PARIS — When fashion seasons are being previewed, Paris is chock-a-block with trade fairs, drawing buyers from across the Continent and overseas.
The buyers often come helped by special offers from Promosalons, a semi-state organization that represents all French fairs internationally.
With Europe creeping out of a recession, fair organizers are hopeful of an uptick in turnout of buyers this fall — buyers with more cash to spend. France’s own economy is expected to grow 1 percent in the first half of this year.
The events on the Paris calendar range from the most rarefied runway presentations of designer clothes to sprawling exhibitions of the more commercial products.
The first big date on the schedule for the year’s second half is the haute couture season in July, for many the ultimate fashion nectar. Fashion groupies practically kill for invitations to the top couture shows, such as Yves Saint Laurent, Dior and Chanel, traditionally staged in elegant central Paris hotels like the Grand and Intercontinental.
This spring, Paris unveiled its brand new $100 million underground fashion center, the Carrousel du Louvre, which has become a center of activity for the designer ready-to-wear shows but has attracted only about half the couture events.
Lying smack beside the Louvre in central Paris, the Carrousel could not be better located and has comfortable, well-lit spaces guaranteeing the right sort of fashion presentation.
In early September, Paris holds one of the world’s largest men’s fairs, the Salon International de l’Habillement Masculin (SEHM) at the Porte de Versailles, the giant trade show grounds on the southern edge of the city. Like many of the larger Paris shows, SEHM provides translation services for foreign visitors.
SEHM’s offerings range from traditional British men’s shoes and tailoring and clothing from Italian industrial giants, to key jeans and denim resources and a multitude of accessories. There is also a Nouvel Espace, which houses about 100 fashion-forward designers.
At the end of September comes Premiere Vision, the fabrics show that is a must for apparel makers around the globe. It’s trilingual catalog is an essential tool for industry professionals.
Also in September, the more mass-market and underground fashion resources get the spotlight at the giant Pret-a-Porter Paris. This huge fair includes over a score of specialty villages, making it easier for buyers to track down specific resources and shop the looks they want.
Paris also has a slew of well-staged salons, such as Paris sur Mode, and Premiere Classe, which are designed for the specialist buyer and more risk-taking boutique owner, and newer ones seem to open frequently.
Later in the fall, some of these salons are grouped in the Carrousel de la Mode, a tent city set up in the Tuileries near the Carrousel du Louvre, during the October designer ready-to-wear season. Two fashion fairs, Atmosphere and Paris sur Mode, and Premiere Classe, specializing in accessories, show under these tents, while Atmosphere and Premier Classe both have September showings within Pret-a-Porter Paris.
Premiere Classe concentrates on fashion-forward accessories and this fall will go into fine jewelry for the first time with about 10 designers exhibiting.
“We’ve had requests for some time to add these resources. And we thought why not, as they don’t pose any problem to the existing exhibitors,” explained Xavier Clergerie, director of Premiere Classe.
Clergerie and his partner Betrand Foache will also unveil a new show called Who’s Next, which will run Sept. 2-5 and present about 40 stands in a village in Pret-a-Porter Paris.
“Who’s Next will cover streetwear and clubwear. It’s not just about sports. We won’t have Reebok or Nike, but resources like Stussy and American Rag from the U.S. and Daniel Poole and Comodo from Britain,” he said.
Even before its first show, the salon has already given birth to a bi-monthly magazine, Who’s Next, aimed at teenagers and people in their 20s.
However, the event that gets the most media coverage is the women’s designer ready-to-wear season, which will next be staged Oct. 10-18 and is overseen by the Chambre Syndicale, French fashion’s governing body.
The world’s fashion press and top-of-the-line buyers descend en masse on Paris for this twice yearly experience. As many as 100 designers stage shows throughout Paris, although many of them are in the Carrousel du Louvre, and the restaurants and nightclubs are taken over with fashion victims and victors for nearly two weeks.