PRET OFFERS NO CONSENSUS
Byline: Rebecca Kleinman
PARIS — An anything-goes approach to fashion prevailed at the Pret-a-Porter trade show that ended Jan. 29 at Paris’s Porte de Versailles exhibition halls.
That left some retailers trying to make sense of the show by using it as an inspirational overview for the upcoming fall-winter season. Others said they would rely on tried-and-true lines or simply stick to more basic looks.
“Since there isn’t a general trend, it’s up to the retailer more than ever to pick what’s suitable for her customer,” said Isabelle Guichard, owner of Zeus boutique in Angers, France. “I tried to follow summer’s feminine, yet modern trend, with less formal pieces.”
In the absence of any strong consensus on color, embellishment or silhouette, texture emerged as a key trend at the show. Describing pieces as “organic” and “natural,” manufacturers showed lots of knits, tweeds, patchwork, corduroy, velvet and tulle. Knits also emerged as a standout category with lots of innovation.
Retailers across the board, from P.G.W. Stoutenbeek, owner of a small boutique in Haarlem, Holland, to Mary Gallagher, fashion consultant for London-based Harvey Nichols, responded enthusiastically to the new knits.
“I was amazed at the amount of knitwear this season, namely the strong comeback of intarsia,” said Gallagher, adding that tweeds, hairy fibers like mohair and cashmere were strong, too. Although Harvey Nichols buyers won’t write orders until the runway shows in New York, Milan and Paris, Gallagher singled out the collection Les Prairies de Paris for its edgy spin.
Another texture story, tweeds, moved on to a new chapter from a year ago with updated additions like piping, Lurex, frayed and asymmetrical hems and embroidery, sequin, lace and tulle embellishment. Dusseldorf-based Sabine Schumacher presented a group of tweeds speckled in earth tones and sparkling with square, iridescent sequins, while Helena Sorel, a firm in Marseilles, France, showed a beige, tweed suit with gold lurex and piping.
“It’s texture mixed with detail that makes fashion special, modern and new,” said Sorel’s export manager, Myriam Savoye.
Known for its quality fabrics, Paris-based Paule Vasseur also spiced up signature Irish and Scottish tweeds with fur, embroidery or lace and mohair cuffs and collars.
For Marie Pedat, owner of Un Jour ou L’Autre boutique in Annecy, France, near Geneva, tweeds have always sold well, especially in mountainous areas due to their classical, sporty appeal, but she noted that progressive versions should excite new customers.
Offbeat combinations of fabrics, including elaborate, romantic patchworks, carried throughout many collections. This ragamuffin look also joined forces with texture in the form of washed corduroy, velvet and denim.
Retailer Stoutenbeek stressed the importance of washed treatments.
“It has to look raggedy,” he said. “For example, normal velvet looks too elegant, ladylike or dowdy.”
Stoutenbeek said the rich, if sometimes raggedy-looking fabrics are emblematic of a good economy in Europe. He said his main concerns were finding collections that are not overly distributed and ones that are hip, yet not too youthful, for his mature clientele.
Exhibitors had mixed assessments of traffic and order taking at the shows, with some reporting double-digit increases and others lamenting they failed to reach their targets.
Hansjorg Geiger, president of Geiger, called the figures business as usual, whereas Xavier Faurneret, co-owner of Accostages, found them disappointing.
“We got a lot of new customers from Italy, but it still wasn’t enough for our goals,” he said.
Organizers estimated attendance at the four-day fair at 38,400, an increase of about 2 percent over last year.