The Eiffel Tower

PARIS — There’s something about Paris, what with six packed days of men’s shows starting today, the calendar bulging with 10 more official shows and reflecting a United Nations of diverse fashion talent.

“Paris is the center of the fashion industry. It’s the pinnacle of luxury and a hub of creativity,” enthused Spencer Phipps, a San Francisco native showing at the Cite Internationale des Arts Tuesday. “Starting a business here as an American, it pushes us to innovate and puts the way people view the brand in a different context.”

Hed Mayner, based in Tel Aviv, said he chose Paris as his platform partly because he happened to live in the French capital shortly after his studies in Jerusalem, and found the team that puts together his namesake label. “Besides this, we wanted to get closer to the hub of the fashion world, which will provide us with the opportunity to increase our knowledge, and network with industry leaders and creative minds,” he added.

With men’s weeks in other capitals withering, young designers are attracted to the creative energy in Paris, and the opportunity to capture not only attention, but business, given the concentration of press, influencers and buyers congregating this week. About 700 accredited journalists and editors are expected to attend the events, according to organizers.

As reported, the Paris schedule includes new arrivals from New York, including Palomo Spain, Bode and Sies Marjan. Y/Project and Lanvin are among returning names, while the schedule will also feature a runway show by Frenchman Ludovic de Saint Sernin and presentations by Hungarian brand Nanushka, Los Angeles-based label Rhude, Auralee and Visvim from Japan, Gamut and Casablanca from France and Lazoschmidl from Sweden.

“I’m so grateful to have had the support and to have presentations in New York for the past four seasons,” said Emily Bode. The designer is a finalist for this year’s LVMH Prize, which has been a catalyst in bringing young designers to Paris. In fact, nine other designers on the official men’s calendar have entered the annual contest, which offers mentoring and a cash prize of 300,000 euros.

Bode’s decision to show in Paris was mostly business oriented. “Given that 50 percent of our wholesale accounts are in Europe alone, it is important for us to be able to show our buyers and international press our world each season,” the designer explained.

France has a long tradition of fashion prizes for young talents, including ANDAM and the Hyères Festival. Rushemy Botter and Lisi Herrebrugh established their brand in Paris following their big win at the 2018 Hyères Festival, which also propelled them to the reins of Nina Ricci where they are tasked with refreshing the brand’s ready-to-wear offering.

That’s the untold promise Paris bestows on its newcomers. Indeed, generating enough buzz might spark the interest of a storied house in need of freshness. Not that there aren’t hurdles to succeed in Paris, including adapting to the French way of working.

“The biggest struggle for us has been finding locations. People are very slow to respond in general in France, and the process can be extremely complicated for certain venues like public parks et cetera, or they want to charge too much. It’s been a real challenge for us,” according to Phipps.

Yet fashion’s government body said it’s there to help. “We do a lot of mentoring. We teach them how to make a business plan, how to deal with fiscality. We offer very personalized support to those new talents,” said Ralph Toledano, president of the Fédération de la Haute Couture et de la Mode.

“We’ve had tremendous support from the Federation and are excited to continue to show in Paris for seasons to come,” said Bode, who — unlike Phipps and Mayner — isn’t planning on moving to Paris any time soon. “With Bode, I am committed to be an American brand, based in New York. Making clothing in the U.S. and reinvigorating the American men’s wear industry is of huge importance to me.”

The U.K. relies on its homegrown talents including Christopher Kane, Craig Green, Charles Jeffrey, Martine Rose and Richard Quinn to keep London an exciting hub of inventiveness. “I was born and raised in South London, and to me the city has this unique and unexpected energy so inherent to its designers. I don’t think Paris has that feeling. London is where ideas begin,” Quinn noted.

The British Fashion Council recently announced that it would donate over 1 million pounds to the country’s key emerging designers in an attempt to prevent a potential exodus post-Brexit.

Toledano didn’t mince words that Paris represents fashion’s biggest league — home to luxury giants LVMH and Kering, plus mythic names like Chanel and Hermès — and ambitious young designers are enthralled by the challenge. “When someone’s ambitious, they’re interested in playing against the big names. Would you rather play against Real Madrid football club or little national team?” he asked. “Paris has always been the most attractive city in fashion.”

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