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PARIS — Retailers groped for superlatives to describe an exhilarating Paris Fashion Week, which ended on Monday afternoon.

They praised spring-summer collections loaded with creativity and salability, from cropped peplum jackets and fuller skirts to filmy blouses and knockout eveningwear. Here’s what buyers had to say:

Sue Patneaude, executive vice president of designer apparel, Nordstrom: “Paris was solid. It was happy, innocent, feminine and romantic. There were many strong items: Chanel’s wonderful crochet lace hand-worked sleeves and Dior’s fabulous lace and denim peplum jackets. We were very happy with Yves Saint Laurent. We liked the parkas at Stella McCartney and Chloé, the fuller feminine skirts at Valentino and Alexander McQueen’s lampshade silhouette. Sonia Rykiel’s show was terrific. The season was all very salable. The four items to buy for the season are: a piece of lace crochet, a signature floral print, a full-sleeved proportion and a full skirt.”

Hirofumi Kurino, general manager and chief creative director, United Arrows Ltd., Tokyo: “This season, there was a perfect balance between a creative image and commercial value. Lanvin and Chloé were two of the strongest collections in Paris this year. There’s something very positive about Phoebe Philo’s collection; she really knows what women want to wear. As for trends, there was a lot of draping, such as Sophia Kokosalaki’s Olympian draping, which she paired with soft fabrics such as jerseys and silks. There is still a trend toward femininity but, whereas the styles used to be girly, today they are geared toward a much more mature woman. Again, Chloé and Lanvin did a very good job of capturing that spirit. I also think that cropped jackets and ethnic styles will be very popular.”

Evelyn Gorman, owner, Mix, Houston: “I feel as if I have seen some of the best collections in Paris in the past three years. Jean Paul Gaultier was exceptional and Nicolas Ghesquière showed his talent for creation, but folded it into a wearable collection. Helmut Lang, Rochas and John Galliano were extraordinary, as well. We are swinging back to real things people can wear. We see a turn to more of a covert sexuality compared to an obvious one with all the bareness. In terms of trends, there are shorts to the knee and shrunken jackets. Also thin scarves that wrap around the neck will be a big accessories trend.”

This story first appeared in the October 12, 2004 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

Michael Fink, senior fashion director, Saks Fifth Avenue: “The play of proportions in Paris has been so interesting, from the fullest skirts at Emanuel Ungaro to long, slim modern lines to the shift of the silhouette away from the body at Stella McCartney. It’s still a very feminine season, full of tiered, ruffled skirts at Jean Paul Gaultier, pleated details at Martin Grant, bows at Viktor & Rolf and couture-like workmanship at Akris and Alexander McQueen. We’re still reeling — in a good way — from the paparazzi dresses at Chanel, and we loved the impact of beautiful white shirts at Dries Van Noten, Junya Watanabe and Chloé.”

Cedric Charbit, general merchandise manger, women’s, Printemps, Paris: “Commercialism triumphed in Paris. Important themes were: ethnic, nautical, Hawaiian and David Hamilton. Balenciaga’s sailor’s look was chic and urban. Chanel was strong. Chloé was incredible and Dries Van Noten was very impressive. In general, there was much less spectacle on the runway, except at McQueen.”

Robert Burke, vice president and senior fashion director, Bergdorf Goodman: “Paris set the tone for the entire season for us. It redefined feminine elegance in a completely modern way. We’re coming off so many seasons of overtly sexy and high embellishment and Paris showed itself to be subtle, elegant, sophisticated and modern, but with no lack of interesting details. They were little feminine jackets with a peplum waist. There was also a return of Parisian classics such as the chiffon blouse or skirts with perfect sweaters or cardigans. It’s probably the most important season for Paris in years. Lanvin was outstanding, Karl Lagerfeld keeps churning out the hits at Chanel and Chloé was refined. Jean Paul Gaultier had a wonderful show with great prints and colors.”

Anna Garner, head of fashion, Selfridges: “Paris was really strong and was about new proportions and volume that was evident in most of the collections. It also illustrated the trends elsewhere, such as the globe-trotting Indian or African styles. There were strong colors in Paris and not quite as many prints. Handcrafted elements and details were important. Standouts were McQueen, Balenciaga, Chloé, which had the soft, unstructured tailoring that was also at Stella, and Lanvin. Dries Van Noten also had a very strong presentation.”

Joan Kaner, senior vice president and fashion director, Neiman Marcus: “The big message from Paris was volume, and there was more black in Paris than elsewhere. We liked full, easy dresses with an Empire top that [fans out like an A] out from the body, cropped pants and the return of the jacket. Collections we liked included Chloé; Valentino, which was a knockout; Rochas; Chanel, which was very salable, and Dior. Akris was a big surprise. [Designer Albert Kriemler] really managed to layer on a younger customer and attitude. Martin Grant was lively and ladylike and Andrew Gn showed a very status way of dressing. Dries Van Noten was amazing and Gaultier was strong.”

Janet Brown, owner, Janet Brown, Port Washington, N.Y.: “This is one of the most stellar spring seasons in many, many years. I’m over-bought and exhilarated from the fashion. There are an enormous amount of beautiful clothes. When I sat at the Lanvin show, I felt blessed that I’m in this business. There’s a great deal of purity this season; it’s less irrational.”

Julie Gilhart, vice president and fashion director, Barneys New York: “We are so happy. It was a season full of great clothes and accessories. Dries Van Noten: That was the show to end all shows for him, plus it was point on with all the trends: fuller skirts and beautiful embroideries. Lanvin just became one of the most powerful French houses. Every exit at Balenciaga was great; [Nicolas Ghesquière] gave us the best pants of the season. Rochas perfected the jacket and he loosened up the silhouette a bit, which is really the theme of the season. There were so many great shows. Azzedine Alaïa, who doesn’t even do a show, did such a cute collection.”

Kal Ruttenstein, senior vice president of fashion direction, Bloomingdale’s: “Paris, as usual, had excitement, originality and fun. It had fuller, softer skirts. In general, silhouettes were fuller with all lengths of skirts, cropped pants and shorts, and lots of color, including white. It was commercial but exciting. I liked best Chanel, Gaultier, Chloé, Alexander McQueen and Lanvin.”

Sarah Rutson, fashion director, Lane Crawford (Hong Kong) Limited: “Paris has been about femininity, breezy layers and billowing lightness mixed with a rich bohemian spirit. Chloé was incredible and effortless with gauzy bib-front shirts, almost military-like cropped jackets and divine dresses in satins. With Helmut Lang, we loved the sense of femininity that has been introduced without losing that masculine edge. This collection has now really opened up to a much wider customer base. Finally, Lanvin was a masterpiece. The dresses and little full skirts were totally luxurious and totally commercial — a perfect combination!”

Majed Al-Sabah, owner, Villa Moda, Kuwait: “There were many highlights in Paris: John Galliano had such fun daywear; Lanvin was the best; Chloé was cute and commercial; Valentino’s eveningwear was to die for, and I liked a lot of Dries Van Noten. What I liked at Yves Saint Laurent, which was very Eighties, was the new jacket with the ruching at the back.”

Scott Tepper, fashion director, Henri Bendel: “Phoebe Philo really did modern young women such a favor with her stunning collection. The light aesthetic she created was fresh and original. Andrew Gn and Lars Nilsson at Nina Ricci are developing unique and appealing voices. Colette Dinnigan blended all of her signature elements into this wonderful, feminine mix. It was a lighter way to look sexy, which is very much the look of the season. As for items, the short jacket is important and longer, fuller skirts.”

Jeffrey Kalinsky, owner, Jeffrey New York and Jeffrey Atlanta: “This city is so rich in its offering. It’s an overkill of beautiful, beautiful clothes. You just get a refinement in Paris you can’t get anywhere else. Junya Watanabe was so couture and so different, and we loved the image at Undercover and the geometry of Rick Owens. Lanvin was worth the trip all unto itself. I don’t think it could have been more beautiful. Olivier Theyskens at Rochas was on the money. John Galliano was so upbeat it was like a celebration. And Dries Van Noten is so consistent. It’s one of our best collections and it always sells out.”