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PARIS — French trade show organizers are betting on creativity and savvy marketing to lift their upcoming shows above a sluggish economy at home and the weak value of the dollar against the euro abroad.

Organizers said business started on a solid note this year and that their shows clocked more buyers in the first half from regions such as Russia, Japan and other Asian countries and the U.S.

But they acknowledged the economic environment remains challenging. Most said they would pin success on positioning their shows at the top end of the creative curve and associating themselves closely with Paris’ reputation as fashion’s reigning capital city.

“If we aren’t the venue for the most creative products, we are lost,” said Daniel Faure, the president of Premiere Vision, Europe’s seminal top-end fabric fair.

Organizers also said they had funneled energy into aggressively marketing their shows. To wit, more and more French events have organized smaller versions of their marquee shows in cities around the world, such as Tokyo, Shanghai and New York.

PV, for instance, has started to stage companion shows in New York and Shanghai. And the Pret a Porter, Paris’ biggest apparel show, recently started an event in Manhattan called The Train. Pret this fall also will associate itself with rooms, an event in Tokyo.

Herve Huchet, fashion director at Pret, said these sister gatherings already have borne significant fruit.

“These shows are a way to attract people to Paris,” he said. “We have to cater to people outside of France to survive. There is still a lot of potential to grow, but we must do it by courting international buyers.”

Huchet said the opportunities are big. In January, the show only attracted 350 Americans out of more than 42,000 total visitors. “That’s not enough,” he said. “We want more.”

Traditionally, Americans participate in fashion and accessories trade events here centered around the October and March runway shows, with the exception of PV and Texworld textile forums and the lingerie fairs held in Lyon in September and in Paris in January.

Huchet said more than 1,000 firms would participate in the upcoming edition of Pret, which will convene at the exhibit halls at the Porte de Versailles Sept. 2-5.

This story first appeared in the May 25, 2005 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

To celebrate its 100th fair, Pret this fall will unveil a major makeover, which Huchet characterized as designed to “shake things up for both our visitors and exhibitors.”

He said several of the areas would be moved and redesigned, including the combination of the moderate sportswear forums, Influences and Jardin Secret, into a section that will be known as Be Twin. The more fashion-forward Atmosphere section will get a minor facelift, and the trend forum will be revamped.

“Our goal is to work like a department store,” explained Huchet. “We think of buyers as shoppers who are looking for exciting merchandise. They need to be surprised and they need to be directed.”

Huchet said the show also would feature a so-called “concept boutique” geared to provide buyers with ideas for merchandising, and that an exhibit would be devoted to Korean ethnic costumes.

Meanwhile, the Porte de Versailles also will be home to a panoply of other trade events, including the young fashion event Who’s Next and the Premiere Classe accessories show.

Who’s Next organizers Xavier Clergerie and Bertrand Foache, who also manage Premiere Classe, said the show was making a “big effort” to court international buyers.

He said he and Clergerie had just traveled to China to drum up business and that the show was dispatching monthly newsletters to potential buyers.

“It’s the added value that counts in today’s environment,” he said. “We tell them about all the new stuff, whether it be trends, shops or restaurants. It keeps them up to date. They know what’s going on.”

Who’s Next, which expects some 550 exhibitors when it convenes Sept. 2-5, will grow its Fame designer fashion forum to 140 exhibitors from about 120 last September, Foache said.

At the upcoming edition of Premiere Classe, Foache said the fair would increase the number of exhibitors to 320 from 280 last year. “There will be more shoe and handbag firms,” he said.

Foache said Premiere Classe would continue to be highly selective, especially in its second edition, which gathers Oct. 7-10 in the tents at the Tuileries Gardens.

Other accessories events at the Porte de Versailles include Bijorcha/Eclat de Mode, the jewelry show, which expects some 370 exhibitors when it opens Sept. 2-5, and Silmo, the eyewear fair that will feature more than 800 brands Oct. 21-24.

Premiere Vision will gather at the Villepint exhibit halls Sept. 20-23, the same time as the Expofil yarn fair and the Mod-Amont trimmings show.

PV’s Faure said Le Cuir a Paris, the leather and fur event, this year would join it as part of PV’s push to create an even more vital destination for buyers and exhibitors. “It’s important that buyers have all the resources they need available to them,” said Faure.

Faure also said PV had purchased Indigo, an exhibit of prototype designs for fabric, which caters largely to exhibitors participating in PV.

Although Faure said worries over the end of quotas were high, he added that many firms reported good business last year and said 2005 had started strong.

Across town, at Texworld, the Messe Frankfurt fair that showcases less expensive textiles, organizer Stephanie Keukert said the strong euro wouldn’t affect the show, since most of the 650 exhibitors participating did business in dollars.

Texworld, which will meet Sept. 19-22 at the CNIT complex at La Defense, the business district just west of Paris, attracts exhibitors to Paris from places such as Brazil, India, China and Thailand.

Paris is also home to smaller, fashion-forward fairs that dot the capital around the runway shows. Workshop, the designer forum run by Sarah Tenot, will assemble some 120 brands at the Cercle Republicain and the Hotel Regina from Oct. 6-10. Carole de Bona will host 19 Vendome, a show dedicated to trendy fashion, Oct. 7-10. And Armand Adida, the Paris retailer, will bring together 200 brands for his Tranoi event, which meets Oct. 6-9 at the Bourse de Commerce, the Palais de Bourse and on Avenue Montaigne.

Other fairs coinciding with Paris’ runway shows include Paris Sur Mode and Atmosphere d’Ete, both meeting under tents in the Tuileries Gardens Oct. 7-10.

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