PARIS — Paris lived up to its reputation as fashion’s creative hub as men’s wear designers turned up the volume on innovation for spring. New silhouettes, bold colorations and inventive fabric combinations should help lure back customers, buyers said.

This story first appeared in the June 29, 2010 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

“Paris gave us what Milan didn’t — that ‘twist,’ that point of difference, especially in fabric innovation,” said Sarah Rutson, fashion director at Lane Crawford in Hong Kong.

“Innovation was key in Paris. I feel like this is a period of change,” said David Walker-Smith, director of men’s wear and beauty at Selfridges. “We’re approaching the buying season with a smiley face. It’s very encouraging.”

“Brands were very creative but also very mindful of price point with good opening prices,” added Richard Johnson, men’s wear buying manager for Harvey Nichols. “There was a good balance between commercial and fashion.”

Retailers said they were working with increased budgets thanks to a plethora of creative products on offer, particularly accessories.

“It is all leading toward a looser silhouette,” said Tancrède de Lalun, general merchandise manager of women’s and men’s apparel at Printemps in Paris.

Collections praised by buyers included Dries Van Noten, Lanvin, Raf Simons, Christian Dior, Junya Watanabe, Givenchy, Ann Demeulemeester, Lanvin, Balmain and Kris Van Assche, retailers said.

Here is what buyers had to say.

Nick Wooster, men’s fashion director, Bergdorf Goodman and Neiman Marcus: “Paris has been an amazing week of experimentation and creativity. We love the polish. With an emphasis on exposed arms and legs, it makes shoes and accessories assume a more prominent role. Personally, I love all of the options in shorts. It was refreshing to see color at Thom Browne. Lanvin was really beautiful. There are always strong ideas at Rick Owens, between the clothes and the accessories. Ditto Dries van Noten — I am intrigued by the fabric research. Balmain has been really strong for us.…There are really a ton of options for the tough and polished guy.”

Hirofumi Kurino, creative adviser, United Arrows, Japan: “In terms of the runway, this season was not so strong.…Still, I did some good buying from brands such as Dries Van Noten, Kris Van Assche, Junya Watanabe and Comme des Garçons. Comme des Garçons was very interesting as [Rei Kawakubo] used skulls to give a positive message. It was as if she was prompting people to think deeply about life and how to live.…This time we went for more indie labels because established designers are not so real for us, not so charming.…Accessories are increasingly strong for men.”

Lanita Layton, vice president and gmm, men’s and men’s footwear, Holt Renfrew: “Paris challenges our sense of what’s right for proportion again. Designers played with interesting shapes alternating between jackets and pants. Sport jackets in softer interpretations of tailoring were important for us, focusing on a more relaxed, but elegant attitude for our spring season. New shapes and styles in pants were also key here for our fashion client: pleats, draping, asymmetrical closures, Zouave.”

Jason Broderick, men’s wear gmm, Harrods: “Paris was a lot more innovative. It was a display of individual style, except for the general presence of loungewear and more relaxed clothing. Each house stayed true to its nature. Hermès showed pure luxury, Lanvin challenged shape and detail. Print played a very important role, especially at Louis Vuitton. Balenciaga and Balmain both brought print into play, particularly on T-shirts and sportswear. In terms of buying strategy, Paris is more challenging because it’s not as commercial [as Milan].”

Tancrède de Lalun, gmm, women’s and men’s apparel, Printemps: “It wasn’t the best season, but there was some energy nonetheless. There was no single moment where everyone unanimously went, ‘Wow.’ What stood out was a certain vision of the jacket, which reappeared in a new shape. It’s not a suit jacket, but a separate jacket, with a softer shoulder that can be worn with casual or slightly more formal slacks. We have increased our budget by a reasonable amount. We are optimistic.”

Eric Jennings, vice president and men’s fashion director, Saks Fifth Avenue: “Femininity is the new masculinity. From waif-thin boys in sleeveless tunics with plunging necklines to burly men in jumpsuits with crystal necklaces, the designers here seem to be pushing the boundaries of gender. Most collections were shown with much seriousness — dark and brooding — without a touch of irony or whimsy, with the notable exception of Thom Browne’s lunar landing show. Other shows that stand out are Viktor & Rolf and Adam Kimmel. We will keep our ‘fashion’ purchases in Paris consistent with last year and look to grow categories that did look amazing here, such as shoes, accessories and bags.”

Takeru Yamanaka, senior research executive, Apparel-web Inc., Japan: “We found Paris creative, but not so commercial. I found a lot of trends were very similar to Japanese street trends, such as skirts over pants, layering and draping. My favorite collections were Alexis Mabille, Jean Paul Gaultier and Miharayasuhiro. The Japanese fashion market is driven by young people. Our market is still really struggling. Street culture is very hot in Tokyo — luxury, not so much.”

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