PARIS — The season was a good one at the Tranoï, Capsule and The Box Paris trade shows, which ran concurrent with Paris Fashion Week. Sources at Tranoï reported that even though there were fewer French buyers than last season (23.3 percent of the total amount versus 24 percent last year), attendance was up, especially among Asian retailers.
“I was surprised to see how busy the trade shows were, given the fact that the timing is getting more and more crowded, which is not easy for us, and the Air France strike, which made everything more difficult,” said Valérie Gerbi, senior women’s wear buyer for Paris concept store Merci.
Her opinion was shared by Armand Hadida, art director of Tranoï and founder of Paris store L’Eclaireur. “Each season grows more and more crowded and buyers just don’t have the time to browse through all the brands, showrooms and trade shows. Luckily, designers have stepped up their game and learned that, in order to lure shoppers to their labels, they need to present an extremely edited product instead of a huge collection,” he noted.
The strategy seemed to work. “There was more actual business and order-writing this season. I felt everybody had come to buy, not just look,” observed Greg Armas, a buyer at Assembly New York.
“Every one of the clients that showed interest in our brand ended up placing an order,” said Nancy Tarraso, cofounder of the four-year-old Spanish brand Uke, exhibiting at Tranoï. Its spring collection proposed a variety of girly organza skirts and dresses in pastel tones — with wholesale prices between 75 and 145 euros, or $94.75 to $183 at current exchange.
Tarraso attributes this season’s brand success to a change of venue. “We used to exhibit at the Carrousel du Louvre, among the more casual brands. We are nowat the Palais de la Bourse, and that has really made a difference.”
For Chinese-born, New York based designer Vivienne Tam, it was also the first time at the Palais de la Bourse — and the first time at Tranoï. Her brand is already well established in the U.S., and offers ladylike cocktail dresses at wholesale prices starting at 300 euros, or $378. For spring 2015, she created a collection of long mesh dresses embroidered with motifs inspired from traditional Chinese porcelain.
“Overall, it’s been a good season for us,” said Tam brand consultant Salman Khokhar. “We are fairly unknown in Europe, yet we had quite a few orders placed and most of the buyers who didn’t place them still left with line sheets. More and more people seem to prefer to get home, look at their notes and buy at their convenience afterwards, without the pressure of fashion week.”
Buyers acknowledged this. “I think it’s definitely time to rethink show and fair planning in Paris,” said Merci’s Gerbi. “We see far too many collections, but what we’re looking for is a special piece or an exciting new designer. What the French call a ‘coup de coeur.’ And that’s not easy to have when you are being distracted by too much product.”
“Personally, I hand-select the shows and showrooms we attend as opposed to trying to see everything,” agreed Greg Armas. Maria Carolina Angel, account executive at Lambert & Associates, added that she still favors Tranoï for its service and brand selection. “We are looking for the collection that makes the point of difference, and Tranoï does a good job at editing the products.”
Over at Capsule (where, according to organizers, attendance was up by 20 percent with buyers primarily from Japan, the U.S., France, Italy and China), emphasis was placed on new designers and brands.
“Designers are doing a great job right now,” expressed Herbert Hoffmann, creative director of Voo Berlin.
“We see a lot of emerging young brands who’ve got their own style and also get the balance between showpieces and accessible styles.”
Kitty Joseph was a case in point: the London-based designer presented a collection inspired by the lights of sunset and dawn featuring acid colors printed in hammered satin, PVC and cotton. “I’m trying to answer to the different needs of my clients while keeping my creative identity. I’ve developed ombré socks this season, retailing at 30 pounds [$48] while my most expensive piece (a printed dress) retails for about 1,000 pounds [$1,600]. But I do feel like pricing is one of the most sensitive points for an emerging designer. You always wonder whether people will be willing to pay a certain amount for a brand that is not yet established, but you can’t depreciate yourself either.”
Joseph’s collection held the attention of Alexandra Risch, fashion forecaster at Galeries Lafayette. “I like the emergence of all the acid pastel colors in women’s wear: wearing bright colors definitely launches the summer season,” Risch said, stating she was also looking for street and sporty looks.
She was drawn toward Tzuji, a London-based brand created by New Yorker Larry Tee, ex-DJ and club kid. Although only in its second season, the brand is already known for its cartoon silk bombers, worn by the likes of blogger Susie Bubble.
“More and more, we try to avoid trends and select the best that each designer has to offer. How our clients wear those pieces determines what the trends will be, not us,” said Andrea Panconesi, chief executive officer and founder of Luisaviaroma.com.
At its Rue Cambon venue, The Box reported a 7 percent increase in attendance compared with last season, due mainly to an increase in visitors from Belgium (up 18 percent) and Spain (up 5 percent).
Frédérique Caluwaerts, cofounder of French jewelry brand Augustine (owned by the Gripoix family and known for its work on glass) noticed it seemed calmer than previous seasons. “With Première Classe going on in Tuileries, I’m afraid people tend to skip The Box. It would probably be better if we were all at the same venue,” Caluwaerts said.
L.A.-born handbag designer Mayra Fedane, at The Box for the first time, agreed. She started her brand three seasons ago in London and describes its style as “London rocker meets L.A. princess.” Her bags are hand-woven in Europe and are recognizable for their bright colors and graphic motifs.
“For me, it has been more about exposure than actual order-placing, although I have gotten quite a bit of attention from L’Eclaireur and Harvey Nichols,” said Fedane. “I think buyers have to see things three to four times before they realize the potential of a brand. You meet a couple of people and you get along, and even if they don’t buy right away they still keep an eye on you. It’s a learning curve, but it’s definitely something I’m excited about.”