PARIS — A week of torrential downpours did nothing to dampen the mood at Paris Fashion Week, with buyers lauding the French capital for turning out fresh versions of wardrobe staples that retailers hope will have cash registers ringing come fall.
From men’s wear-inspired tailoring to Eighties and Nineties influences, streetwear, ath-luxury, Americana and punk, a myriad of attitudes were at play for next season. Key ingredients included velvet, tartans, checks, metallic, the color red, glitter and lashings of fur — of the faux and eco varieties.
Among the standout shows of the season, buyers cited Balenciaga, Dries Van Noten, Off-White and Valentino. Also highly lauded were Dior, Chanel, Alexander McQueen, Loewe and Fenty Puma by Rihanna.
Coco Chan, head of women’s wear at Stylebop.com, said the collections overall were more grounded. “The ‘reality principle’ that has taken root in fashion definitely shaped the Paris shows, but that doesn’t mean the magic was missing from the catwalks — it was just of a more practical sort, and that might be the news of the season,” she said, citing Balenciaga and Céline as front-runners of this trend.
“This bodes particularly well for business come fall as most, if not all, of the collections can be distilled to focal pieces: the suit, the dress, the trench — wardrobe building blocks that customers return to over and over again, and now they have some of the best choices in seasons,” continued Chan.
“It feels as though the speed of the industry may have finally reached a tipping point, with designers now focusing on quietly evolving their seasonal collections rather than being caught up with the shock of the new,” agreed Lisa Aiken, retail fashion director of Net-a-porter, noting that consistency is becoming more important to customers.
“It was one of the strongest seasons we have seen in some time,” said Harrods’ chief merchant Helen David. “We have lacked such direction in trends for many seasons, and finally there are standout trends across the board — and from low end to high end, every brand is embracing key moods, with the main trend being street and Nineties influences, but also very strong key messages with red as the highlight color, velvets as the fabric, metallics, tartans, tweeds, cropped tops and hoodies everywhere.”
“We feel very positive about the collections we saw and how they will resonate with our customer,” said Brooke Jaffe, Bloomingdale’s operating vice president and fashion director of women’s ready-to-wear. “It was a great season in Paris.”
Among the trends Jaffe cited were embellishments, especially crystals, across collections from denim to shoes, as well as tailoring. “A longer men’s blazer [emerged] as a standout ‘it’ item,” she said.
Heather Gramston, Selfridges’ women’s wear buying manager, said, “Autumn-winter has been a strong season in terms of product, both from our existing partners and new brands. Pre-collection provided a solid foundation to the season, and runway collections have layered cohesively on top.”
Suzanne Timmins, senior vice president and fashion director at Hudson’s Bay Co., cited checks and plaids, a punk attitude, glitter and ath-luxury among the movements. For her, Paris projected a strong, confident woman who was feminine and sexy, but with “a chic garçonne twist.”
“Perhaps it was a not-so-subtle political message, but the pantsuit nation came roaring back with a vengeance,” said Chan. “A strong-shouldered, slightly oversized, preferably double-breasted blazer should be at the top of everyone’s shopping list.”
Linda Fargo, senior vice president, fashion and store presentation director at Bergdorf Goodman, also felt the U.S.’s influence on collections for fall. “America and heightened activism must be top-of-mind, as Americana references were frequently seen: baseball jackets and detailing, bandana prints, even a Statue of Liberty trenchcoat at Margiela, as well as shows that used their platform to promote women’s rights and hope,” she said.
“Fashion is definitely in a state of flux, yet designers responded to the international social and political turmoil with an energetic, positive attitude and strong shows,” said Tiziana Cardini, fashion director at La Rinascente, who praised the Paris collections for their commercial potential.
Jeffrey Kalinsky, designer fashion director of Nordstrom and founder of Jeffrey New York, said Paris did not disappoint this season. “What I love about Paris is that each designer we love provides their…way of transforming our customers into their vision,” he explained.
For him, the trends included velvet and outerwear, with materials ranging from Mongolian lamb to eco-fur.
“I don’t think good wardrobe staples are going to drive sales. It’s about emotion today. For some reason — and I don’t know if it has to do with the politics of the world right now — but it seems like the idea that more is more is looking good, so what’s fabulous is to be able to do the ‘more is more’ fur but in eco, for a retail price of $2,000 instead of in real fox for, let’s say, $12,000,” Kalinsky said.
“The shows felt very commercial, with designers choosing fabrications such as velvet, corduroy and PVC, for those looking to add a playful twist to their look,” said Anita Barr, group fashion buying director of Harvey Nichols. “There were some outstanding shows, and we saw some really strong and inspiring collections in the showrooms.”
She cited Van Noten’s 100th show as a high point of the week. “It felt really special to be there and see the spectacle,” she said.
Mario Grauso, president of Holt Renfrew in Canada, shined the spotlight on two catwalk displays. “The energy and spirit at Miu Miu was the highlight for us. Such a fun show, you couldn’t help but smile,” he said. “And the music was amazing. Comme des Garçons was also a special show that made you consider the incredible contribution Rei [Kawakubo] has made to fashion and how well-deserved her Met show is.”
“I thought the Chanel show was absolutely brilliant,” said Ikram Goldman, owner of the Chicago-based boutique Irkam. “I thought it was just breathtaking.”
Roopal Patel, senior vice president, fashion director at Saks Fifth Avenue, thought the new talent at heritage houses is going well in Paris. “The City of Light sparkled and delighted us with the rise of this next wave of designers,” she said. “The resetting of the heritage houses is creating a shift — the new guard is breathing fresh air into the collections, and this is really redefining who the customer is today.”
She specifically called out Demna Gvasalia, saying: “His influence and vision are felt everywhere.” Also of note was Anthony Vaccarello’s Saint Laurent, especially the boots. “Those crystal disco boots are so far the item of the season,” said Patel. “We already have customers calling to order them.”
Promising emerging brands mentioned by retailers included Atlein, Magda Butrym and Daniel Gregory Natale.
“There truly is a new generation emerging. It’s really exciting; there’s new energy on its way in,” said Nicole Fischelis, group vice president and fashion director of Macy’s Inc. She cited labels such as Jacquemus, Koché, Aalto, Wanda Nylon, Lemaire, Pascal Millet and Christian Wijnants among the highlights of her week.
Fischelis also enjoyed the offer at the national showcases, including the London Showroom and Americans in Paris, plus at the Chambre Syndicale-backed Designers Apartment. There, she found designs by Mazarine, Coralie Marabelle and Quetsche the standouts.
Charlotte Tasset, general merchandise manager of women’s apparel, beauty, lingerie and children at Printemps, said Paris designers mostly looked to masculine staples for inspiration, in contrast with the ultrafeminine designs shown in Milan, though feathers and embroidery also made a strong appearance.
“With its strong offering of tailoring and jackets, Paris this season provided the type of iconic wardrobe pieces that our customers are always looking for,” Tasset said, adding that she was increasing her budgets as a result of Printemps’ strong performance in the luxury and designer segment.
Jennifer Cuvillier, style director at Le Bon Marché, agreed it was a strong showing. “Paris is very exciting this season for every category, from contemporary to designers, including accessories. There is a lot of new talent and evolution of talents, which is very interesting to follow,” she said.
Cuvillier was especially inspired by streetwear-inspired brands such as Off-White, Koché and Fenty Puma by Rihanna. “In this direction, the couture street legging is a great novelty item for the silhouette,” she said.
“Outerwear is definitely a key investment for autumn-winter 2017. Not only did we see this across New York and London, we’ve seen some killer coats over the past week. I already have a few at the top of my wish list,” said Laura Labalestier, buying director at Brownsfashion.com.
“There have been a lot of shearling, puffer jackets [like at Sacai] and mixed-media coats [at Off-White] that we are really excited to bring in for our customers, and as the weather is still quite cold, that is a category that shoppers may want to invest in for next winter,” said Beth Buccini, owner of Kirna Zabête in New York.
Dresses were another important category. “There were so many dresses on the runway it’s amazing,” said Ikram’s Goldman. “It’s a sweater dress, it’s a chiffon dress, it’s a leather dress, it’s a knitwear dress.”
Ken Downing, senior vice president, fashion director of Neiman Marcus, said it’s time fashion gave up its focus on the Seventies – let’s bring the Eighties back.
“Paris really brings a love of paillettes, the shimmer and shine and crystallization that brings the Eighties back,” he said. “I’m not the only one getting excited. I’m already getting e-mails from customers who are excited about the collections they’re following.”
Elizabeth and Dominick Lepore, owners and buyers for Jimmy’s in Brooklyn and the Hamptons, praised the strong eveningwear propositions from designers in Paris and said their budget was up for fall. “The refinement, timeless modernity and proud craftsmanship of the collections we saw give us a strong confidence in not just our business, but also how our girls will dress for fall,” they explained.
Given the difficult market conditions today, some retailers are reallocating their budgets. “We are adapting our buying strategy, but not decreasing, cutting out commercial brands and investing more in fresh, creative, independent brands and craft-oriented products,” said Hirofumi Kurino, senior adviser of creative direction at United Arrows Ltd. in Tokyo.
“Our budgets are more or less flat for the region, as we are trying to optimize our shop operations since we have been facing slower growth for the third and fourth quarters compared to last year,” said François Schweitzer, general manager of Chalhoub in Dubai. “That being said, we are continuing investing in some markets like Qatar, where malls are opening, hence giving us opportunities.”
Buyers were optimistic — even turning a blind eye to the inclement weather during the week.
“It certainly made getting around Paris more challenging than last season, and I have to say I did get soaked a few times, but it definitely didn’t put a damper on this season,” said Brown’s Labalestier. “The runway collections have been so strong, the weather wasn’t going to get in the way for any of us.”