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PARIS — Textured sportswear was the feel-good message at the latest round of apparel trade shows here.

From furry-trimmed dresses and fluffy angora sweaters to voluminous velvet skirts, the Prêt à Porter Paris and Who’s Next fairs were awash in such touchable materials as silk, velour and fur. The show ended its four-day run Jan. 31 at the Porte de Versailles here.

Reporting strong sales at retail at year-end, many buyers said they would increase their budgets for next winter by as much as 30 percent, while others balked at prices, given the strong euro.

Galina Raevskaya, general manager of Tresjolie, a women’s apparel chain in Moscow, said she couldn’t resist the tactile clothes.

“Almost every line has a fur element to it,” said Raevskaya, who wrote orders at Nathalie Garçon and Blue Blanc Rouge. “The mixing and matching of materials and styles will continue to be a strong look for the winter.”

“Soft feminine looks and contrasting materials are key,” agreed Sandra Archer, owner of Rubana, a 700-square foot women’s fashion boutique in Greystones, Ireland. “People are going for quirky looks with contrasting heavy materials such as bolero sweaters mixed with dressy silk tops.” Archer placed orders at Stella Forest and One Step.

Marie-Anne Thimister, owner of her eponymous 5,380-square-foot men’s and women’s high-end apparel store in Herve, Belgium, agreed fur and feminine frills were the key elements for next season. But echoing a common lament, she cited a dearth of trendy labels and less traffic and buzz than some European fairs.

The January editions of the Paris shows, however, tend to attract fewer international buyers than in March, when the Prêt and Who’s Next run concurrent to the runway shows.

More than 1,020 firms participated in the Prêt, with another 510 at Who’s Next.

Shopping at the Prêt, Katherine Ho, buyer for Hong Kong-based Magazzin Group, which owns eight women’s apparel boutiques in China, noted that the prices at the trade shows here were “extremely high,” causing many Chinese buyers to look to their homeland for production. Yet Ho said that fresh brands like Antwerp-based Essentials prompted her to place orders and even increase her budget by as much as 30 percent.

This story first appeared in the February 15, 2005 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

“It’s very expensive,” agreed Helene Bernadou, owner of Hélé, a 540-square-foot boutique in the south of France. Bernadou said that despite the high prices, she was still placing orders and slightly increasing her budget.

At the Prêt, exhibitors reported good business overall despite a low turnout of Americans and Japanese, partly due to the strength of the euro.

“We’ve increased orders by almost 40 percent,” said Gabriella Cortese, founder of Antik Batik, a contemporary women’s apparel firm in Paris. She said dusty colors and silk blouses with jewelry-like embroideries for 55 euros wholesale ($71) and an embroidered velvet coat at 140 euros ($181) were bestsellers at the show.

“We’ve seen many buyers from the Middle East and Europe,” said Rudolf Ritzer, director of Erotokritos, a Paris-based label by Greek designer Erotokritos Antodiadis. Ritzer noted that women were choosing skirts over pants for next winter and that a printed skirt with pom-poms wholesaling for 98 euros ($127) and a cashmere sweater at 65 euros ($82) would be popular for winter.

A sexy approach to military styles like epaulets, sterling silver details and decorated lapels was also a direction at the show. Anika Lena Skärström, a Paris-based designer from Sweden, said her Russian military trench for 175 euros wholesale ($227) was selling well.

Who’s Next, which featured contemporary designers alongside sportswear vendors, also trumpeted military and furry themes.

“We noted a lack of American and Japanese buyers, but our European clients were placing orders,” said Judith Roche, director and stylist for Acquaverde, a Paris-based denim firm. Acquaverde’s cropped military-inspired denim jacket for 70 euros ($91) is expected to be a bestseller along with denim jodhpurs for 58 euros ($75) .

“Jackets with a Navy feel, like Corto Maltese, are doing very well,” said Laetitia Ivanez, who designs the contemporary Les Prairies de Paris line. Ivanez, who plans to introduce her collection to the U.S. market at the Train show in New York this month, said that the quality of the buyers made up for the lack of numbers. A raccoon coat for 650 euros ($843) and mohair sweater at 90 euros wholesale ($116) were among the most popular pieces.

“Rabbit and raccoon skins have been very popular,” said Caroline de Boungne, sales manager for Essential, an Antwerp-based women’s apparel line. Essential, best known for its feminine looks, said its flowing silk skirts for 75 euros ($97) were always high in demand.

The Prêt reported 41,416 visitors, up 2.7 percent from last year. Who’s Next said 31,344 people visited the show, up 2 percent from last year.