PARIS — Visitor numbers fell 17 percent at the July edition of the Who’s Next trade show in Paris due to a variety of factors including timing, a difficult economy and bad weather. The event, which ran at Porte de Versailles from July 4 to 7, drew 36,810 visitors versus 44,502 visitors in July 2013, organizers said.
The decrease was due mainly to an 18.4 percent fall in the number of French visitors, they added, noting that Chinese visitors were up 51.7 percent and South Korean attendance jumped 64.1 percent.
Géraldine Florin, senior buyer at Paris department store Galeries Lafayette, said Who’s Next and the concurrent Tranoï Preview show represented the second go-around for summer buys. “We use it to complete our spring-summer selection and to pick a few pieces that we will include in our seasonal pop-ups, but we already did most of our buying in March,” she explained.
Who’s Next — including Fame, Who’s Next Ready-to-Wear, Premiere Classe and Who’s Next Accessories — said exhibitors noted the presence of quality buyers, many of them foreign, who were seeking designer pieces and strong products.
“If the central walkway appeared calmer than usual, it can be largely attributed to the increase in the size of this space [from 7,000 to 18,000 square meters, or 75,350 square feet to 193,750 square feet] and the changeable weather conditions during the weekend of the show,” organizers said.
However, Hélène Hanum, office director at Lambert and Associates — buying office for retailers including Bergdorf Goodman, Neiman Marcus, Holt Renfrew and Fenwick Ltd. — noted that Who’s Next and Tranoï Preview faced growing competition.
“There is an increasing number of trade shows, showrooms, brands and fashion shows happening in Paris, and buyers have to visit all of them in a week. It becomes challenging,” she said. “In both trade shows, we buy mostly basic ready-to-wear pieces and accessories.”
This was echoed by Armand Hadida, creative director of Tranoï and founder of Paris concept store L’Eclaireur, who said the quantity of designers and styles on show was unprecedented. Tranoï Preview does not publish attendance figures, but he indicated the market was challenging.
“For buyers, it becomes more and more difficult to see and process everything. We have to rethink the way we present collections to them, which is why we will be introducing Tranoï Showroom next September. It will last for six to eight days, so orders can be placed with a lot more time,” he said.
Exhibitors at Who’s Next reported a drop in sales of eveningwear in the Fame zone due to the absence of some Middle Eastern buyers because of Ramadan. At Who’s Next Ready-to-Wear, business was brisk with a number of new participants sealing deals.
The new layout of Premiere Classe in Hall 4 was generally well received, but there was a mixed response for Who’s Next Accessories, located for the first time in Hall 5.
“Despite the localization of the offer at the entrance to the show, designed to energize the traffic, and the numerous attractions at the heart of the hall, certain exhibitors struggled to establish contacts. The economic crisis and the buying calendar for the leather goods and footwear sectors can be seen as the root causes for this sedate buying climate,” organizers said.
The optimal timing of the trade shows has been a conundrum for some time. In 2012, Who’s Next and accessories trade show Bijorhca Paris were pushed forward to June to coincide with the beginning of the international retailers’ buying schedules, but Bijorhca this year has been rescheduled to Sept. 5 to 8 after the date change proved inconclusive.
Xavier Clergerie, co-general manager of Who’s Next, has said he does not intend to move the show back to the September slot, adding that the main goal is to attract more international visitors.
Those that did attend praised the quality of the collections on offer and the increasing number of exhibitors taking part. “Even if the mood was calm, the regular clients were all there,” said Hanum.
“I am very fond of Who’s Next for their most accessible collections,” confirmed Florin. “During this session, we haven’t placed big orders. Instead, we have added a few pieces — mainly rainwear and technical fabrics — to what we already had. But the offer we have seen has certainly reassured us in the choices we made in March.”
Among her preferred exhibitors was Louche London. The British brand was founded in 2009 by designer Maureen O’Brien and manufactures affordable collections (with retail prices from 50 euros to 150 euros, or $68 to $203) for young women.
“Clients love our simple shift dresses with pockets. They have been buying them in blue this season,” said O’Brien. “But our biggest best-selling piece so far is a white shearling coat with an animal-print lining. People are looking for the kind of details that are hidden from the general view but which make a garment special.”
Florin also liked French brand La Petite Française, whose collections are inspired by contemporary Parisian style.
“Buyers love our simple leather leggings, and our printed sweatshirts are having a lot of success this season,” said brand cofounder Patrick Zenou. “Sixty percent of our clients are foreign. We work especially well with Spain, Belgium, Portugal, Italy and, increasingly, Japan. They usually praise our most urban pieces, which still keep a kind of chic, typically French edge.”
Over at Tranoï, Hanum singled out Paris-based label American Retro. The Texas-inspired collection included denim pieces, leather and suede jackets and latex skirts, as well as cactus and pistol-shaped motifs.
“We have developed our own prints this season, and they are turning out to be our most successful items,” said Stéphanie Le Guen, sales representative for the brand. “Clients have been praising the balance between the masculine elements of the collection — such as the pistol prints — and the girly bubble-gum pink tones of the more feminine pieces.”
Florin said she was drawn toward animal and tattoo-inspired patterns and especially liked G. Kero’s hand-drawn T-shirts. “Prints were already a big trend last year, but they are being worked in a completely different way now. More than simply decorating a garment, they tell its whole story,” she said.
Founded in 2011 by siblings Philippe and Marguerite Bartherotte, G. Kero proposes simply cut pieces decorated with colorful motifs. With 50 wholesale clients worldwide, including hip Paris concept store Centre Commercial, its bestsellers are unisex printed T-shirts, available from 69 euros, or $94 at current exchange.
“This season we have created a Kama Sutra-inspired motif which clients are loving. They tell us they are looking for the most original, yet wearable, designs possible,” stated Philippe Bartherotte.
Florin also liked My Village, Indian designer Rimzim Dadu’s brand. Founded seven years ago in New Delhi, it includes leather and chiffon dresses worked in unexpected ways. “I am inspired by traditional Indian weaves,” said Dadu. “I start from standard materials, then I shred, twist and sew them so they’ll look like something completely different.”
The designer is stocked at 45 stores in India, 45 in the Middle East and three in the United States, but this was her first time at Tranoï. “This season I finally felt ready for the European market,” she said. “To be honest, I wasn’t expecting much from the trade show, but I have been very pleasantly surprised: The exposure is great, the atmosphere is cool and I already have eight clients placing orders — most of them Japanese.”