PARIS — The show must — and did — go on.
With Schengen-area borders still closed, governments imposing strict quarantine measures on travelers within Europe and restrictions on public gatherings changing almost daily, the odds were pitted against the October session of fashion and accessories trade shows in Paris.
Right until the day before sister events Première Classe (accessories), Who’s Next (fashion) and Impact (sustainable brands) opened in the Tuileries gardens on Oct. 2 for a three-day run, organizer WSN was anticipating an imposed cancellation. On Monday, the day after the fairs closed, Paris authorities imposed stricter measures faced with the rise of coronavirus cases that would have prevented them taking place.
In this unprecedented context, WSN teamed with Silmo, the massive optical fair usually held north of the city at Villepinte, and competing fashion event Man/Woman, to stage scaled-back editions of their shows targeting almost exclusively French visitors.
At Première Classe, Who’s Next and Man/Woman, which shared a single tent, there were around 250 exhibitors — compared with around 550 at previous WSN shows and 85 at Man/Woman normally.
Visitor numbers for the events were not disclosed, but according to both organizers and exhibitors, they were better than feared.
Domestic visitors accounted for 87 percent of traffic at Première Classe, Who’s Next and Man/Woman, although the major international department stores were also present through their Paris-based buying agencies, organizers said.
“Our aim was to help support our ecosystem, the market is in a period of reassessing and reinventing its models,” said Frédéric Maus, general director of WSN Developpement. “People are happy to be together again, and they are also signing orders. For Who’s Next in particular, we needed to find a solution to allow brands to show their spring collections.…The emotion of a physical meeting is difficult to reproduce online.”
Maus is determined that WSN events next year will be maintained, with Who’s Next scheduled for Jan. 22 to 25 and Première Classe for March 5 to 8. A new event, set for June, will be centered on younger consumers, Maus said, without revealing further details.
Of the October edition of the combined shows, “the brands wanted to be here,” said Man/Woman cofounder and director Antoine Floch. “They have created their collections in difficult circumstances, and they need to show them.”
The two show organizers had been talking about a collaboration before lockdowns began in March. “We could be considered as competitors but we do the same job,” Floch said. “We have exchanged a lot on the issues facing the industry, we share information and support each other. We get on really well.”
Both are also developing digital solutions in tandem. WSN has partnered with virtual platform Vimeet. Since the tool launched in July, 700 brand and buyer profiles have been created, and more than 1,700 meeting requests were received for the shows. The trade-show organizer was also testing new formats including a virtual visit of Première Classe during the event.
Man/Woman has launched its own digital platform, a kind of social network for brands and buyers with integrated chat and Zoom functions that has registered 80 brands and more than 300 buyers since it launched in July. A marketplace functionality is set to be added over the next couple of months, Floch said.
“I think this physical edition was essential,” said Rebecca Soria Markowicz, women’s fashion buyer at Galeries Lafayette. “After the difficult period we have been through, which is ongoing, it is all the more indispensable to continue discovering creativity and get out and about. Even if a lot of brands have developed very effective digital models, in order to discover a brand we need to exchange with its designers and touch the products. Combining the shows allowed us to have an overview of the different product categories, which enriches our viewpoint on trends.”
These included handcrafted and ethical products, with brands with strong storytelling resonating, although fashion buyers were said to be playing it safe with tried-and-tested styles.
“The drive toward more ethical, local consumption is pushing us to prospect new French and sustainable labels,” said Soria Markowicz. Personalized products and vintage styles were also standouts, she said. “Bohemian maxidresses will be a must-have for next summer,” she added, citing a wealth of brands offering such designs at Who’s Next.
Several exhibitors observed that while Parisian retailers had been suffering heavily in recent months due to the absence of international visitors, in France’s provinces many had outperformed over the summer — perhaps because French consumers had summered at home. This drove demand from provincial retailers who traveled to Paris for the show. “All of our coastal retailers have done extremely well, but in Paris it’s catastrophic,” said Corinne Maumus, designer for ready-to-wear label Zen Ethic.
One of the highlights at the shows, meanwhile, was a central installation from DeToujours, an e-commerce player that curates heritage clothing and accessories. Founded eight years ago by Isabelle Crampes, it offers a selection of heritage workwear and sportswear. Working a little like a museum — Crampes is the curator of a similar exhibition, “Vêtements Modèles” currently on show at the MUCEM in Marseille, part of which was on show in the space — it selects the original producer of a given item, documents its history and acts as a distributor for the manufacturer. Besides dancewear from Repetto and Breton shirts and caps from the supplier to the French Navy, the selection includes monastic wear sourced from a specialist supplier in the Vatican, Romanian folk shirts, Scottish kilts and Afghan caftans.
“Each object’s aesthetics are informed by its origin and purpose, and not the other way around,” Crampes explained. “It’s about preserving design heritage. A lot of heritage manufacturers are disappearing,” she explained. “If they were better at marketing their know-how, that could change.”
Over at Silmo, around 70 companies were exhibiting, compared with 980 at a regular edition.
Following the two-day Paris showcase on Oct. 3 and 4, targeting opticians mainly from the Paris region, the eyewear event will go on tour to Bordeaux, Rennes and Lyon later this month. International editions initially planned for Brussels and Copenhagen had to be canceled due to restrictions on visitor numbers, Silmo president Amélie Morel explained.
International traffic normally accounts for around 78 percent of footfall at Silmo, she said. The show would habitually draw in 37,000 visitors. “We have had to adapt, but the opticians have said they appreciate the concept.” She estimated that 60 percent of visitors at the two-day event, for which visitor numbers were not disclosed, were from the Paris area.
Marine Andruetan, area export manager for Grosfilley France, said the company’s domestic business was doing well. “But our export business, which accounts for 50 percent of our sales, is at a standstill,” she added. “We would normally register between 30 and 40 percent of our annual sales at Silmo.”
A spokesman for Marcolin, one of the bigger exhibitors at Silmo Outside the Walls, said it has seen a gradual recovery in its international business since May, but that given the uncertain climate looking ahead, it is creating a cost and contingency plan to help navigate the crisis. The company was presenting new designs under the Adidas Sport and Adidas Originals brands.
Other exhibitors said the main problem opticians had been facing in recent months was their reliance on stock, which is endangering cashflow for certain players.
“The optician takes a big risk on stock,” explained Sébastien Brusset, chief executive officer of Just Add Water, an optical design studio based in Lyon that was exhibiting with its new JAM Vision brand. “A lot of companies have been affected by the crisis, because they received stock early in the year but have been unable to sell it on. But people want to collaborate on interesting projects.”
In such a context, minimal designs, sustainable solutions and 3-D-printed frames were some of the areas in which exhibitors were looking to innovate at Silmo.
Brand: Bubble Mood
Showing at: Who’s Next
Designer: Olivia Gurdjian
After spending 15 years in Asia, Bubble Mood founder Olivia Gurdjian arrived back in Paris in January, just before the epidemic hit. Her “Pari-Asian” brand, which already has retail accounts in Thailand and Hong Kong, in Europe, is built around the kimono shape with subtle twists like covered buttons and balloon sleeves, she was showing a range of Tencel robes and dresses featuring graphic motifs in neutral tones as well as a smaller range of pieces in silk.
Prices: 33-99 euros wholesale
Brand: Mama Tierra
Showing at: Impact at Première Classe/Who’s Next
Founder: Katherine Klemenz
Based in Switzerland, Mama Tierra is a nonprofit centered on empowering the Wayuu indigenous women in the Guajira desert of coastal Venezuela and Colombia and promoting and safeguarding traditional craft techniques. Based on motifs by designer Coral Hernandez and artist Patrizia Stalder, the collection of bags and pouches are worked by the artisans of the region in a heavy cotton tapestry fabric in bright colors featuring birds and serpents and the “evil eye,” with certain designs featuring eco-leather made from cactus leaves.
Prices: 31-100 euros wholesale
Showing at: Première Classe
Designer: Titya Tin
Creating her own jewelry had always been a passion for former Brand Bazar manager Titya Tin. Informed by Hindu symbolism and rituals of her husband’s family, she launched her label in 2017 with handcrafted designs that put a contemporary spin on Indian references. Each item, featuring precious and semiprecious stones, gold-plated silver and 18-carat gold, is made to order. The centerpiece is the Thaali necklace, inspired by Indian wedding necklaces, featuring a central talisman symbolizing eternal love set with a ruby on a knotted cotton cord. Among stockists, the label added Le Bon Marché over the summer, which has offered the label significant added visibility.
Prices: 100-1,800 euros at retail
Brand: JAM Vision
Showing at: Silmo
Founder: Sébastien Brusset of Just Add Water studio
Launching at Silmo, JAM Vision is a new eyewear brand offering 3-D-printed nylon and titanium or recycled steel frames that intends to combine sustainability and local production with a strong creative identity. With a first capsule collection of three limited-edition creations in collaboration with artist Hom Nguyen, the designs feature engraved artwork on their frames and mirror lenses — plus a leather case engraved by an artisan near the company’s studio in Lyon.
Prices: 390-1,500 euros at retail
Brand: You Mawo
Showing at: Silmo
Designer: Daniel Miko
Created six years ago and based in Germany, You Mawo offers 3-D-printed eyewear that is made to measure after scanning the face, ensuring a perfect fit. The label has 45 references in its catalogue, and by making each design to order, reduces the problem of stock that in the current market environment is one of the biggest challenges opticians are facing. The frames are manufactured and shipped within 15 days, making time-to-market significantly faster than traditionally manufactured designs.
Prices: 380-500 euros at retail
Brand: Boxed Hat by Mature Ha
Showing at: Première Classe
Designer: Yuki Takata
One of very few exhibitors from outside Europe, the brand offers a range of hats inspired by traditional straw designs that fold flat into boxes, making them suitable for travel. Founded 15 years ago in Kobe, Japan, the brand counts Merci in Paris and Dover Street Market in London among its stockists. Bestsellers include the brand’s hats made from paper pulp.
Prices: 86-91 euros wholesale
Brand: Maison Dacry
Showing at: Première Classe
Designer: Gaston Lamiaux
Costume mask manufacturer Maison Dacry saw a window on the market with the COVID-19 pandemic and decided to launch a range of high-end protective masks with a distinctive minimalistic design. The reusable, flexible masks, available in two designs and eight colors, are made in France from PTU resin and feature filters that are fixed in place with magnets. Each is supplied with a pack of five filters, and the brand also offers packs of replacements.
Prices: 90-110 euros at retail, 12 euros for a pack of five replacement filters
Brand: Coralie Marabelle
Showing at: Designer’s apartment
Designer: Coralie Marabelle
Not a newbie as such — the 2014 Hyères public prize winner featured in the Fédération de la Haute Couture et de la Mode’s Designers Apartment program for several seasons — Coralie Marabelle was showing her first collection designed for wholesale as she opens up distribution. Her minimal, color-blocked designs will launch at concept store Centre Commercial in November. The designer aims to manufacture as sustainably as possible, with all production in France and the prioritization of natural materials. Highlights in the spring 2021 collection include two-tone trench coats and a broad selection of jersey pieces.
Prices: Core retail prices range from 150-890 euros