PARIS — Miniskirts, Sixties retro, bright prints and colors like pink and yellow were the main fashion messages at the latest edition of the Prêt à Porter Paris and Who’s Next trade shows at the Porte de Versailles here. But buyers said a once-strong trend toward cargo pants was on its last legs.
After a tough spring, buyers said sales had picked up in summer and most reported brisk sales for early fall. Some said they would increase their budgets by as much as 30 percent. Most, however, said they would not increase their spending for spring.
“The economy may be starting to pick up, but the world remains uncertain,” said Herve Huchet, who owns La Villa, a designer boutique in the resort town of Deauville, France. “You don’t want to spend more money when tomorrow everything could crumble like a house of cards.”
“We remain very prudent,” agreed Christine Samain, fashion director at Paris’ upscale Le Bon Marche department store. “Our budget will not increase. In the current environment, you must keep a tight rein on business and make sure you don’t overextend.”
Samain said elegance and femininity were the main trends in fashion now.
“Women will want very romantic and feminine clothes [for spring],” she said. “The silhouettes are pure, but with a twist, and the colors are bright. We still believe in the miniskirt for spring. It’s been selling great so far this fall.”
Martin Muff, buyer for the Zurich designer shop Big, said his budget remained on par with last year. “Right now we need to find something extraordinary for it to sell,” he said. “The girls don’t want the same old thing. They want something they haven’t seen before.”
Muff added that he believed in embellished tops and strong prints, one of the major stories across many apparel categories.
“Sixties hippie-chic is what I feel for spring,” said Huchet. “Girls won’t want black or gray. Colors such as orange, fuchsia and purple are going to be strong. Pucci-style prints are also a trend.”
Edmond Yau, buyer for Hong Kong designer chain Yandy, which has six locations, said more elaborate pieces, such as colorful hippie prints at Antik Batik and Isabelle Marant, looked fresh.
“Color makes everything look very young,” he said. “Miniskirts and kimono prints will be good. But loose trousers paired with sexy knits will be strong, too. I like embellished pieces with lots of embroidery.”
Yau said his budget was flat. “After SARS, sales are starting to pick up,” he said. “We expect an increase but we have to remain cautious.”
Suzanne Zarrilli, who owns the Westport, Conn.-based contemporary store Wishlist, said she was looking for “basics with a twist.”
“I love miniskirts,” she said. “My girls aren’t retro. They want long flowing tops that they can wear over jeans. Bold colors such as green, blue and pink have been my favorites.”
More than 1,000 firms participated in the Prêt, with another 350 at Who’s Next. Both shows concluded their four-day runs Sept. 8.
At the Prêt, which has polished its image since the arrival of new management a few years ago, exhibitors reported good business.
Tara Jarmon, a contemporary designer in Paris, said business over the summer increased 20 percent and that for next spring, many of her regular clients had placed orders 60 percent above their orders last year.
“Business looks really good,” she said. “Buyers want to find upbeat clothes. They like colors like yellow and pink, and they want little retro cocktail dresses.”
Olivier Strelli, a Belgian designer, said he had been selling a lot of prints and very feminine looks. He said his business for the upcoming season had so far increased by about 15 percent. “I was expecting to sell less,” he said. “But I’m selling more.”
Meanwhile, at Who’s Next, which featured contemporary designers alongside sportswear vendors, exhibitors reported solid business, too.
Laetitia Ivanez, who designs the contemporary Les Prairies de Paris line, said buyers had gravitated to simple looks. “They seem to like Twiggy-esque miniskirts and color,” she said.
Victoria Law, the managing director of Hong Kong designer boutique Ztampz, said she sought “clothes that were happy and bright.”
“I like the Forties retro look for next season,” she said. “It looks fresh after this season’s Mod.”
Law said her budget was stable from last year. “Even if business has improved, it’s still not like it was before in Hong Kong,” she said.
Yumiko Matsuzaki, buyer for Tokyo designer boutique Connue et Intime, said she liked “big loose silhouettes paired with little miniskirts. It must be very feminine and a little retro.” Matsuzaki said her budget was up 20 percent from last year.
Meanwhile, across town at the Bourse de Commerce, Tranoi hosted its “preview” show with about 30 exhibitors.
Jennifer Rossi, buyer at Planet Blue, a designer and contemporary boutique in Malibu, Calif., who visited all of the shows in Paris for the first time in six years, called the shows “very good.”
“I’m looking for sexy, flirty clothes with a twist,” she said. “Girls in Malibu are wearing miniskirts, jeans and T-shirts. They want color but they don’t want prints. That seems to be a European thing.”
Rossi said Planet Blue’s budget for the season would increase 30 percent. “Our business has been booming,” she said. “In Malibu, people haven’t stopped shopping. They’re going to smaller stores more than the malls, which bodes well for us.”
The Prêt said 42,910 people visited, up 8.2 percent from last year. Who’s Next said 27,486 people visited the show, up 16 percent from last year.