PARIS — Proof that Paris’ pulling power as a key fashion destination remains intact was in evidence at the Première Classe Tuileries accessories trade show here early this month, with attendance back on a level with figures prior to a string of terror-related incidents in France that impacted visitor numbers to the country. Many of the buyers attending the fair had returned to the city after skipping last season due to security concerns. The majority were steadfast that abandoning the city never occurred to them.
Fall collections in Paris are “too important” to miss said Samantha and Alexandra Mann, co-owners of the Sam & Lex boutique in New York. The sisters avoided the city in September, however, and were a little shaken to see patrolling soldiers, with the country still on high alert. “But now that we are here, we’re not afraid,” they said. “We just had to come see and feel the stuff.…You see things here you don’t see in New York.” The duo stocked up on attractively priced, colored faux fur items — a major fall trend — while hunting for “more stand-out, different pieces.”
“The news is scaring people, so we have to show that Paris is still a place for fashion, and for a show,” said Sylvie Pourrat, director of the bellwether accessories fair, which showcased some 900 brands.
Exclusive French brands and emerging talent were highlighted, including the six winners of the Paris Grand Prix de la Création, an annual prize for excellence in the design, fashion, or art fields awarded by the city with financial backing from Galeries Lafayette and the Fédération française du prêt-à-porter feminine (French Federation of Women’s Ready-to-Wear). The show also included its first vintage designer accessories pop-up store open to the general public.
Organizers said attendance was up by 2 percent overall to 16,392, versus the equivalent year-ago session, with a 5 percent increase from North American buyers, and an 8 percent uptick in Asian visitors.
Some buyers avoided public transport out of safety concerns, staying closer to venues and walking more, despite the heavy rain. A free shuttle running between Première Classe and other trade shows was also provided.
“I will always come here,” said Dana Keilani, owner of the Rome-based store Dana Roma. “I’m more willing to take risks and go for more unusual items in this city.”
“I thought [the show] was going to be more subdued, just because of the state of the world,” said Joey Wölffer, founder of the U.S.-based mobile boutique, The Styleliner.
“But I don’t think it is that way. I think people are taking the way everyone feels right now and trying to kind of cheer everyone up,” she added. Wölffer loved Celeste Mogador’s “evil eye” embroidered accessories, Pink Powder’s jewelry, and Mantero 1902, for its “beautiful fantasy style prints, but at a great price, which is good. It seems everyone’s working to get better prices.”
Contributing to that cheerful mood, accessories came with mixtures of colored velvets, embroidery, gems, florals, neons, metallic pops, colored fur — faux and real — and patterns of all kinds, especially tartan. Plus outright absurdist elements, like the toothy grins, nude body parts and single, floating eyes on the coveted, hand-embroidered brooches and necklaces by new French brand and designer, Céleste Mogador. “I like surrealism,” said the brand’s namesake founder. “In life, one has to laugh a little.”
Material mix and mashing and repurposed vintage elements alongside the new, continues to be strong. Sleek and smooth juxtaposed with distressed and raw edges, especially on jewelry.
“One theme we saw repeatedly and are excited about for Bloomingdale’s is fur and faux fur bags, we see this trend resonating with our customer,” said Joyce Packman, Bloomingdale’s vice president and divisional merchandise manager for handbags and seasonal accessories. “Other trends spotted included berets, newsboy caps and velvet across multiple accessory categories.”
“Everyone’s worked very hard, and put everything into it,” said Simon Burstein, founder of the women’s concept store, The Place London, and former chief executive officer of the London specialty retailer, Browns, while admiring Diana Broussard’s jewelry. The trick is sifting through it all. “There’s such an abundance, and the offer is greater than what can be consumed today,” he said. As a result, “our customers respond favorably to a clear vision and curated store, i.e., not too much. My choice is very edited.” In terms of what stood out, Burstein added: “When you marry design, authenticity and craftsmanship, but stay modern. Not fuddy-duddy or hippy. It’s got to be relevant. I don’t look back in a nostalgic way at old houses.” Some outstanding collections included the gloves at Maison Fabre, and belts at Maison Boinet, he said.
The show ran with a bit of a masculine theme, including an exhibit dedicated to Blitz Motorcycles, a Parisian workshop that makes motorcycles, and collaborates with accessory designers. Unisex or tomboy-inspired aesthetics could be found across categories.
“The show is always good, and we always spend a whole day here,” said Le Bon Marché’s style director, Jennifer Cuvillier, while admiring Marion Vidal’s jewelry collection. “Accessories are always important for us.” Cuvillier noticed a lot of beautiful creations, “but not a lot of new brands coming out on the market…. When new brands emerge, that’s when we suddenly feel that there’s a strong accessories season,” she explained. She loved Marion Vidal’s vision, which is “always ahead of her time in material, forms, and colors. And it’s always rather surprising, with a style that is very particular and recognizable, which our customers like. There’s a whole architectural work that is very interesting…and is always ultramodern….And she’s a French designer, which we like.” Other favorites were embroidered shoes by Meher Kakalia, and the use of vintage materials in “luminous, architectural” twists in Aris Geldis’ jewelry and leather goods.
“When have we ever seen fur flowers?” marveled buyer Cheryl Assil from the Los Angeles-based designer clothing store, Madison. “The overall sense is: let’s put as much together as we can and try to balance it and make it work together,” she said. “If you do it right, you actually can, but it has to be balanced….There’s runway and there’s real life,” she said.
Buyers tended to outline similar strategies for a shifting market: being more selective than usual, finding new brands, while maintaining the same budget. They were also seduced by the personal stories of designers, knowing that an item was connected to a pair of hands, and passion for their craft. Transformable accessories were another response to demand for personalized fashion. So shoulder bags turned to clutches to backpacks, with movable decorative elements.
David Assil, owner of Madison in Los Angeles, said the store was returning to its “roots and looking for up and coming designers,” to differentiate from nearby department stores. “It’s always a needle in a haystack, but now we’ve gotten to the point where we’ve got a lot of great young designers.” When the Madison buyers discovered the leather bags by fledgling brand Pugnetti Parma, “it was like, boom! You can just see and feel a person’s talent once you start hearing about their history and where they come from,” said Assil. “The style was similar to what we’ve seen, but with an edge,” added Cheryl Assil. “A little bit more raw, a little more loose. Not so boxed and refined and sewn over — they move.”
Some highlights from Première Classe:
Designer: Filippo Pugnetti
Inspiration: The emerging Italian bag designer, who relies on traditional Parma and Tuscan techniques, dedicated part of his latest collection to the rose. “I wanted to create the same movement of the petals in the flaps, and also the same silky smooth feeling when you touch the bag, down to its details.” The bags are softer than his previous collection, the color palette natural, and the greens refer to the leaves of a rose. The folds in the leather create light and dark shades similar to rose petals.
Key styles: The Lift bag, a model he updates from previous collections, is a glamorous take on an elevator repairman’s tool bag. Pugnetti uses a wooden block as a mold, following Parma tradition. The bag has a surprising amount of interior space. Key details across the collection include gold hardware contrasting with natural tones. Some bags can also be worn as backpacks, clutches or shoulder bags.
Retail prices: $181 to $992.
Designer: Chloé Thieblin
Inspiration: The straw French boater hat (canotier) is at the source of this young brand’s collection. (Think Coco Chanel, but also the Pierre-Auguste Renoir
painting, “Luncheon of the Boating Party.”) Chloé Thieblin’s mission is to safeguard the disappearing French technique for sewing these straw hats, originally designed for French sailors in the 19th century. She plays with and modernizes the dimensions and materials of the traditional model. She also developed a necklace and carrier chain for wearing hats either on the back, like a backpack, or hanging in front. “What I like about the boater hat, is its androgynous aspect,” said Thieblin. “It’s simple, pure lines.”
Key styles: The Le Coco, a varnished straw boater hat; and the Gilou boater hat, which includes a rabbit fur felt band and varnished straw.
Retail prices: $160 to $480.
Designer: Marion Vidal
Inspiration: The mountains, minerals and marble, as well winter sports and ski lifts, the color white, and the contrast of artificial and natural materials, with red pops. Marion Vidal said she was interested in showing the path that connects the elements in her pieces. “I wanted to mix the maximum of materials together in this collection…. while staying balanced,” she said. Materials included juxtapositions of textiles, ceramic, Plexiglas, marble and metals.
Key styles: Vidal collaborated with designer Christian Wijnants to create earrings inspired by Indian prints and Iranian graffiti, each worn individually.
Retail prices: Prices on request.
MING YU WANG
Designer: Ming Yu Wang
Inspiration: Positive and negative spaces, and the minimalistic architecture of Luis Barragán, which Ming Yu Wang saw on a trip to New Mexico. The American designer uses a lot of sterling silver with rhodium plating and brass, and says the collection is “ideally unisex.” “I personally love men’s wear,” she said, “because they have architectural, very angular, clean lines.” Her philosophy: “Less is more.…I see my jewelry as a minimalistic take on statement jewelry.” Clean finishing, with lasered logos make for very crisp, fine lines.
Key styles: Oval sterling-silver earrings with a matte finish, that look heavy, but are lightweight, and evoke “shadows between buildings.” Earrings that resemble cufflinks, stackable rings and bracelets.
Retail prices: $105 to $739.
Designer: Géraldine Guyot
Inspiration: The Guyot family’s contemporary art collection. Hats are inspired twists on the fedora, and leather bags are graphic, sleek and simple, in a range of soft and natural colors (burgundy, forest green, pale rose, beige and navy), some including gold or leather cuffs as handles. The Paris-based brand was founded in 2015.
Key styles: the Ettore bag can be worn as a bracelet, thanks to an architectural, wide gold or leather cuff. The Arne bag has a removable decorative band in a diagonal strip across the front that comes in a range of finishes and colors.
Retail price: Hats, $320 to $427. Bags, $800 to $1,334.
Designer: Swann Hostein
Inspiration: A voyage to Africa inspired this collection of brightly colored rabbit fur collars and scarves with contrasting feather trimming. The fur comes from farms that guarantee animal welfare. The rabbit meat is also sent to Michelin-star restaurants, to reduce waste. Wearing fur is “just as bad as wearing leather,” and better than using synthetic, chemically treated materials, said Swann Hostein who is from Monaco. Other scarf bases were made of silk.
Key styles: The Orylag, simple fur collar in a range of stunning colors was an easy sell, but it was nearly impossible not to notice and touch the tribal-esque, feather-lined fur collars in deep reds, indigos, sea-greens and more, juxtaposed with feathers that do what they were created to do: attract.
Retail prices: $267 to $528.
Designer: Céleste Mogador
Inspiration: Surrealism, the design and look of the human eye, and the manual process of embroidering have all served to inspire Céleste Mogador’s embroidered brooches, necklaces and other accessories, handmade with silk threads and embedded with contrasting crystal, coral and stone beads. Mogador takes her box of thread and half-finished embroidered “amulets” with her wherever she goes, coming up with new design ideas as she works, and “meditates.” The six-month-old brand is in hot demand, carried in Anthropology and Le Bon Marché, to name a few.
Key styles: The single eye brooch is the most recognizable item, in endless sizes, colors and design. Other playful examples are of nude body parts, the lower half of the face, a tooth.
Retail prices: $128 to $267.