PARIS — Exhibitors sought to woo retailers with romanticism at the Prêt à Porter Paris and Who’s Next trade shows here, where buyers delighted in the freshness of collections.
After seasons of playing it safe, feminine but not overtly glamorous styles for spring ran the gamut from romantic lacy looks and Fifties-inspired tailoring with a modern twist to colorful prints and floral motifs, retailers said. An ethnic theme also emerged as a strong direction.
“Collections sparked a desire to buy,” said Pascale Camart, Galeries Lafayette’s head of buying for women’s wear, noting a “very strong increase” in the store’s spring budget. “There’s a new type of casual dress for women emerging, but one that is extremely feminine.”
Among the standouts were Mes Demoiselles, Virginie Castaway and Joe Black, Camart said.
“Our clients are asking for exciting collections which pop,” said Mindy Prugnaud, commercial director for Mint Group, the European buying office for Saks Fifth Avenue, Saks Mexico and David Jones, among others. “They are spending more on exciting things rather than the basics.”
Prugnaud lauded Paris-based label Hotel Particulier for its feminine lineup and affordable price points.
“Brands are doing better. There is a real positive energy, which we haven’t seen in the past few seasons,” said Sophie Allisy-Bischoff, marketing director for the Prêt.
Most retailers attending the four-day fairs, which were held at the exhibition halls at Porte de Versailles and ended Sept. 7, said they maintained their belief that postrecession shoppers are looking to put excitement back into their wardrobes. Buyers said while budgets were on par with last season, they would splurge on must-have items. Others said their budgets were up by as much as 20 percent.
Exhibitors at both shows reported order writing on signs of improved consumer spending in Europe and robust demand from Japan. American buyers were sparse, with many opting to attend French trade fairs that run concurrently with Paris Fashion Week later this month.
Showing at Who’s Next, brands were pleased with the turnout overall.
“It was very difficult for small brands, especially since we source the majority of our fabrics in France and are made locally, but it seems to be picking up a bit,” said Parisian-based Norwegian designer Gunhild Nygaard, who spun a modern twist into classic tailoring.
“We have gone more upscale, but we have kept the focus on the price-quality ratio and customers have responded well,” said Emma François, designer of Marseille-based brand Sessùn.
At the Mes Demoiselles stand, designer Anita Radovanovic showed a collection inspired by antique clothing, which she recovered by “raiding” her grandmother’s attic.
“A bit of romance, a bit antique and Charleston elegance, but for today’s girl,” she said, adding orders were up by as much as 40 percent over last year.
“The temptation to buy nice things has definitely come back, but you have to create the desire with your offering,” said Yaya Blanchard, owner of hip Parisian boutique Yaya.
Blanchard, who said she had increased her budget by 20 percent, picked up lacy tops and full skirts at Mes Demoiselles.
French label Roseanne also had plenty of enticing choices, retailers said.
“It’s feminine and chic,” said Frédérique Rey, assistant buyer for Merci, who said feminine motifs and lace echoed throughout the fair.
At the Prêt, upstart designers who have managed to ride out the economic crisis said their hard work is beginning to pay off.
Riccacouture, designed by Lyon, France-based Japanese designer Rika Ohwada, applies sumptuous landscape motifs to premium silks from Lyon and Como, Italy. Ohwada said materials and craftsmanship helped drive sales at the fair.
Retailers lauded younger brands that focus on single concepts rather than spreading themselves too thin.
Reykjavík, Iceland-based Emami unveiled its “multifunctional clothes,” where one piece can morph into at least six different looks. Meanwhile, Paris’ (No) Smoking Collection, designed by Anne-Cécile Meignan and Maud Pannequin, showed off fetching tuxedo variations for women.