PARIS — Buyers at the Premiere Classe accessories show at the Porte de Versailles here gravitated toward colorful vintage items and handmade looks as they sought standout items for the spring season.
Demand centered on quality products in natural materials, rather than showy offerings.
Organizers said the number of visitors to the four-day event, which ended Sept. 7, rose 17 percent to 45,812 compared with last year. About 65 percent of them were French.
French designer Barbara Rihl’s collection of travel-inspired bags, priced from 60 euros to 150 euros, or $76 to $190 wholesale, generated buzz. The brand, which counts 1,000 points-of-sale worldwide, has received a lot of attention since the July opening of its first stand-alone boutique off the Rue Saint-Honoré.
Monica Kostelnik, design director of the 140-store, California-based Brighton Accessories, whose buying budget was flat, said she was inspired by embroidery, patchwork and handmade items, but found some of the designs too ostentatious for her customers.
“We will go back and study the brands before placing any orders,” she said.
Cynthia Roussel, Printemps accessories fashion concept manager, said: “We have a luxury strategy, and as such we find less and less of interest here.”
Some buyers complained about prices. Monique Gilles, owner of two Créations Cuir Héxagone stores in the southwest of France, said a wholesale price tag of 210 euros, or $266 at current exchange, “for a bag is far too expensive.”
Others were less focused on price. “Our budget is up 33 percent” versus last year, said Jill Donnelly, owner of 3,000-square-foot Seattle-based store Baby & Co., which carries mainly European designers. “Business is good in Seattle.”
Donnelly was looking for big bags in washed-out primary colors in cotton and leather, and preppy items. She cited French brand Bensimon’s expanded range, as well as scarves from Sarti and jewelry by 5 Octobre.
U.S. buyers scouted niche names such as Raleigh, N.C.-based C.T. Weekends, which introduced covers for smartphones.
“We are specifically looking for vendors who don’t have a U.S. presence,” store owner Kristi Hipple said. “My budgets are flat right now, but when I place orders, I always talk about the possibility of reordering if the products sell well.” She also bought from French jewelry designer Sandrine Giraud. “It’s fun and colorful, and we sell color extremely well.”
Giraud was back at Premiere Classe after an absence of several years, when she exhibited at neighboring fashion jewelry show Eclat de Mode-Bijorhca. She said U.S. buyers had returned in force after many skipped recent seasons.
Attendance at Eclat de Mode-Bijorhca was up 5 percent compared with last September’s session, registering 14,558 visitors.
“Bijorhca is interesting in terms of price points,” said Sarah Zitouni, owner of the Marseilles-based private sale firm Lily Paillettes. Zitouni attended the shows looking for brands for an upscale jewelry site she plans to launch before the holiday season.
At Eclat de Mode-Bijorhca, she found inspiration in French brand Delphes’ cutesy silver, gold and vermeil creations. “Low-priced pieces are selling well,” Delphes manager Grégoire de Galzain said. “But the whole collection is popular, particularly our bicolor pieces.”
Delphes’ prices range from 6 euros to 75 euros, or $8 to $95, wholesale. De Galzain conceded that customers were buying less stock than at previous editions.
For the first time, organizers of Eclat de Mode-Bijorhca added a section specifically for gold creations. And the Cream section for young designers offered them smaller stands at preferential rates.
“In recent years, we have started really paying attention to the newer brands to ensure that they are spotted by buyers,” said Richard Martin, the show’s deputy director and artistic director. “They offer the show an opportunity to provide an interesting and eclectic product mix.”