Byline: Marc Karimzadeh

PARIS — While U.S. retailers gave praise to the Paris designer collections, they were disappointed overall with the relative flatness of accessories trends at the Premiere Classe and Tranoi trade shows. Vendors were still pleased by the action, however, particularly in handbags and scarves.
Held simultaneously on the last weekend of the Paris runway shows, some retailers noted that despite the international nature of exhibiting vendors, the shows lacked in new and noteworthy resources.
“[At Premiere Classe] I found some interesting items,” said Sandra Wilson, fashion director for accessories at Neiman Marcus in Dallas. “There didn’t seem to be too many new people, but I would say, of all the different classifications, there was more variety and interest in handbag novelty resources and fewer novel ideas from the jewelry.”
Wilson declined to say which lines she selected for Neiman Marcus, however she noted that there was some interest with “a couple of scarf items.” Tranoi offered fewer resources, with a “very similar offering as they have in the past with few new offerings,” Wilson noted.
“Premiere Classe had some great accessories, but I didn’t find as much as in fall, where the focus was so much on fur,” said Stephanie Greenfield, owner of Scoop, a contemporary specialty retailer based in New York.
Greenfield said the jewelry offering “was really off,” and she “wasn’t wild about Tranoi.”
For spring, she bought a snakeskin hobo-style bag from The Jacksons at Premiere Classe, and she picked up some striped beach bags at Tranoi’s Lulu Guiness.
“I wish I could have found more belts,” she said, noting she bought the six available belts at Jade Inc., which were in either yellow gold or silver napa leather with chain-style embroidery.
“My old favorites were looking great,” she said. “But I was looking for some great resources, and I wasn’t that wowed.”
As usual, many merchants came to Paris expecting to find new talent. The absence of this may have disappointed some, but others saw it as an opportunity to write orders with vendors they already sell or commit to lines they weren’t sure about in previous seasons. “[The shows] have different personalities and they were consistent with that,” said Judith Collinson, Barneys New York’s executive vice president and general merchandise manager for the women’s division.
Collinson declined to comment on the accessories she ordered for Barneys, however she said she wasn’t disappointed.
Heidi Cohen, associate buyer for handbags, jewelry and belts at New York’s Henri Bendel, said that when buying, she needed to bear in mind that basics are currently trending with the Bendel customer.
“I saw so many things, but I don’t know how much I am going to write,” she said. “The whole oversize handbag trend is coming back and Exquisite J is a line I will write.”
Overall, Cohen also found scarves and handbags stronger than the jewelry resources, though she bought some pieces from Premiere Classe’s jewelry designer Medecine Douce.
There was less for the Bendel customer at Tranoi, although Cohen noted Jade Inc. had a particularly strong spring collection.
Despite lackluster reactions from buyers, vendors at Premiere Classe and Tranoi were nevertheless pleased with the size of orders, in particular, from U.S. retailers who benefited from a stronger exchange rate than in previous seasons.
“Premiere Classe was really very good,” said Christianne Douglas, designer at Coleman Douglas Pearls.
Douglas said U.S. buyers particularly liked the bigger, bolder pieces, including the rough fluoride or amethyst necklaces with pearls filling the spaces. The general trend is away from the traditional white pearl necklace and at Coleman Douglas, items such as pearl body pieces moving from the shoulders to the hips and toe rings generated much interest, Douglas said.
Stephanie Levy, owner of the New York-based showroom Metropolitan Design Group, was at Premiere Classe with some of the lines she represents. These included Ursule Beaugeste, Lola and Colette Malouf. Overall, Levy said the embellishment trend of previous seasons is slowing down with buyers looking for “clean and chic” alternatives.
“It’s about color, form and sophistication, with a lot more handheld bags than shoulder bags,” Levy said, adding that hats have strengthened, citing Lola as having a strong season.
“There is a lot of money right now,” said Yuri Augousti, owner and designer at R&Y Augousti, the Paris-based furniture firm that has recently expanded into a line of scarves and handbags, which were exhibited at Premiere Classe.
Augousti noted that travel has become more important in the past year and larger-style, vegetable-died raffia handbags, with chagrin buckles and a mother of pearl inlay, have been the firm’s strongest sellers. For color, bright oranges and olive and saffron tones were in demand.
Tranoi’s vendors expressed similar enthusiasm.
Alice Sykes, U.S. sales manager for the Lulu Guiness handbag line, said Tranoi was a good show because its attracts more high-end stores than other trade show. Guiness has just recently opened a U.S. showroom, with plans to increase the line’s U.S. retail presence.
Sykes said retailers particularly liked the lower-priced L.G. line of Fifties-inspired whimsical beach image bags. She also noted the growing interest in handbags suitable for short getaway travel, with overnight bags doing particularly well.
Vendors and retailers both said the scarf classification was finally recovering from years of women buying only pashmina wraps.
“I have just come from Premiere Vision and right now you have to have at least three or four colors,” said Judith Proctor, Calver & Wilson’s designer.
The company’s scarves were either silk georgette, silk chiffon or silk toile, with prints including spot motifs or petunia flower designs. There was also a focus on neckerchiefs with block prints cut on the bias.
“What was good about the pashmina was that it made customers realize higher price points [for the classification] and that people are wearing stoles again,” Proctor said.
At Tranoi, Calver & Wilson introduced a handbag prototype named Penelope, which is a large-scale leather handbag with a matching umbrella department.
Scarves were also the bestsellers for London-based designer Neisha Crosland, who showed her signature line of scarves and handbags, as well as the junior Ginka line of scarves and hats.
Crosland has just opened a U.S. showroom this month and the firm is working on increasing distribution in department and specialty stores in the U.S. Crosland’s U.S. sales manager, Caroline Croswell, said Crosland’s linen wraps were particularly well received.
“The buyers were looking for something fresh, and something really strong and statement oriented,” Croswell said.
Buyers also showed interest in the Ginka collection’s more retro prints, specifically since the line has lower price points to the signature collection, she said.
“In spring, people don’t usually invest so much money into scarves, which is why it has to be more fun,” she noted, adding popular colors were red, purple and mauve.
The yellow-gold look continued to be a key jewelry trend at both shows, with vendors looking to offer accessories complimenting the Eighties chic that inspired many designer collections.
“Gold is still such a new color,” noted Lara Bohinc, designer and owner of Lara Bohinc 107, whose spring collection included black vinyl flowers on bracelets and a yellow-gold option with gold clasp.
“I wasn’t sure whether the bolder styles would be commercially successful because jewelry had been so small in the past,” she added.
“Gold is first, both in frames and in mirror lenses,” said Danilo Procaccia, president at Italian eyewear firm Bi’s & Curious.
“Plastic frames will come back, but they have to be in a more luxurious fabric,” he added, noting the general consumer mood for anything luxe is beginning to affect the classification.
Plastic frames, traditionally available at lower price points, must now feature quirkier and more unusual designs to be successful, he added.
While aviators continued to be featured by eyewear makers at Tranoi and Premiere Classe, Procaccia said Ray-Ban’s signature look has now reached its peak, and eyewear firms must now restyle the shape for future seasons.