PARIS — Color, female empowerment and major shoulder action were among the watchwords of Paris Fashion Week, with retailers largely praising spring collections — but a few crying ho-hum.
“Street and pop culture continues to exert huge influences on collections such as at Stella McCartney and Haider Ackermann. We are now also starting to see a shift from minimalism, which has dominated in the last few seasons,” said Kelly Wong, general merchandise manager of women’s wear and men’s wear at Lane Crawford, lauding the micro pleats, slogan T-shirts, vibrant colors and streetwear touches.
“We foresee that these trends will be well received by the Asian markets, where the customers really appreciate feminine silhouettes and colors. It will also bring a freshness and a new kind of styling to our customers,” she said.
“Paris always crystallizes the season for us and consistently delivers on luxury level fashion,” said Linda Fargo, senior vice president, fashion office and store presentation at Bergdorf Goodman.
“Overall takeaways here include an ease in dressing, as seen in off-the-body dressing, a casualization and coolness seen on the street and editors — i.e. novelty denim and shirting — a clear shift to separates versus dresses, statement item tops as stand-alone purchases,” she added.
Jeffrey Kalinsky, designer fashion director of Nordstrom, lauded a wealth of “everyday sportswear and real clothes that women want wear. Designers are doing a good job of making them feel new and fresh and as a retailer, that really excites us.”
Kalinsky said color, print and an abundance of white and off-the-shoulder looks headline his trends. “I think it was a good season,” he said, singling out Givenchy, Haider Ackermann, Celine and Balenciaga as top collections.
“I thought Paris took a moment to kick in other than Dries Van Noten early in the week, but it’s really ending on a wildly high note,” said Ken Downing, Neiman Marcus’ senior vice president and fashion director. “Pierpaolo Piccioli really showed us his chops on his own at Valentino with a superlative, romantic dream of a collection. I loved Alexander McQueen. At Givenchy, with Riccardo Tisci taking his idea of his girl with an edge, you could’ve seen her walking off the catwalk and onto the street. The collection had some of the coolest bell bottoms and military jackets of the season.”
Downing also stressed the importance of seeing a solidarity of ideas across collections — specifically ruffles and flounces and redefined shirting. “They’re on every runway,” he said. “It makes the season feel really strong and that’s important to the fashion client, especially when there’s so much malaise at retail.”
Trend-wise, he stressed bright color, lamé shimmer, disco-meets-Nineties and big earrings that complement bare shoulders. He predicts a comeback for the high heel after seasons of so many flats.
He also praised Paris’ strong job with security at shows. “I don’t know if people want to talk about it, but Paris needs to hear that we appreciate that the front of house people have been so polite and respectful,” said Downing. “It feels good to see such a show of security and concern as we go to a lot of these locations.”
“Globally the season is more feminine and delicate, coming back to more fluidity for sensuality and also sexiness for some brands,” said Alix Morabito, fashion editor at Galeries Lafayette. “The energy of Paris Fashion Week is really strong and the content is deep.”
Morabito lauded collections by Loewe, Céline, Off-White and Balenciaga while Aalto, Wanda Nylon and Koché are the new designers that are growing up.
“It was a very strong season with lots of changes, new directions for the most established houses like Dior, Valentino and Saint Laurent and exciting development for younger labels like Off-White and Sacai, both launching handbags on the runway,” said Laure Hériard Dubreuil, cofounder and chief executive officer of The Webster.
Kitten heels, oversize bags and statement earrings were among the items she felt had the most commercial potential.
“There was so much anticipation for this Paris Fashion Week with all of the changes. This season is so important in setting the fashion landscape for the coming years,” said Roopal Patel, senior vice president and fashion director at Saks Fifth Avenue.
“It did not disappoint with Maria Grazia’s poetic debut at Dior, Pierpaolo’s first solo collection at Valentino, Bouchra Jarrar’s feminine and light collection at Lanvin and Anthony Vaccarello’s celebration on the Saint Laurent spirit at his debut show.
“It was exciting to see so many women leading the creative direction and vision this season,” she added. “You could really feel the sense of girl power.”
Patel’s key trends include trench dressing, graphic color and pattern play, shirting, embellishment and shine, metallic and pleats, graphic stripes, statement T-shirts, Victorian dressing, ruffles, bustiers, ankle-wrap sandals, oversize and frame handbags.
“The empowerment of women, which we have seen throughout the season from New York to Paris with the strong shoulder and return of the jacket, enables us to bring a new point of view to dressing for our career customer,” said Mario Grauso, president of Holt Renfrew. “This is such an important message in the global market right now and fashion seems to be celebrating it.”
Voluminous and bold shoulders headline trends along with easy, fluid dresses, blouses and pants done in pleated and lace fabrications, plus sports-inflected accessories like sock boots and cross-body bags, Grauso said.
He cited a lack of special eveningwear, however. “This has been a concern throughout the market,” he said.
“I thought Paris looked exceptionally strong, partly due to the influx of emerging new talent from all over the world showing their collections in Paris. We have made some exciting new discoveries,” said Suzanne Timmins, senior vice president and fashion director at Hudson’s Bay Co., mentioning such labels as Vejas, Delada, Ms Min, Y/Project, Xu Zhi and Christopher Esber. “The season felt feminine and romantic with an historical leaning. Long flowing dresses and skirts, fluted and exaggerated sleeves, embroidery, exposed shoulders and corsetry – all very commercial.”
Street, sport, Nineties and men’s wear influences figured, while key items included shirting, long dresses and skirts, the one-size blazer, khakis and cargos, statement sleeve tops, super-wide trousers, bold earrings and pointy-toe pumps, Timmins added.
“It was a strong Paris season with an emphasis on real clothes and wearability,” said Sarah Rutson, vice president of global buying at Net-a-porter.com. “Our business is having good growth and we continue to grow our open-to-buys for the season.The street and sportswear focus continues to influence the collections. Customers will respond strongly to the cult items and the dress-down approach to styling.”
While most praised the collections, several buyers were lukewarm on the Paris shows.
“I found this fashion week a little bit less exciting than the previous one,” lamented Riccardo Tortato, fashion director of e-commerce at Tsum in Moscow and DLT in St. Petersburg. “I did not get the ‘wow’ effect from any show and haven’t seen any brand new exciting designers.”
Tortato said too many designers were influenced by the streetwise codes of Vetements, bringing a sameness to collections.
“My colleague and I were laughing every time we saw another model walking in an off-shoulder jacket or in a long-sleeves shirt – quite boring and lacking originality,” he said. “I think this was more the fault of the fashion stylists that work on the show rather than the designers themselves.”
Tortato said he appreciated Balmain and Valentino, the latter “the clearest expression of elegance and exclusivity. Also, I have been in the YSL showroom and I found a really amazing collection. I think we will all be surprised how much Anthony Vaccarello will improve YSL in the next seasons.”
Tiziana Cardini, fashion director of La Rinascente, called the Paris season “uneven — a few underwhelming debuts were counterbalanced by some great shows,” she said, mentioning Valentino, McQueen and Balenciaga. “They were all excellent, with a strong, focused vision. Also young edgy brands like Atlein and Vejas were very interesting and promising.”
Cardini said trends were few, or contradictory, meaning most customers will mix and match to create a personal look.
“Shirts of every kind are still big, as are feminine, long, printed dresses. The silhouette is elongated and fluid; oversize proportions and asymmetries keep volumes and shapes interesting; yellow and pink are happy, joyful summer colors,” she said.
“Paris is always the place where designers express very free and strong creations; however we felt it was quieter with a gentle mood, which we attribute to the tough economy,” said Noriyuki Hashizume, general manager of the luxury brands division, Isetan Mitsukoshi. “We feel designers are confused about how to find a good balance between sales and creativity.”
Hashizume’s standout collections included Chanel, “the collection and accessories were inspired not only by luxury but also technology”; Rick Owens, and Comme des Garçons. The main trends were the new femininity and body-conscious styles.
Scott Tepper, fashion buying and merchandising director at Liberty, said he found Paris “a bit less vivid than usual, after all of the optimistic and even exuberant collections we saw in other cities. The mood was more somber here.”
He noted he would keep Paris budgets for spring flat and edits tight.
“We were happy to see the variety of pleating techniques continue, this is such an easy trend to wear and it utilizes color so well. The variety of flat shoes was terrific to see; it’s going to be a great shoe season. We were disappointed to see so much black on the Paris runways. It is difficult to imagine clients racing to brick-and-mortar stores to buy more expensive black clothes come next March.”
“We felt that the designers’ proposal was more about being conservative than innovative,” said Marie de Reynies, head of women’s fashion at Printemps. “The shows were very focused on styling and craftsmanship more than the artistic direction itself.”
De Reynies said she preferred collections that mixed “beautiful workmanship and caring for women’s beauty,” mentioning Haider Ackermann, Céline and Valentino among examples.
Key trends in her view included dresses, asymmetric silhouettes, a predominance of cotton poplin, micro pleats, big jewels and flat shoes, while bags were either small and worn cross-body or big.
Jennifer Cuvillier, head of style, and Elodie Abrial, women’s fashion director, at Le Bon Marché, said they found the Paris season exciting with “a strong power of creativity and dynamism from the established designers and from the young talent.”
Dior, Loewe, Off-White, Valentino and Lanvin were “really beautiful this season with a fresh vision and creativity,” they noted. “The effortless dressy look continues to be important in Paris with the elegant pajamas and chic robe used as summer coats, including the sleepers sandals that complete this super elegant silhouette,” Cuvillier and Abrial said.
“It was an interesting season with all these new designers in big houses,” said Sarah Andelmann, creative director and purchasing manager at Colette, who praised Noir, Undercover and Balenciaga. “I was happy to receive immediately off the runway Sacai and Off-White bags and they’re already bestsellers.”
“The collections that are getting our attention are those that reflect the desires of an increasingly demanding customer who is after creative, niche, insider brands with limited distribution,” said Armand Hadida, founder of L’Eclaireur, declining to cite examples. “Our buyers have been busy scouting collections in the city’s trade shows, showrooms and presentations by independent labels.”
Coco Chan, head of women’s ready-to-wear and accessories at Stylebop.com, lauded the pullback in “overwrought” messages on the runway.
“If I had to summarize the season in a single phrase, it would be ‘dressed for change.’ For me, the best collections took this air of uncertainty and channeled it into something prescient and poetic, and just a bit undone,” she said. “That’s how I interpreted the magpie approach to styling, the focus on mismatched separates, the unusual hues, the flirtation with good taste/bad taste and the oversized proportions that felt almost found, at times slipping off.”
Chan lauded the “powerful color” on the catwalks and the attention on rounded or dropped shoulders, voluminous sleeves or linebacker style jackets. The most street-friendly take is the mutton-sleeve blouse which appeared in almost every collection and is an instant silhouette refresher, she said.
Helen David, chief merchant at Harrods, called out Valentino as the standout of the entire season.
“Pierpaolo Piccioli delivered an absolutely mesmerizing collection. A continuation of his stunning dresses, flowing airy gowns, and the usual dusting of intricately embroidered tulle. Gone were any tricky styles and stiff fabrics, replaced with beautiful Zandra Rhodes silk prints in every shade of pink, and a gown for every possible occasion.”
Piccioli also “managed to pretty much hit every trend of the season in one show – pink as the new black, girly feminine and romantic dressing; slouchy nonchalance; trench coats everywhere, and easy layered dressing. Gowns as daywear and haute casual dressing,” she said.
David’s other highlights included Balmain, Balenciaga and Alexander McQueen.
Beth Buccini of Kirna Zabête named Céline, Sacai and Off-White as her top collections. Her trends included track pants, velvet, pink and red, shirting, street and branding. The key categories she’s buying into are oversize handbags, statement earrings, wide-leg pants and graphic T-shirts.
Barneys New York named Balenciaga, Céline, Haider Ackermann, Junya Watanabe, Maison Margiela, Loewe, Dries Van Noten and Delvaux as its top collections. Jennifer Sunwoo, executive vice president and general merchandising manager, also called out Unravel, Esteban Cortazar, Adaptation, Fiorucci and Walter de Silva.
Her key categories included statement separates, novelty shirts as seen at Balenciaga, graphic slogan Ts from Haider Ackermann, Junya Watanabe, Dior and Stella McCartney, and jackets.
“We loved the embellished beaded finale jackets from Dries, the beautiful watercolor kimono robes and blazers from Haider, and the convertible trench coats at Margiela,” said Sunwoo.
Brooke Jaffe, operating vice president, fashion director, women’s ready to wear at Bloomingdale’s, said, “There was a lot to feel good about in Paris this season. The enthusiasm surrounding female designers taking the reins at some of the biggest houses felt really relevant.”
Her favorite collections included Christian Dior, Chloe, Fenty x Puma,
Lanvin, Isabel Marant, Valentino, Chanel and Giambattista Valli.
Jaffe said the shirt was spring’s must-have item. “Seeing novelty carry
through to Paris to a greater degree felt noteworthy,” she added.
Elizabeth and Dominick Lepore, owners and buyers for Jimmy’s in Brooklyn and the Hamptons, cited favorite collections as Elie Saab, Off-White, Alessandra Rich and Barbara Bui. Trends including mixing colors and patterns like lingerie fabrics with tweed.
“Each designer played with proportions, fabrics and silhouettes, making the girl in the know be ‘in fashion’ when she’s not wearing a full matching ensemble,” they said. “From chic streetwear to over-the-top Seventies and Eighties-influenced beading, we were overall impressed where many of the fashion houses are taking us for spring.”
As to the general ambience in the city and at the shows, they said: “Paris was also clouded by the events in the city and around the world in recent months and weeks, with a strong sense of security within all of the shows, showrooms and on the streets.”