Byline: Sarah Raper / Ruth Benoit / Katherine Weisman

PARIS — “I always come to the Paris trade shows looking for something unusual that you don’t have to fight for,” said Rita Brookhoff, who owns the Legacy store in New York’s SoHo.
Buyers from independent boutiques and from larger specialty stores toured four ready-to-wear shows held here last month, looking for that something unusual.
Traffic was steady at most of the venues. Paris Sur Mode drew 2,031 visitors and Workshop had 2,454. The two Espace Carole de Bona shows had a total of 6,000 visitors, but many of those were not buyers, organizers said. Tranoi and Atmosphere did not release figures.
Key trends spotted at the shows included bright color, such as pinks and reds, and bright prints everywhere. Even furs came in pink and bright blue. Knits are a staple: Although they came in all shapes and gauges, several designers said smaller knits were big for fall-winter 2000.
Some of the strongest praise from buyers came for the Workshop and Carole de Bona venues, including the new addition to Carole de Bona on the Avenue Montaigne.
At Workshop, which she called “exceptional,” Brookhoff picked up the knits and wovens from Alianto, a Barcelona company; shirts, dresses and other separates crafted from vintage scarves by Paris’s Gallego Desportes, and handbags from Dognin.
Gimenez & Zuazo, also based in Barcelona, participated in Workshop for the first time. The line featured red brushed wool coats and jackets, unstructured boucle suits and wool flannel separates with unfinished hems. Designer Jorge Zuazo was pleased with the show and said two new Japanese accounts had bought the fall line.
Brookhoff picked up Dognin accessories, a Paris label in its first season. Looks included red and black totes lined with a black and white herringbone tweed from French fabric house Dormeuil and with other shaped handbags, lined either in the tweed or suede. The bags wholesale between $80 and $127. Designer Luc Dognin, who once worked at Celine, said he also took orders from Legacy in New York and The Tiny Jewel Box in Washington. The Clueless accessories line, a younger, less expensive line from Hong Kong’s Babe, was also in its first season. There were small, unstructured beaded bags for day and evening and amusing knit bags with embroidery. The bags, made in China, have a wholesale range of $30 to $45.
The Tranoi show ran for four days at the Bourse de Commerce, and included first-timer participant Diane Von Furstenberg. Her prints drew buyers to the company’s stand, according to Astrid Martheleur, vice president of sales for Diane Von Furstenberg Studio LP.
“Tranoi is an exclusive trade show, and it validates us as a design resource,” Martheleur said. She noted that the Von Furstenberg name didn’t enjoy the kind of familiarity here that it does in the U.S., and the dresses and separates had to prove themselves on international turf. The goal at the show was to get new non-American clients to expand a roster that already includes Joseph and Browns in London, Colette in Paris and Joyce in Hong Kong. At Tranoi, the label picked up orders from Greece, Italy, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, and broadened U.K. sales outside London.
“Even domestic accounts that don’t buy us at home bought us here, like Ruth Shaw in Baltimore,” Martheleur noted with some surprise.
Anna Sui was attending Tranoi for its second season. The line was picked up by Galeries Lafayette — among other accounts — for a new design concept shop to be launched in September, explained Joanne Yellin, vice president of sales for the New York designer. Susanne Bommer, a Munich designer who launched her signature line six years ago, was showing for the fourth season at Tranoi. She mixes colors and materials, such as a fuchsia three-quarter coat lined with beige tulle and paired with a beige tulle skirt embellished with fuchsia wool squares. Wholesale prices range from about $89 for pants to $224 for the pink wool coat. The line sells to about 50 stores in North America and Japan, including Tracy Ross in Los Angeles and Detour in New York, said Zaim Kamal, sales representative, adding that Tranoi brought in 10 new accounts.
Other ready-to-wear highlights at Tranoi were Mira by Mira Mikati, a whimsical collection of raw denim separates and handbags, and wood handbags that are either hand-painted or have some embroidery. The collection is based in London and production is out of Paris. The jeans wholesale for about $75.
At the Jardin des Tuileries, Paris Sur Mode enjoyed a steady stream of visitors in five days. The show touched on many major trends, and there were generous helpings of knits. Delphine Wilson, an English knitwear designer, was a newcomer to Paris Sur Mode after showing several times at Workshop.
“I’m quite pleased — I sold to Ron Herman and to stores in Belgium and Germany for the first time,” Wilson said.
She noted that buyers were most interested in smaller knits in natural materials, and said a narrow long-sleeved sweater in half cashmere and half silk wholesaling for $199 was a popular item. “They’re moving away from bulky looks. There is still interest in high necks, but the look is much more fitted.”
She also pointed out that interest in surface textures was less important and natural fibers were better.
“They complement leather and fur so well,” she said.
At Brach & Brach, a three-year-old English sportswear firm, bestsellers were a long-sleeved wrap dress in silk chiffon that wholesaled for $81 and a $35 stretchy bikini set with matching bag.
“It’s our first winter season doing them, and they are ridiculously popular,” said Hanna Salfield, an assistant to designer Teresa Brach.
One of the most eye-catching stands at Paris Sur Mode was Karl Donoghue, an English fur resource that specializes in braided rabbit. A spokeswoman reported that bright teal and fuchsia pieces attracted buyers, even though many stuck with black or natural colors when it came to writing orders — “except for the U.S. buyers. They are buying the colors,” said the spokeswoman. “At the London show there were concerns about PETA.”
Another newcomer was Kristyne Rispoli, a Paris designer who said her long-coated, stretch nylon dress with fishnet cutout was her bestseller. It wholesaled for $131, while a mohair cardigan that converted to a jacket was $178.
Carole de Bona’s new venue on the Avenue Montaigne housed 12 designers, including avant-garde names like Andre Walker and Carrie Rossman, in a plush setting with red carpet and gilt furniture. The primary venue, on the Rue de Richelieu, a central shopping area in Paris’s second arrondissement, grouped 22 exhibitors in a two-level space.
Carol de Bona, the organizer of the show bearing her name, said the Premiere Vision fabric fair, which took place the same weekend, ate into traffic and even meant exhibitors had to juggle their time at the fair as well.
“We saw a lot more Japanese buyers at the Richelieu space, where the collections are more commercial. The Americans were more interested in the Avenue Montaigne exhibitors, where creativity and unique pieces were stronger,” she said.
Helene Zubeldia, now in her eighth season, said she was disappointed with the low turnout of foreign buyers.
“We were expecting to see clients from Italy, the United Kingdom and the United States, but there were a lot of no-shows,” she said. She did report, however, strong business with the Japanese market. Bestsellers included natural latex T-shirts in metallic gray and copper, wholesaling for $38. Zubeldia also showed tweed separates with raw fringe hems in khaki and brown tones. Full taffeta skirts that fall below the knee were a tough sell, though.
“I was surprised, because it was such an important look during the couture, but I think it will take a few seasons to translate into the street,” she said.
Walker was doing his first trade show appearance. “I signed eight new boutiques that I would not have been able to reach otherwise, so it was a great success for me,” said Walker. Bestsellers were silk double-faced cocoon jackets with trompe l’-il designs wholesaling between $295 and $440.