PARIS — While demonstrations by “yellow vest” protesters caused periodic dips in attendance at the recent round of Paris trade shows, visiting buyers remained optimistic in their outlook despite an increasingly complex market.
As shifts in distribution channels continue to impact the traditional trade show model, brands are increasingly opting for cheaper and smaller formats such as showrooms. In turn, trade show organizers are exploring new formats and horizons.
Take Tranoï, which installed a pop-up corner at Galeries Lafayette’s Boulevard Haussmann flagship carrying limited-edition items by 28 designers: It saw a 5 percent uptick in visitors, year-on-year.
Tranoï director David Hadida also sees opportunity in China, with a showroom/trade show hybrid set to launch in Shanghai in late March.
The project, organized with local salon Ontimeshow and DFO International Market Development Group, is “a proposal we offered [our brands] to survive, to live and prosper. And it’s a market that we need to go toward if we want to advance and continue,” he said. “We tried New York, which is like the European market: saturated,” Hadida added.
Patricia Lerat, a consultant for young designers, and former director of accessories trade show Première Classe, commented on the notable downsizing of a number of the trade shows. Tranoï, for instance, had a single main venue in January, down from two in previous years.
“Paris is experiencing difficulties,” Lerat said, flagging the Man/Woman trade show, which added a new venue this season near Place Vendôme, among the exceptions. “[It] reflects their positioning. It’s the most attractive, the clearest,” she said.
Despite the challenges, others felt growth opportunities were still to be found in Western markets.
“It’s been a great year. We’re really lucky,” said Camille Riboud, founder of French clothing chain Victoire. “I think it’s because we’re very different from everything else out there, so our customers are very loyal,” she added, echoing sentiments by other buyers who said growth amid extreme competition was contingent on unique, and highly researched selections.
“There’s still a market for what we do. These are things you can’t find on the Internet. It’s all about service, and finding brands that are not on every corner,” said Lisa Deridder, founder of new Belgian multibrand store, Lost in Pablos.
“The market is saturated, yes. But it’s always been that way, that’s not new,” added Antoine Floch, cofounder of Man/Woman, which does not release attendance figures. Asked about the show’s success, he credited a careful selection process to determine the viability of young brands.
Man/Woman also partnered with luxury streetwear specialist The Next Door, which in January opened a second branch located in the former American Apparel flagship in Paris’ 10th arrondissement.
“Paris had room for a project that is not only retail, but also a place where people can be inspired by design, magazines, art on the walls, events and pop-ups — a little of what we do here [at Man/Woman] in terms of community,” Floch said. A café, garden, interactive digital walls, fridges and USB cords are some items available to visitors. Brands will regularly collaborate with the shop, starting with Stüssy.
Men’s wear trends at Tranoï and Man included comfortable, cozy looks with drop shoulders and wider fits as well as more color than recent seasons, including yellow, other primaries, purples and pinks, and even tie-dye. Corduroy, shearling and large, down outerwear remained prevalent, while streetwear logos were on the wane. Military surplus themes — including raw, uniform-style workwear — were strong.
In women’s pre-collections, soft cocooning knits were spotted, plus more structured cuts with shoulder interest.
Kevin Carney, cofounder of California’s Mohawk General Store, reiterated comments by others perplexed by global politics. “It a was a good year, a strange year — I think mostly because of Trump. They say the economy is in such great condition, but we’re not seeing a difference at all. If anything, it’s confusing people. They don’t know if they should shop, watch the news, throw in the towel, or put their money into good causes,” Carney said. At Man, he liked the color in the Albam collection, and recently added the Japanese brand, Still by Hand.
Riboud loved the Pierre-Louis Mascia collection at Tranoï. “The prints and the quality of the silks are magnificent. The research in the models, it’s super creative,” she said, adding business was positive.
HIGHLIGHTS FROM THE SHOWS
Designer: Saadia Elfatimi
This new, Italian unisex label turns bed covers into draped, modular outerwear.
Prices: 495 euros to 1,157 euros
Designer: Pierre-Louis Mascia
Luscious print and fabric mixes drive this collection. A silk scarf printed with tapestry or tartan motifs, padded with down feathers, is a highlight.
Prices: 28 euros to 950 euros
Creepy Outfit Lab
Chinese designer Dino’s first collection explores playfulness, function and a technical aesthetic. “I think of the play-ability of a garment. So all accessories are interactive with the garment,” including a sketch book, pen case and bag, Dino said.
Prices: 50 pounds to 2,000 pounds
Designer: Stéphanie Cristofaro
Cristofaro’s first collection uses end-of-stock fabrics from major fashion houses, and inserts historical references into contemporary streetwear styles. Original jacquard prints depict scenes based on myths and science.
Prices: 50 euros to 1,900 euros
Designers: Jo Gordon and Katy Hackney
Blanket-like scarves with large, bold color patterns reminiscent of contemporary art, are made using Scottish wool. “We love composition and color,” Gordon said of the unisex collection.
Retail prices: 73 pounds to 440 pounds
Designer: Giuliana Leila Raggiani
A shrunken, ribbed Nonna Turtleneck, based on Raggiani’s Italian grandmother’s original design, is this unisex brand’s signature. Raggiani used softer cotton blends to remake the original, expanding to include trousers, tube tops, etc., inspired by dance culture. A men’s line called Abbondanza focuses on cozy fabrics and textures.
Retail prices: $200 to $700