibitors at the event,” said Aram Itani, owner of Aram Boutique in Washington, D.C., who was one of several retailers who encountered problems trying to reach the city’s Charles de Gaulle airport on the return journey home due to roadblocks by French taxi drivers protesting against Uber.
The Who’s Next and Première Classe fairs saw a combined 4 percent drop in traffic to 48,684 visitors versus the equivalent session in 2015. Boris Provost, director of brand strategy and international development for WSN Developpement, which operates the salons, said the turnout was nonetheless encouraging considering the factors at play. “In December we had no visibility on what to expect and after the holiday season all of the Japanese and Americans confirmed. Between us, the Paris city hall and regional government there was a lot of campaigning to reassure people and it seems to have paid off. Considering the economic context it’s a dynamic salon; it’s a good sign for the market.”
On the surface things were bright at Bijorhca with vivid nature-, ethnic-, Brazilian- and Navajo-inspired collections competing for attention. “Small colored beads are big and there’s a return to gold,” said Reed Expositions France, a costume jewelry and accessories store based in Nantes, France.
Bold geometric designs were also omnipresent. Elana Seligman, owner of Options For Her in Toronto, Canada, who was on the lookout for “gallery-style pieces,” lauded Athens-based designer Christina Brampti’s graphic, mixed-media designs. “They’re very architectural and bold with unique material mixes like resin, fabric and metal.”
Visiting the show’s Cream young designer section, Annelotte Vosa, a Dutch textiles designer, selected Oe Dans L’Oe among standout collections with its elaborate hair accessories made from synthetic hair. Simonetta Candelaresi, owner of Balduina Profumi, a perfume and accessories store based in Rome’s historic center, placed an order at Tambour, whose garden-inspired jewelry creations featured real hydrangeas injected with oil and colored dye as well as mini pom-pomlike pussy-willow catkins. “The collection is highly original using interesting, delicate colors,” Candelaresi said. For its Tribe Passion-themed collection, Russian label Stern presented necklaces and rings festooned with vivid, laser-cut Plexiglas leaves and silicon strands.
Topics covered in the salon’s conference program included the impact of the Internet on consumer behavior and ways to play with lighting to boost sales.
Collections were similarly colorful at Première Classe, which staged an exhibition of fun crochet designs by a range of exhibitors and artists including Australia’s Phil Ferguson, who is known for his crocheted food hats, and China’s Katy Sean, who creates oversize crocheted owls. New exhibitors included France’s Cocoroca with its striking hand-beaded African-inspired bracelets in graphic patterns, artisan Italian sunglass brand Kyme and Britain’s Little Moose, specializing in quirky acrylic costume jewelry designs and statement accessories.
“The direction has been minimalist for a while but it’s going to change with a focus on fabric interest and more playful, decorative designs – decorative but comfortable,” said Yoshisato Munetomo, a footwear buyer for Isetan Mitsukoshi, Japan’s largest department store, which at the event launched a new shoe brand geared to the European market. Temporarily dubbed Isetan Shoes while finalizing details on the official name, the collection is based on Isetan’s private label shoe brand Number Twenty-One which, according to Munetomo, is the most successful footwear line among international shoppers at Isetan’s main store in Tokyo’s Shinjuku district in terms of units sold.
Combining function and fashion the Tokyo-flavored Isetan Shoes line features collaborations with budding designers from the Creator’s Tokyo program as well as established homegrown designers like Facetasm and newneu, whose fun sneaker designs are customizable, with a range of Velcro “art pieces” like colored letters, jewelry and hearts to choose from. Designs from the main line feature technological materials by major Japanese manufacturers such as Ultrasuede by Toray, a material typically used for car seats, and Clarino, an artificial leather by Kuraray.
The new launch is part of Isetan Mitsukoshi’s “From Isetan to the World” initiative aimed at building its global reach, underlined by the retailer’s “This Is Japan” corporate motto. The retailer is also planning a pilot store for the ground floor of the Maison de la culture du Japon in Paris, due to open later this year, measuring around 940 square feet and specializing in Japan-made products.
For leather goods, itsy-bitsy micro bags were a key trend across collections at Première Classe. “They just keep on getting smaller,” said Josie Xiong, a buyer from Chinese concept store Plus One. Among standout collections she mentioned the “fun details” of heritage glove brand Maison Fabre’s line, especially the short gloves with eye motifs.
Bustling stands included heritage French sock label Bonne Maison, whose designs included cartoonish nudes inspired by Cubist artist Fernand Léger and Craie, a three-year-old French leather goods brand specializing in reversible bags combining materials like leather with a speckled gold coating lined with canvas that can also be worn as rucksacks. “We wanted to come up with something multifunctional that could work from day through to night and for any occasion, including if you need to suddenly hop on a bike,” said cofounder Camille Levai.
Among new developments at the fair, From, a salon specializing in quality suppliers of accessories parts, for the first time presented under the Première Classe umbrella. With a new Silmo designer eyewear village to be added in the salon’s upcoming September edition, housing around 30 fashion labels, new to this session was a section dedicated to watches. Highlights included Dutch label Cluse, offering minimalist timepieces with interchangeable straps and France’s Rich Gone Broke — a fledgling label under Red Luxury that owns the watch licenses for 11 brands including Zadig & Voltaire, Vuarnet, Kulte and Rodier — specializing in timepieces with printed fabric straps.