Byline: Valerie Meyer

PARIS — Handbags emerged as the key classification at the recent Premiere Classe accessories show here.
Offering broad options in fabrications, colors and shapes, vendors gave buyers a lot for their shelves for fall.
The four-day show ended March 18, with overall attendance flat compared with last year at this time. Roughly 3,300 buyers shopped the sessions, which were held at the Espace Eiffel Branly, near the Eiffel Tower.
Xavier Clergerie, Premiere Classe’s co-founder and organizer, said buyers finally seemed to have accepted this relatively new location for the show.
Until a year ago, the event — together with the Carousel de la Mode ready-to-wear trade shows — was staged under tents in the Tuileries Gardens, adjacent to the Louvre. This time, one rtw show, Paris sur Mode, was held at the same spot as Premiere Classe, but other trade shows were scattered around the city.
While traffic was fairly slow the first two days, some exhibitors noted, the last half of the show picked up. Ordering was often reported light, but steady. One of the main values of the show was the opportunity to develop new customers, exhibitors said.
Reflecting the varied influences of handbag makers this season, Paris designer Peggy Huynh-Kinh showed flat lightweight bags inspired by the plastic duty-free bags common at airports. Her versions were in waterproof, glossy calf leather, supple enough to be folded and packed for travel, she explained.
Another Paris maker, Marie Bouvero, went for retro styles, including Kelly-inspired shapes in crocodile embossing with closures made of white glass balls, or brown nylon and leather mixes with fake tortoise handles.
Ursule Beaugeste, also from Paris, showed knit handbags, including puffy wool versions, with two front pockets, in black, camel and burgundy.
Beth Levine, a New York designer, making her first appearance at the show, commented on international buyers’ keen interest in color.
“I was very surprised by the interest of French buyers in croco-embossed leather totes in bold colors like fuchsia, orange and red,” Levine said. “My American consumers haven’t been ready for those bright tones yet.”
Novelty was in demand.
“French buyers were more interested in our two-tone romantic floral grouping, which featured rich trimmings, than they were in classics,” said Lawrence Green, owner of Santa Monica, Calif.-based hat maker Louise Green, also a newcomer to the show. “The French are looking for the best quality and price is not an issue,” he said.
GArome Gruet, a former designer for the French junior fashion jewelry line Diplodocus, launched his own collection of handmade fashion jewelry in whimsical motifs ranging from globes to golf to sushi carved out of epoxy.
Another fashion jewelry maker from Paris, Serge Thoraval, who specializes in delicate, almost mystical pieces in sterling silver and goldplated steel, added a literary theme to his work for fall. He inscribed verses from Genesis and “Cyrano de Bererac” on padlocks, pendants and bracelets.
New to the show was a special section to highlight upscale accessories called ScAne de Luxe. Eight exhibitors participated: Hanae Mori, Charles Jourdan, Daniel Swarovski, Madeleine Vionnet, Lagerfeld accessories, Lesage, Didier Lamarthe and Jacques Esterel. Swarovski and Lagerfeld were represented only by display cases, however.
Alexandra Bastin, who developed the section, said she hopes the area will be expanded to house about 20 exhibitors at the next show in October.
The Vionnet line included handmade velvet or damask scarves in patterns inspired by Greco-Roman motifs, as well as suede belts and colored sequin purses.
“The section attracted buyers who are familiar with the brand’s quality and are aware of what our prices are,” said Guy Watelin de Lummen, director for the Vionnet collection.

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