AS THE SEASON ENDS, RETAILERS UNANIMOUSLY LOVE PARIS IN THE FALL

Byline: Miles Socha / Robert Murphy

PARIS — Great clothes, strong trends and ideal for retail.
That was the consensus among retailers who attended fashion week here, with some vowing to shift budgets to the French fall collections, which they described as stellar. They particularly praised Paris’ spectacular outerwear, novelty pants, voluminous skirts and — hallelujah — some color.
“We will be doing some serious buying here,” said Robert Burke, vice president and senior fashion director at Bergdorf Goodman. “There is a lot of energy coming out of Paris, whereas Milan was very safe.” He said standout collections included Alexander McQueen, Yves Saint Laurent, Comme des Garcons, John Galliano, Christian Dior and Istvan Francer
“Paris got my adrenaline going,” agreed Sue Patneaude, vice president of designer apparel at Nordstrom. “I am so charged. I feel very optimistic and upbeat and business is pretty good right now.” She also suggested budgets for Paris would be boosted, given the strength of the season.
Jaqui Lividini, senior vice president, fashion merchandising at Saks Fifth Avenue, said the Paris collections were both “directional and commercial, which is an ideal combination for retailers.” She described “folk luxe” as a key trend, exemplified by Dries Van Noten’s stellar collection. She also praised collections that drew inspiration from couture, including Jean Paul Gaultier and Christian Dior.
Burke agreed many French collections had a handmade, couture quality and a strong sense of individuality, evident in such items as outerwear with embroidery and other trimmings from Viktor & Rolf, Chanel and Andrew Gn.
Joan Kaner, senior vice president and fashion director at Neiman Marcus, applauded the Paris season for its diversity. “There were wonderful coats and outerwear and marvelous cream and off-white knits,” she said. “There was lots of variety in Paris. The important messages were the mix. Depending on how an item is worn it can be young and stylish or more mature.” Kaner cited McQueen, Chanel, YSL and a “stellar” Emanuel Ungaro show as standouts.
Kaner said the must-have item of the season was a novelty pant. “It can be cropped or a cargo version,” she said. “Or a knickers in velvet, like at Yves Saint Laurent. The pants can be skinny or wide.”
Kal Ruttenstein, senior vice president of fashion direction at Bloomingdale’s, said the Paris message was color. “After all the sad, dark black or neutrals in Milan and New York, color is good news,” he said. “Business is not the same post 9/11. We think color stimulates sales.”
He said the silhouette news this season was the oversized blouson over skinny pants. Meanwhile, he said he doubted culottes and tailcoats, shown in several collections here, would sell.
Ruttenstein’s favorite collections were Yves Saint Laurent, Dior, John Galliano, McQueen, Givenchy, Stella McCartney, Yohji Yamamoto, Louis Vuitton and Lanvin.
Patneaude described the skirt as an emerging category and predicted an outstanding outerwear season on the strength of coats that are embroidered, appliqued and otherwise made special.
Other trends and items mentioned by retailers included blouses with sleeve details, cropped leather jackets, shaggy sweaters and velvet.

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