DUSSELDORF — With a tough year behind them and another one expected ahead, German retailers were out in force, looking for something new to perk up business, at the recent CPD fashion fair here.
The trends for the upcoming fall season were clear: While long remains an option, the main message for fall is short, with skirt hems, at least on runways and displays, landing well above the knee to mid-thigh. The most talked about silhouette, the popular city suit, is body-conscious and fitted.
Some critics say the trend is too clear, as vendors catering to all age and price segments came out with essentially the same new look in similar colors and fabrics, ignoring the growing trend seen on the streets where German daughters indicate they want to look like anything but their mothers. CPD itself made a bow to a younger mood with a retailer party held on the eve of the fair, showing club looks from young designer firms in a rave atmosphere.
Yet the general consistency among more established vendors may be in response to the problem cited by Klaus Steilmann, one of Germany’s largest apparel manufacturers, who noted that in a recent consumer poll women complained that “they didn’t know what fashion is anymore because the assortment has been too wide and diverse.”
The consistency also left room for a variety of other looks, including Empire in dresses, jumpers and coats; A-line in dresses, skirts and knitted tunic tops; the belted blazer with a 3/4-inch wide belt with a sculpted silver buckle, and the little slipdress in sequins or satin. Activewear fleece and quilted nylon parkas, aviator jackets and ski vests were other ideas.
At any rate, the fair was a brisk event. The four-day show, which ran through Feb. 8, pulled a total of 56,615 visitors, up 4 percent from a year ago. Buyers came from 65 countries, and new visitors came mainly from Scandinavia, Austria, Switzerland, the Arabian states and Asia. The fair also boasted a record 2,254 exhibitors, while scores of others presented lines in private showrooms and at the Hilton Hotel here.
As the first show of the season, CPD is primarily an information-gathering event, with buyers making appointments to write at a later date in showrooms, at regional fairs or at the Igedo show in Dusseldorf to be held March 5-7. Fair organizers estimated that retailers placed nearly 18 percent of their fall-winter open-to-buy at the show, somewhat less than at the CPD of a year ago.
Runway shows were packed, and a special event was the Vivienne Westwood retrospective, which highlighted her collections from fall 1991 on and had the audience cheering in the aisles. The show included a six-outfit preview of her fall 1995 collection, with her bustle look moving into a modified hourglass silhouette, most dramatically in a black glitter Mae West-look evening gown with train and a square neckline cut breathtakingly low.
Escada once again became the talk of the town with a rejuvenated collection, and while creative consultant Todd Oldham was snowed in in New York, his input was present as the collection paraded its more updated silhouettes and modern whimsical touches.
The response from Escada customers, said the group’s chief executive officer Wolfgang Ley, has been predominantly enthusiastic.
“We expected some to think we’ve gone too forward, too young, but they said it was exactly what they wanted,” Ley said, adding he expected the collection’s worldwide sales to grow 15 to 20 percent for fall against a year ago. This projection, he said, “is very good in a difficult market. Europe is awful.”
Among others in the 13-show lineup, Bogner was one of the standouts with its elegant translation of prevailing trends, while the newer Chris by Mondi line went its own way with young innovative knits in unusual textures, colors that ranged from pristine pale to wild brights and frequent Courrèges-like shapes. Chris is the “fashion leader” in the Mondi group, said Mondi International marketing director Fidelius von Rehbinder.
“We don’t expect sales to be huge,” he said, but it has prospects of being placed in top high-fashion boutiques.
The American manufacturer and retailer presence in Dusseldorf was limited, as always, but certainly not without notice. The showroom of St. John Knits, of Irvine, Calif., was bustling. Marta Prager, director of European sales, said that accounts were more than doubling last fall’s buys, with the line offering more for the younger customers and stores looking to do corners or in-store boutiques for the collection.
Last year, St. John did $3 million in sales in Europe, and Prager projected that will at least double in 1995.
Mark Badgley and James Mischka, of New York, were in Dusseldorf for the first time with their Badgley Mischka Studio line of cocktail and evening wear. Associated with the Escada Group for the last three years, the collection drew a steady stream of German, English and Belgian better specialty store clients.
“We’ve sold a few accounts in Europe before, but it was not a market we’d previously pursued or really tapped into,” president Mischka said. “We were surprised just how international the market here is. The styles that are strongest in New York are the strongest here.”
The Quebec-based day-to-evening wear collection Joseph Ribkoff was another North American resource getting attention. According to president Frank Lyman, the company “just about doubled” its business at the fair this season. “But it’s been pretty good for us here for the last year and half,” he said.