Despite strikes hampering overall traffic at Who’s Next and Bijorhca in Paris this month, buyer attendance rose slightly at Who’s Next, where the focus was on sustainability and more curated, longer lasting clothing.

“Within the current complicated context, we opened the show with a little bit of apprehension, but in the end we had a very beautiful turnout,” said Frédéric Maus, general director of WSN Developpement, which oversees both the Who’s Next fashion show and the Bijorhca jewelry event held at the Porte de Versailles from Jan. 17 to 20.

A strike since December severely reduced access to public transportation in the French capital, increasing gridlock on Parisian roads, while additional weekend protests often forced road closures in the city center. “Frankly, I didn’t think it was going to go as well as it did,” Maus said.

Global visitors to Who’s Next dropped by 4.6 percent, while Bijorhca fared less well with a 9 percent fall. But buyer attendance at Who’s Next rose nearly 1 percent.

Maus said an expanded shuttle system departing every 15 minutes from Paris’ main train stations and airports was essential to achieving those relatively positive results, as well as an intensified program by Who’s Next organizers to strengthen relationships with boutiques across France and Europe.

“Those retail tours really helped us progress,” he said. “What happens in a trade show is this human, physical contact and relationship that we prioritize. And that is why trade shows are coming back strong, because we’re realizing that we need it. If you stay at home in front of your screen, it doesn’t work.”

For this edition, WSN’s new sustainable fashion show, Impact, was reduced in size and integrated within Who’s Next, but in future it will function as a separate salon, adjacent to Who’s Next, and as part of other shows, starting with the Foire de Paris trade show, from April 30 to May 11.

WSN also just acquired the consulting-geared trade show Traffic, which will be launched within Who’s Next in September, to help participants navigate market changes. “We’re in the process of creating the only place where you can get all the answers you need in terms of questions around fashion,” Maus said.

Who’s Next continued with its transition toward a more concept store-inspired offering, with recently added and growing beauty and lifestyle sections, in the same hall as accessories. Organizers also pushed the focus on emerging designers, with the Lab Scene contest for young, international talent and a large section called Fashion Scene.

New brands were abundant throughout the show, adding to a general sense of renewal in the industry, noted observers, who agreed that while sustainable fashion remains the hot topic, doing it right was another issue.

“You put all this effort into making a sustainable product, and then you hear about the number of average returns for online sales, and that explodes your carbon footprint,” said Phil Wildbore of Monkee Genes, who launched a new sustainable jeans brand, United Change Makers, at the show.

Buyers were also eager to find collections with a clear message and intention, coherent with an environmentally responsible philosophy that less is more.

“Buyers are sick of seeing too much, and they want to simplify now,” said Laure Merat Calderon, former buyer for the Mexican department store El Palacio de Hierro, now representing Mexican brands in France. She loved the sustainable sneaker brand AQTE, made from recycled bottles, at Impact.

“They don’t have a lot of models. It’s simple, but really struck me,” she said.

On the hunt for accessories, she noticed jewelry was split between the extremes of tiny and delicate, versus oversize, as well as a return to Eighties looks with a lot of big, colorful plastic jewelry, including fluorescents.

“We’re looking for special brands that we can bring back to the U.S., that are not just about more stuff on the rack,” said Peter Jacobson, who co-runs the Los Angeles-based luxury fashion importer and distributor Fashion Link with wife Birgit Jacobson. “We’re at the beginning of a new cycle in that regard, where you have the older generation retiring and the newer generation coming in.”

He noted that “25 percent of a woman’s wardrobe is used less than twice, and that’s what’s filling the landfill. So we look for things that are well-made, put together specially, and not just more of the same. That’s why we’re more drawn to people who really focus on a certain style and product and have a clear message.”

The couple liked the brand Hana San. They also pointed to the collection of modern, hand-painted and embroidered leather jackets at History Repeats, by Italian designer Michele Rossi, which attracted an enthusiastic response at the show.

A voice for younger generations of designers and shoppers, Zeineb Chaouch, 24, and Adham Murray, 29, just opened a new concept store off the Avenue des Champs-Élysées on Rue de Marignan, called Le Dix, with the goal of promoting emerging designers from around the world.

“The problem is we find special clothing in Paris, but it’s super expensive, so we’re trying to be that in-between where you can find outstanding pieces but at limited price and quantity, so that nobody else has the same thing,” said Chaouch, who studied fashion and worked in wholesale for Alexander Wang.

“We’re seeing recent graduates bringing new energy into the industry: something different and more daring and environmentally conscious,” Chaouch said. “But we’ve also been disappointed in terms of trends from established brands, who aren’t daring enough. It’s very commercial and that’s a shame.”

The duo were impressed by Korean brands at the show, like new label Jorenz Cartiess. “They’re so far ahead now in the vision of what they have to offer. It’s unique and cool. A lot of Korean artists are willing to try and test limits,” Murray said.

In other trends, streetwear continued to evolve toward a more tailored, grown-up look. “We’re seeing more young people dressing up here in Europe. Hopefully it will catch on in the U.S.,” said Birgit Jacobson. “I’m personally bored with streetwear. It’s time to move on, and find pleasure again in wearing something that is nice, but not fake.”

In addition, soft, very feminine looks were strong, including cuddly knits. “When the economy is tough, clothing tends to go softer and more feminine,” noted Peter Jacobson.

In contrast, gender neutral and unisex styles were on the rise, and expected to grow further.

Emblazoned logos were another common thread, while buyer Patrick Aboukrat for Abou d’Abi Bazar complained the show lacked denim.

Maya Krauss and Richard Gordoa, owners of three concept stores in Austin, Tex., (Maya Star, Co-Star and newly opened Odessa), liked the more “smart but feminine, a little more romantic silhouettes,” trending, and said coming to Paris was essential to maintaining their competitive edge.

“There are different styles here, so it’s exciting for us,” Krauss said. “We really like the florals right now. Not for everything, but that’s my muse.”

With online retailers setting up new shops in their district, “our strategy has been to stay on our toes, because people can’t copy us, since we’re constantly keeping it fresh and interesting. So customers keep coming back, because they don’t know what they’ll find,” she added.

Some finds at the show included Bon Parfumeur, and the jewelry brand All the Luck in the World. The duo said they lost time due to the strikes, but were managing with taxis. “We were nervous because we didn’t want to get stuck anywhere,” Gordoa said. “But we just came anyway,” Krauss said.

While she struggled to find new brands at Bijorhca, this was compensated by the jewelry offering at Who’s Next and nearby Maison & Objet. At Bijorhca, she did pick up the Muja Jumo line, from Holland, which she liked for its Egyptian, bright, silver plated gold aesthetic, and small, delicate pieces.

For her third edition directing Bijorhca, Marine Devos hoped to boost exposure to innovation via a 10 percent increase in overseas brands — who made up 60 percent of exhibitors — and conferences on the use of new materials, such as lab-grown diamonds, recycled gold, and other ethical jewelry options.

Devos said more open discussion around new material trends was needed “because in France, we have very traditional ways of working within the jewelry sector. Sometimes it’s difficult to change people’s minds.”

The show also featured talks on “phy-gital” distribution models. “The trends are changing, the customer’s experience is changing, the purchasing habits are not the same at all, and I think those brands who do adapt, and who do react, deserve to be highlighted, because they can be an example for a lot of brands,” Devos said.

Some trends spotted at Bijorhca, which was set up on a single floor, rather than the usual two, included the use of a lot of bright gold, pearls, strong animal themes, feathers and flashy blues. Several French buyers said protests had hurt their sales, but that social networking was helping to bring in more customers.

Benjamin Godard, owner of Shop 12 in Paris and Syracuse Store in Italy, said business was particularly slow in Paris, with fewer tourists than usual, due in part to the protests. He loved the geometric, square quality of new brand Thomas Aurifex. “It’s very aesthetic, beautiful work,” he said.


Ma Poésie

Brand: Ma Poésie

Designer: Elsa Poux

This Parisian scarf brand known for its masterful balance of color and design in contemporary, artistic weaves launched its first winter ready-to-wear collection drawn from its scarf designs, as well as Japanese, single-sized, flowing silhouettes. Tracksuits and tops in motifs of bright yellows, indigos, forest greens and oranges, accented with brown and rust-colored corduroy outerwear, helped make the small, wearable collection one of the highlights of the show.

Retail prices: 150 euros to 200 euros


SKFK  Courtesy/Penelope Cerezo

Brand: SKFK

Designer: Maia Eder Curutchet

For its 20th anniversary, the original Skunk Funk brand from Bilbao renamed itself SKFK to celebrate its evolving identity, a decade in the making, from a sportswear focus to an ecologically sustainable, more feminine label with strong references to contemporary art. The latest collection, shown at Impact, was inspired by a 1958 topographical map of the Basque countryside. The colorful geographic layers of the bisected landscape set the tone for the designs and could be seen on several prints. Earthy, yet bright colors and sky blues worked bring together the large collection, which still included some sports-influenced pieces.

Dresses suited a range of body types, and tended to stay modern and minimalist. Technical fabrics were part of the mix, while a pair of slacks came equipped with back pockets that become light reflectors for bike riding.

Prices are kept relatively low thanks to tight control over the whole production process, including fabric development, which is also how the brand maintains its eco-friendly status.

A wide range of sustainable fabrics are used, from organic hemp to recycled plastic bottle polyester.

Retail Prices: 90 euros to 200 euros


United Change Makers  Courtesy/Penelope Cerezo

Brand: United Change Makers

Designer: Phil Wildbore

Phil Wildbore, of Monkee Genes, debuted his new, sustainable jean brand at Impact. He aims to keep the collection limited to a handful of “perfect fits,” including staples like the high waist, skinny and the wide leg. He works with organic hemp, to create denim which he says is highly sustainable, because hemp uses a third less water than cotton, and replenishes the soil. He is also developing close relationships with retailers to help reduce the high clothing return rate, and the resulting carbon footprint.

Retail Prices: All pieces cost 80 euros.

Jorenz Cartiez

Jorenz & Cartiess  Courtesy Photo

Brand: Jorenz & Cartiess

Designer: Kang Tae Seung

The two-year-old unisex brand from South Korea draws from avant-garde artists and the subject of gender. The latest collection around South Korean poet Lee Sang played on reversible clothing with contrasting fabrics and colors on fronts versus backs. Throughout his four collections on display, paintings of different characters, portraits, animals on various parts of clothing, as well as digital prints, further blurred the lines between visual art and fashion. Unusual, witty innovations like an upside down, oversize pocket that reached around the body, also served as a practical element — thanks to a flap that kept it closed.

Prices: 150 euros average for tops. Jackets start at 250 euros.

Oya Mia

Oya Mia  Courtesy Photo

Brand: Oya Mia

Founder: Marianne Richner

Richner debuted her label inspired by shamanism, featuring a limited selection of roomy and flowy dresses made of recycled plastic bottles, produced in Italy, and assembled using ecological techniques and materials in Paris, with a small design and art team. Original prints on the dresses were narrative or more abstract, including symbols connected to shamanism, like the hummingbird, to help the wearer “feel more connected to nature.” A reversible, longer dress with an image of an eagle, hummingbird, jaguar and snake appeared to tell a story, and was a “protective dress,” according to Richner. But these wearable dresses were not only for the spiritually inclined.

Retail prices: Start at 350 euros.

Martín Lüttecke

Martín Lüttecke  Courtesy Photo

Brand: Martín Luttecke

Designer: Martín Luttecke

One of three winners of the Lab Scene contest, the 25-year-old Chilean designer showcased his second collection, which aimed to “bring a fresh perspective of South American youth,” one that is modern, and goes beyond typical clichés he experienced in Europe. Prints, color and sexy silhouettes were mixed and matched, combining tailored and oversize items. A deconstructed safari jacket inspired by a vintage design, gave a fun spin. “I like to mix a feminine piece with a more industrial or hardcore edge,” said the designer, who creates his own prints, such as a pixelized animal motif. All products are made in Chile.

Retail prices: 175 euros to 450 euros



Thomas Aurifex

Thomas Aurifex  Courtesy Photo

Brand: Thomas Aurifex

Designer: Thomas Choinkowski

Choinkowski began as an artisan specialized in historic reproductions of jewelry for museums. He launched his own label in 2017, inspired by ancient and megalithic civilizations, notably in Peru and Egypt. With his bold, geometric aesthetic, he hopes to “resuscitate a type of jewelry that was in style 2,000 years ago during the Roman Empire,” when phallic rings and talismans were used as protection from curses. Though subtle, male and female genitalia were represented in minimalist forms on his pieces, which referenced ancient fertility legends.

“It’s not about representing men and women or opposing them, but the principles of each gender, because we all carry a bit of both gender principles within us,” Choinkowski said. “It balances life.”

Another favorite item included a wedding ring whose geometric facets were derived via a formula based on a given date. Materials used included precious metals and stones like turquoise, tourmaline, topaz and diamonds.

Prices: Rings 1,300 euros to 2,000 euros. Largest rings 10,000 euros to 25,000 euros.

Nina Nanas

Nina Nanas  Courtesy Photo

Brand: Nina Nanas

Designer: Nina Janvier

For her second collection, Janvier was inspired by Dadaism and Calder-like mobiles. Unconventional, mismatched earrings were accented with fresh water pearls for color on sterling silver, brass and gold sculptural, yet delicate forms. Janvier makes everything by hand, with traditional techniques.

Prices: 125 euros to 345 euros

ŌKAN Studio

Okan Studio  Courtesy Photo

Brand: Okan Studio

Designer: Margaux Gripon

Gripon launched her label in September after seeing a ring in Japan which she couldn’t forget. Representative of a Japanese sword that crossed over several fingers, the ring was delicate, bold, slick and feminine all at once. Though she didn’t replicate that ring for her first collection, she worked with the principles behind it in mind.

“I love the idea of a contrast between opposites, and that when you wear something, you feel stronger,” she said. For her collection, called Nami, meaning “wave” in Japanese, she showcased metallic earrings made of stacked, flat slices of organic, irregular shaped rings that come together in layers, and can be removed, and also move with the wearer. Similar designs were available in cuffs and studs, though not all the ring slices are moveable. The range was produced in Portugal using materials including rhodium-plated silver, pink and yellow gold.

Prices: 90 euros to 490 euros

Laurence Oppermann

Laurence Oppermann  Courtesy Photo

Brand: Laurence Oppermann

Designer: Laurence Oppermann

Oppermann’s sculptural, organic and unique jewelry experiments with volume, material and movement through her signature hammering and forging techniques. Details are often only visible to the wearer, like hidden gold nuggets, or seed-like diamonds, which can refer to nature in subtle or overt forms. Nest and vine rings were some examples. “Often there is a relationship with the person who wears the piece, which is not necessarily visible from the exterior,” Oppermann said.

Oppermann works with precious metals, gold and silver, and some black and white diamonds, and does all her own work in Lyon, France. She collaborated with artist and craftsman Tzuri Gueta on a ring exhibited at the show, made with a silicone-infused silk in a coral-like, intricate form that has a soft, textile feel.

Prices: average 400 euros to 2,500 euros for non-gold pieces. 600 euros to 8,000 euros for gold pieces.

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