PARIS — Spoiled for choice was the consensus of buyers attending the recent edition of the Première Classe Tuileries accessories trade show here, with a sea of new brands to choose from.
New exhibitor numbers spiked 20 percent versus the equivalent year-ago session, due in part to the replacement of designers who had left the show in search of cheaper alternatives, including transforming their own boutiques into showrooms, according to the show’s director, Sylvie Pourrat. The total number of exhibitors remained stable at 530.
“It’s an economic and strategic decision I fully respect,” said Pourrat, noting that the increase in demand for smaller booths this year also freed up space for new names to squeeze in. Pourrat said that with more brands showing elsewhere due to “economic constraints” impacting the entire industry, “we can see that it’s a counterbalance to the trade shows, but it doesn’t take away from us and our state of affairs. Our trade show completely respects its positioning, and hasn’t waned in quantity or quality due to these strategic changes.”
Buyer attendance was stable at 11,304, marking a 2.3 percent increase. Still, several of the exhibitors interviewed sensed traffic was slower than expected at the four-day show.
Catherine Doumerc, a leather goods buyer for Printemps, said the increase in new brands was striking. “We’re finding things that we couldn’t find before, things that could potentially frustrate you, because of not being able to buy everything. So it’s a rather good thing,” she said, after testing the virtual reality “shopping experience” by French bag maker Le Facette. Visitors to the stand got to custom design their own bags using an app and then pop on goggle-type glasses to check out its digital imitation while strolling through a virtual, light-drenched Parisian apartment.
For Doumerc, the show was “a lot richer and more interesting than last year,” with collections that are more relevant to today. “I’m pretty confident in renewal and that [in 2018 and 2019] people will start buying again,” she said.
The buyer’s other favorites were Herbert Frère Soeur, for their modern vegetal tanned leather bags, Sans-Arcidet Paris for their “excellent” manipulation of woven raffia and color, and Italy’s Daniel & Bob whose timeless leather bags drew a steady stream of buyers.
“It’s very calm,” said one longtime jewelry exhibitor who preferred to remain anonymous. “There are a lot of exhibitors who have disappeared, who are trying other things. There’s a general problem with the trade shows. Everyone is asking what the solution is, and they try other things.…But I think it’s better to be here, because I always have new customers, and I don’t think I would have that opportunity in a showroom.”
Parisian trade shows are not alone as they navigate ongoing shifts in the industry due to competition from the Internet, an entire city teeming with new accessories and apparel collections throughout fashion week, plus concerns over terrorism slowing international traffic to the city.
The show’s director is not flinching.
“What’s more effective than a place that is dedicated to accessories, where you can come find the maximum of things in the minimum amount of time? That’s the strength that Première Classe benefits from. So I’m very confident,” said Pourrat.
Many buyers at the show agreed.
“Première Classe is great, because you have so many designers under one roof. It’s a really good opportunity,” said Pamela Brady, buyer for Paris-based online platform Monnier Frères, whose budget, she said, is “ever increasing.” Brady said she is always looking for newness, and tries to go to more showrooms, but has less time to do so, since online shopping has sped up business at every level. “Because of the pace that buying has become — to get goods online earlier, to tell a good story, have a fabulous edit — we’re just racing against the clock.”
Several buyers also expressed a sense of being “overwhelmed” by the sheer number of collections displayed at the show, making it harder to shop.
“For jewelry, there’s too much to choose from, and it starts to feel like everything looks the same,” said Florence Calvet, cofounder of Lux&Bee, a consultancy agency for large department stores, including Bloomingdale’s and a selection of Chinese retailers. “I prefer to have more of a pre-selection. Strangely, I come to Première Classe, but I don’t buy anything here. I prefer showrooms with a tighter selection,” she said. “At Première Classe you walk and walk and you can get lost in it.” Calvet was impressed with the strong showing of Asian designers, including footwear label Megumi Ochi. She particularly loved seeing the show’s live workshops where designers demonstrated their craft, as part of a greater effort by organizers to provide additional “solutions” to the digital, pop-up and trunk show era.
Le Bon Marché style director, Jennifer Cuvillier, felt the competition between venues was all part of a normal day’s work even if it requires more preparation. “It doesn’t mean doing fewer showrooms or trade shows, we do just as many, but it does require one to be professional about the research, organization and selection,” she said.
Cuvillier saw “really pretty collections” at Première Classe, where she meets with labels to discuss exclusives. “And we always find new brands, which correspond to what we want to narrate this season,” she said. Trend-wise, pastel and floral printed scarves with a vintage edge were a highlight. She also loved the oversize and asymmetric crystal earrings that can be worn alone, or as a pair.
Tonia Günther, accessories buyer for Berlin-based premium department store, KaDeWe, loved the hats by Don Paris, a new discovery that will be especially popular with Asian customers, she said. “All the visors, the berets are coming back.”
Uplifting color palettes and a patchwork of patterns at the show seemed to reflect the bright mood among visitors energized to be in Paris.
“Paris is the best. It’s one of the greatest places in the world as far as I’m concerned. It’s a magnificent city, full of life, and just to think about the effect that [terrorism] can have on a city like this is very [upsetting] to me,” said Kent Gushner, president of Boyds, an historic Philadelphia-based luxury specialty store currently undergoing renovation.
“The colors look really appealing,” Gushner said. “A lot of what we’ve been doing the last few years has been more monotone.…The vibrancy of some of the colors, the happiness; people want to be happy.”
Other strong trends at the show included playful raffia bags, baskets and woven grasses in all types of accessories. Handcrafted products with a story and heritage were given special emphasis, as well as glamorous accessories with a suggestive, erotic-edge that could be kept discreet, or not, as with the collection by new Parisian brand, Domestique.
The label’s designer, Bastien Beny, playfully reinterprets bondage themes into wearable fashion accessories. Designed in monochrome, natural tanned leather, fine craftsmanship and detailed finishings give the accessories a classic appeal that keeps sexual undertones understated. What the wearer of a Domestique accessory may not divulge is that their belt transforms into a paddle, or even a leash.
“We’ve done really well at these shows, it’s absolutely worth coming,” said Première Classe newcomer Sharon Roth, owner of the 11-store American chain, Jarbo, which she said is planning to open more shops. She lauded the show’s finely crafted, handmade products.
“We believe in slow fashion and we believe in loving your customer, and loving your staff when they walk in the door….It’s more of an experience in helping the customer look beautiful and making them feel good,” said Roth.
“It’s not just entering a store and experiencing a brand, it’s connecting with the people behind the product that you’re buying, connecting with the story,” echoed Caterina Occhio, founder of the Hearts Movement, a group of young luxury Fairtrade brands who made their world premiere at Première Classe. The offer included Occhio’s own SeeMe heart-shaped jewelry made by women victims of violence in Tunisia.
So how does a designer tell human stories to a buyer speeding through a trade show? “You touch their heart,” said Occhio. “We’re human beings, we’re hungry for love, for affection, for connection.”
Designer: Camille Herbert
Inspiration: Camille Herbert, who works with cocreator and sibling Flavien Herbert at their father’s 40-year-old French belt-making atelier, said she finds inspirations for her bag collections in dreams. “I dream of bags, and I see colors in my dreams. They are often colors I’ve seen during the day…on the street, and afterwards I associate those colors with my bags.” This season Herbert used purples, in a nod to Prince, as well as cognac, blue, mandarin and beige.
Key styles: Le Facette is known for its ultramodern “Caba” bag, which customers can customize online by choosing between swatches of colored and textured calfskin leather, which are zipped together with visible, gilded zippers, for a rocker edge. Everything from the type of strap to the width of the bag is up to the customer. Other bags come as they are, including the smaller “Minaudière” evening bag with a brass chain strap and the “Aumonière” that can be worn as a bracelet or handbag.
Retail prices: From 900 euros for smaller bags, to 1,000 to 1,200 euros for larger bags.
Designer: Bastien Beny
Inspiration: His second collection of reinterpreted, subtly erotic, luxury accessories centers around the theme of tools and traditional craftsmanship. Beny got the idea while visiting a flea market, where he found an architect’s old folding ruler.
Key styles: The foldable, zigzag leather belt in natural monochrome tones can also be used as a ruler or paddle. The belt can be folded around the waist or hips, to form different silhouettes. The leather rope “harness” also can be worn several different ways, wrapping around the body to accentuate a silhouette. Other key accessories include the choker and small bag.
Prices: Belt: 310 euros, rope harness: 260 euros, little bag: 470 euros, choker: 275 euros.
DANIEL & BOB
Designer: Andrea Bortolotti
Inspiration: After over 40 years of making fine crafted leather goods for men, Italian label Daniel & Bob began designing women’s bags just three seasons ago. Their new collection of timeless Italian, vegetal tanned Vachetta leather bags, using natural materials and sculpted forms for greater comfort, was a favorite at the show.
“We don’t follow fashion, instead we follow the needs of the woman today, who is looking for quality, comfort and style,” said Elena Meyer, an associate of the brand. The way the bags age is their “[sign of] quality,” she added.
Key styles: A revisited bucket bag is molded when the leather is wet, to fit just so against the body. Extralarge bags are doubled with high-quality suede. The smaller handbag can be worn across the body, Seventies style and has small details like the love letter hidden pocket for items that need to be kept flat.
Prices: From 328 to 676 euros.
Designer: Renée Patron
Inspiration: Flowers and color were strong themes for this growing Philippines brand known for using an ancient local technique of hand-weaving grasses intricately embroidered with palm leaves. The traditional craft was used to make sleeping mats, but has now been adapted to everything from beach bags to laptop carriers. The roughly six-year-old label, which showed in Paris for the first time, now supports no less than 50 villages. French concept shop Merci took a keen interest in the brand.
Key styles: The colorful woven beach or picnic bags and clutches. Banago also makes custom designs.
Prices: Not available
Designer: Bruna Seve Patkó
Inspiration: The Hungarian-Brazilian label made its European premiere at the trade show, attracting a lot of attention for their contemporary yet folkloric costume jewelry made locally using Fairtrade production.
A grass from the Savannah region of Brazil is braided by local artisans and then adapted into jewelry by the label which does the finishing. Similarly, reproductions of antique Hungarian lace are sewn by hand over copper frames.
Key styles: Feather-light, thermal plastic resin earrings in ivory white, delicate embroidery-like forms transform a folk design into a chic and contemporary accessory. The use of Brazilian grasses in jewelry was also a perfect match for the strong woven grass trend at the show.
Prices: From $60 to $200.
Designer: Elsa Poux
Inspiration: Mineral and vegetable were the themes of this collection by the Parisian scarf makers who just opened their first store in Paris, including a few other lifestyle brands and ceramics.
Key styles: Scarves are made of very light cotton and cotton silk, and their larger format Diamond series as well as the Serpentine model in Amazon green were particularly eye-catching.
Retail prices: Beach scarf: 45 euros, scarves are 65 to 85 euros.
SEE ME, HEARTS MOVEMENT
Designer: Caterina Occhio
Inspiration: Occhio chose the heart for her three-year-old brand, part of the newly created Hearts Movement of Fairtrade luxury brands, as a symbol of love and connectivity between people. The jewelry is handmade by female victims of violence. “Our hearts are in the most beautiful shops in the world. We made a big effort to position Fairtrade at a premium level.”
The minimalist, delicate chain link jewelry is made using an ancient Tunisian hammering technique traditionally done by men, “but we’re teaching women to do it,” said Occhio. The idea for the chain came from the ancient chains used to attach swords to a fighter’s body.
Key styles: The large heart-shaped necklaces and bracelets made of recycled silver as well as yellow and rose gold plating. The hand-welded pieces can take about 20 hours to make.
Prices: Necklaces range from 80 to 575 euros; bracelets from 40 to 150 euros.
Designer: Olivier Leon
Inspiration: The contemporary hat label established in Paris in 2014 drew inspiration from city of Paris and the Left Bank for its latest collection.
Key styles: The beret and the sailor’s cap.
Prices: Around 95 euros for a beret and around 65 euros for a cap.