Byline: Ruth Benoit / Sarah Raper

PARIS — There were three main messages at the latest edition of the Pret-a-Porter show here: lots of color for spring-summer 2000, embellishments galore and, according to fashion-forward exhibitors, stronger-than-usual traffic.
The Atmosphere d’Ete section of the show, featuring the most directional resources, exploded with floral embroidered jeans and fabrics for both day and evening. There was a gypsy, bohemian feel to many of the clothes, echoing looks from the March runways, and flowing, full-length skirts were plentiful. Bright colors such as fuchsia, yellow, aqua green and blue dominated, and there was also plenty of white.
“The Pret-a-Porter is an important show for fabric and color trends. I feel there is a return to beautiful noble fabrics like cotton and linen and we’re seeing less techno fabrics compared with past seasons,” said Brigitte Bensimon, manager for Saks Fifth Avenue at the Mint buying office here. “There are lots of prints — many inspired by Liberty, Pucci or Gucci. They are very lively.”
“We’ve turned the page on minimalism and sport looks. Buyers are interested in prints and beading on knits and jersey,” said James Kuhn, sales director for Indivi by Atsuro Tayama. “Orders on Indivi are running between 15 and 20 percent ahead of spring-summer last year. Atmosphere has been a very good show for us with a lot of buyers every day.”
However, Kuhn attributed most of Indivi’s gains in orders to clients buying deeper, rather than to new clients.
Although every exhibitor surveyed in Atmosphere said buyer turnout was unusually strong for the four-day event, which ended Sept. 6 at the Porte de Versailles exhibition hall, the official numbers for the whole Pret were virtually flat at 46,732 visitors. Attendance from the U.S. was up 15 percent, but specific figures were not available.
One of the busiest stands was Isabel Marant’s. She showed more than 300 pieces, her largest collection ever, and there was an accent on strong color, especially pink mixed with reds, Liberty prints and lots of detailing, including ruffles on necklines and sleeves, Mexican-inspired embroideries and little ties on the sleeves of blouses.
“I’ve moved away from the khaki and brown color scheme I normally use. I wanted to brighten things up for spring,” Marant said.
Marant also unveiled a new jeans and T-shirt line called Etoile, priced 30 to 40 percent under the main line.
Marant will open her second boutique at the end of October on the Left Bank. Her first store is in Paris’s 11th Arrondissement.
Several brands showed for the first time at Atmosphere, including French designer Fabrice Couturier, the Majestic T-shirt company, Christian Tournafol and French jeanswear resource Donna Tchoucha.
Couturier, who is best known for renting a bus to show his collection outside the venues of more established designers’ runway shows last season, unveiled a new line called BGN Test. A twinset wholesales for about $61 and a jacket for $87.
Bensimon and others praised Christian Tournafol’s collection, which featured a long dress looking like a sweater over a skirt. In fact, striped cotton knit tops produced in Brittany are sewn to taffeta skirts and one had an attached hood. It wholesales for $150. He also showed lacy, old-fashioned-looking long sweaters in green and yellow. This was Tournafol’s fifth collection; previously he had exhibited in the Expressions section of the Pret for new designers.
Donna Tchoucha is a label designed by Cecilia Sebaoun with a significant jeans component in addition to stretch leather and cotton stretch looks. Previously, the company showed at Who’s Next. “There are too many jeaners and we’re a little too feminine for that show,” said Sebaoun. She said that she was trying to introduce new shapes in denim. For example, there was an open-backed jumpsuit with an apron front. Prices for denim range from $55 to $78 wholesale.
Also at the show, Sofie d’Hoore showed simple dresses and full-length skirts in a Japanese cotton in pretty shades like light pink, violet and coral.
“I liked the beautiful cottons and the simple, easy shapes,” Bensimon of Mint said of the collection. Detailing included overstitched pockets and drawstring pants with a button on the hem for a sporty feel. A three-button cashmere wrap could also be worn as a top.
Dice, the second line of designer Dice Kayek, featured colorful embroidered dresses, skirts and tops in blue and white denim. There were ribbed knit tops, dresses with tiny shoulder straps and a bright pink cotton dress with a floral embroidered transparent tulle overskirt.
The four-year-old company Bruns Bazaar took a small stand at Atmosphere for the first time, not to write orders but to showcase a small selection from the collection and encourage buyers to see the full line at the showroom. Based in Copenhagen and designed by Bjorn Brun and five studio designers all under 30 years of age, the company has a boutique in Paris with plans to open a store in London early next year. For spring-summer 2000, Bruns Bazaar showed a bohemian look mixing printed fabrics. Also on display were cream leather motorcycle pants, a pink patchwork apron and circle mirrors on a shirt.
Buyers tend to be more skeptical of the designers in the Expressions section of the Pret and it’s understandable since most are commercially unproven, but it’s a good place to sniff out the up-and-coming designers and to get a wide sampling from different markets, including Spain, Norway and Portugal. It also has a creative, laboratory edge lacking elsewhere at the Pret.
One promising designer, Jose Enrique Ona Selfa, who graduated from the Brussels fashion school La Cambre this year, showed his portfolio — photographs of his pieces including intricately detailed knits. “I won this stand at Expressions as part of my graduation prize, but it’s a bit of a lost cause. My collection was winter and the season on show is spring, so I decided to just show my portfolio,” he said.
Maria Lusia Poumaillou, who owns the eponymous boutique in Paris and was part of the jury for the La Cambre’s end-of-year show, bought 15 pieces directly from his collection and said she plans to feature the designer’s clothes in all her windows during the October ready-to- wear shows.
Spanish designer Josep Font created a modern take on traditional flamenco clothes. Full-length chiffon polkadot skirts were layered over taffeta skirts matched with beautiful knit cardigans for a gypsy look.
With a store in the Marais neighborhood of Paris since 1997, Korean-born designer Iroo presented his collection spotlighting interesting fabrics. There were polyester and cotton mixes with fluorescent stitching; crinkled polyester tops and pedal pushers, and pretty dresses and skirts in paper-like fabric with tiny yellow rosebud details. Iroo plans to have a runway show during Paris fashion week.