PARIS — Buyers at the largest Paris accessories and jewelry trade shows in January were on the hunt for new, creative brands to complement mostly safer purchases. But in what organizers characterized as a shrinking market, fewer emerging designers exhibited at Premiere Classe and Bijorhca, both held at the Porte de Versailles.
“The trade show is a reflection of the market. And today the market in the designer category is suffering enormously,” said Aude Leperre, director of the Bijorhca jewelry show, which counted 35 to 40 fewer exhibitors than usual.
“We had notably fewer small designers present,” she said. “A lot [of designers] can no longer afford to participate in a trade show, even if Bijorhca remains one of the cheapest French trade shows, and we provide attractive deals for these young designers.”
In addition to the commercial struggles of small designers, some shows are losing exhibitors because of competition from cheaper and faster forms of distribution.
“Today, we feel that the market is becoming reduced at the trade shows. I don’t know if it’s shrinking in the real market. What we’ve felt is that there is a multiplicity of circuits of distribution,” said Sylvie Pourrat, director of Premiere Classe.
“When we hear about buyers searching for a young, emerging sneaker brand on Instagram, it’s interesting, because those people didn’t prioritize the trade show as a seasonal selling location,” she said.
Instead, pop-up stores or small showrooms have become attractive alternatives, when done in tandem with online stores and marketing campaigns. “There is a popularization of the methods of distribution,” explained Pourrat.
Nevertheless, trade shows remain a key link in the fashion industry chain. “The trade show is changing its positioning. Business is still being done here in very real terms,” said Pourrat. “And of course the buyers are here, and they place orders. This is a business rendezvous. That hasn’t been replaced by anything else.”
Attendance was stable at Bijorhca, and up 3 percent at Premiere Classe and its sister apparel show, Who’s Next, which also saw a 12 percent rise in buyer attendance, plus reports of strong sales, according to organizers.
Organizers chose not to replace about 12 departing leather goods and jewelry designers from Premiere Classe, along with about 70 Indian suppliers who did not return to the show due to a lack of funding, bringing the exhibitor total at Premiere Classe to about 750, down from 900.
“We concentrated on beautiful collections. We went looking for good products,” said Pourrat.
Leperre also preferred to keep Bijorhca smaller. The amount of departures from the show was “a lot, and honestly, it was visible, but we preferred to keep that strategy, rather than open it up to other designers [of lower quality,]” she said. “It’s the price to pay, but it’s not a problem, and we’re proud of it.”
While the offer may have been more limited than usual, demand from buyers was reportedly robust at Bijorhca. “The profession is becoming more concentrated, because there’s a lot of buying out, and fewer players,” said Leperre. “But for those who are present, they have a stronger buying power.”
Visitors to Bijorhca echoed that sentiment.
“I’ve found a lot of beautiful things,” said Debra Opyd, owner of Relics, a boutique in Peoria, Illinois, while visiting Bijorhca. “I love bringing things back, basically to the middle of nowhere, that no one has ever seen before. That’s what I’m all about.”
This was Opyd’s first time at the Paris trade shows, and — along with several other buyers — she particularly liked the hand-embroidered jewelry in the form of iridescent insects by designer Elise Letulle and her brand, En Avril. “In a world full of all this mass-produced, these are hand-made little pieces of candy,” said Opyd. “They’re so beautiful!”
In fact, the strong value of the trade shows remains widely unquestioned by participants, particularly when combined with an effective online campaign. That is one reason many return to the shows after trying alternatives.
“Instagram will give you an international reach, it will create and nourish your community. And the trade show will also nourish your community, and put you in touch with a public that doesn’t know you, and that doesn’t have time to search for you on Instagram,” said Pourrat. “Both are necessary.”
Leperre agrees. “We’ve realized that today it doesn’t work to use just one single channel of diffusion and distribution. When we’re multichannel, and all that intersects, that is how you create a snowball effect, and get more visibility,” she said. “Despite everything — and especially for jewelry, which remains a product that we need to touch, to wear, to look at — it’s true that the Internet has its limits.”
Leperre said the show was working on ways to evolve. “It’s true that for years we’ve stayed pretty static…and today the reality is that we have to be multichannel, to maybe have other types of buyers come, other locations. We have to open ourselves up a little, while maintaining the DNA of our salon,” she said.
Buyers at Premiere Classe said their shopping strategies focused more on reinforcing what has been selling well. However, retailers also repeatedly said they came to the shows to find something new, a goal that many felt noticeably harder to meet this season.
“We always hope to be surprised, we look for new collections, new designers. Even more this year than last, we’re especially looking for creativity and surprise,” said Marie Lassagne, accessories director for Le Bon Marché.
Aurélie Villa, jewelry and accessory buyer for the Printemps department store in Paris, was prospecting for new designers, but “honestly, I haven’t seen any unknown brands at this point,” she said.
“I’ve felt less of the fresh talent, new brand aspect at the show this year. The brands I liked were brands I already knew…They’re small, very fashionable, emerging brands, but they unite quality and beauty,” Villa said.
Some examples? The Mexican-inspired jewelry collection by Camille Enrico, the original silk prints woven through metallic bracelet cuffs and other accessories by An-née, and the chic hat and leather bag collection by D’Estrëe.
“They have a real story, a real soul,” said Villa of the three brands. “They are French brands who want to make a product of quality, to pass something on, a real message with a soul. And their collection reflects that.”
The Printemps buyer said she was confident but vigilant about the coming year. “We’re hoping for a positive year, but you never know. All it takes is one incident, and it could change everything. But we’re moving forward no matter what,” she said.
In general, she spotted more “multifunctional” accessories this season, such as the An-née silk prints that work as headbands, necklaces and bracelets. “We saw the same thing for jewelry that can be worn in different ways,” she said.
Other trends included more playful attention to faux fur and embroidery. Tartan hats covered with transparent nylon, as well as fur adorned, mixed-material baseball caps at Lane d’Olimpia hit a few trendy notes.
The brand’s knit scarf with a fur-lined hood attached was in particularly high demand, underlining a trend for more elaborate types of hoods which don’t simply connect to a coat, but are part of a scarf, or a bib-type covering of the torso.
Additional jewelry trends at Bijorhca included more natural tones and materials being used.
Davinia Muñoz, owner of the Madrid-based boutique Boltey, said she only goes to Premiere Classe and Pitti Uomo because she’s looking for emerging brands.
“I’m looking for something different that they don’t have in Spain,” she said, adding that among her finds were some original shoe labels. She also liked the small, adaptable vegan leather bags by Find Kapoor for their originality, lightness and how items can be personalized.
Guy Pelegrin and Trudi Kleefeld, owners of the Gantoinette boutique in Ghent, Belgium, said they’d placed more orders at Bijorhca than usual. “I enjoy all the small designers, but in general they are a bit too expensive,” said Pelegrin, adding the extra cost was understandable.
“We make most of our money from what the bigger companies are selling, from mainstream items,” he added. “In many cases the small designers are suffering, and I do feel sorry for that, but we don’t always have a choice, and we have to look for how we’re going to make a profit.”
Nevertheless, Pelegrin said the special, designer items were consistently what lured shoppers into the store in the first place, where they went on to make other purchases. “It’s always about finding a balance,” he said.
HIGHLIGHTS FROM THE SHOWS
Brand: En Avril
Designer: Elise Letulle
Inspiration: Handcrafting techniques from all over the world inspire the designer, who integrates French haute couture embroidering techniques to pieces she crafts herself in Normandy. Some motifs have a vintage or retro feel, and the latest collection focuses on insects. Pieces are made of cotton thread, leather and other natural materials. The brand started three years ago.
Key styles: The intricate, embroidered and beaded insects, most of which are iridescent beetles, stopped buyers in their tracks.
Prices: 35 euros to 150 euros
Brand: Joana Mota Capitao Jewelry
Designer: Joana Mota Capitao
Inspiration: An obsession with paper forms inspired a sculptural collection made of thin, paper-like strips of sterling silver. The designer also showed a line of jewelry inspired by Portuguese filigree.
Key styles: A pendant to be worn on a necklace has the appearance of a crumpled ball of folded strips of paper, but upon closer observation it is clearly made of ultra thin strips of metal (sterling silver, sand blasted for a matt finishing). The pendants come in solid, primary colors and hang on a simple silk thread around the neck.
Prices: About 540 euros for the paperlike silver necklaces.
Designer: Alexia Nokovitch
Inspiration: Dreams and contemplation were themes for this collection. The Parisian designer, who draws all her prints herself, was also inspired by the landscapes on a trip to Japan. The burnt wood in Japanese architecture, dream catchers and sand, to name a few, are printed on silk, wool and silk or cotton. The winter collection includes burgundy, dark navy, white, forest green and primary colors.
Key styles: Scarves come in varied sizes. The narrow silk printed strips can be woven through a metal cuff-bracelet, or worn alone as a tie-on bracelet. The wearer can choose how to weave the scarf through the metal bracelet, and different silk strips can be used on the same metal cuff bracelet. The brand also shows how scarves can be worn easily as headbands, ties and belts.
Prices: Scarves 95 euros to 150 euros. Small bracelet 25 euros, metal bracelet with silk strip 135 euros.
Brand: Shagreen & Tortoise
Designer: Marie Hélène Loubrielle
Inspiration: The way natural materials and stones were mixed during the Art Deco period in the early 20th century. The designer started by mixing shells and multicolor, semiprecious stones from Jaipur. She has expanded to feathers, ebony, bone, and horn, and works with rubies and 18K gold on silver. Made in Paris.
Key styles: Each piece is unique, due to the raw, natural materials used. Delicate feather earrings in a shock of natural color stand out, as well as the sea urchin and other shell rings inlaid with stones.
Prices: Sea urchin shell ring 775 euros. Other shell rings with inlaid green garnet 895 euros.
Designer: Victor Gimeno Traver
Inspiration: For its debut collection, the brand’s designer was inspired by art, architecture, and the concept of losing value through imitation, as described by philosopher Walter Benjamin.
Key styles: The collection of handbags, backpacks and flat clutches includes three models and five colors in minimalist, elegant geometric shapes. Products are made of cow and goat leather from Italy and Spain, and pieces are all manufactured in Valencia.
Prices: Handbag 240 euros. Flat clutch 240 euros.
Brand: In Gold We Trust
Designer: Héloise Chiron and Louis-Marie de Bridiers
Inspiration: The collection is a commentary on mass consumption and production, with the supermarket as a central theme. “We are artists first and foremost, and had a crazy amount of fun doing this,” said de Bridiers, who wanted to make something simple to wear, but which also has a strong message. “We’re asking: what do we all believe in today?” The line is made in Paris.
Key pieces: Pieces of metallic jewelry (solid brass plated in 24K gold, palladium, sterling silver) are all packaged in easily identifiable, clear plastic food containers typically used for prepared food. Some items are also vacuum-sealed in plastic. A “MasterCash” pin, with a serial number, spells out “In Gold We Trust” when decoded.
Prices: 140 euros average.