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French organizers diversify their offerings to attract new customers.

PARIS — For French trade show organizers, the race to diversify fashion categories to reach new buyers has shifted into high gear. Organizers here are betting on creativity, savvy marketing and a diversification of their offerings to lift their upcoming fairs above strenuous low-cost competition from China and to counteract the weak value of the dollar against the euro.

“We have obligations to invest in different segments of the market,” said Jean-Pierre Mocho, president of Prêt à Porter, which will host some 1,100 exhibitors at the Porte de Versailles here Sept. 1-4. To that end, last month Mocho unveiled plans for three new fashion categories at the show, including the Prêt’s first accessories section.

Dubbed “The Box,” the space is exactly that: a temple-like black box with dim lighting. The somber decor was conceived to create a luxurious atmosphere for some 50 high-end accessories brands that will show there, including Jérôme Dreyfuss, Karine Arabian, Servane Gaxotte, Marion Vidal, Nicole Van Dyke, Avril Gau and Gaspard Yurkievich, among others. Referring to a report by Ubifrance and GTA, Mocho noted French accessories exports jumped 13.7 percent, reaching 2.07 billion euros, or approximately $2.64 billion, in 2005. The same year, costume jewelry export sales jumped 17.6 percent to 199.1 million euros, or $254 million.

To ensure the success of the accessories category, organizers at the last edition of the Prêt à Porter surveyed buyers, and 32 percent revealed they were on the hunt for accessories.

In February, Prêt à Porter introduced an ethical fashion forum, a platform for brands that conform to a code of conduct related primarily to working conditions and workers’ rights, as well as those who use environmentally friendly manufacturing methods. In September, the show will extend its ethical reach with a new section called So Ethic, an area devoted to ethical labels.

The 15- to 25-year-old consumer is getting attention from trade show organizers, too. A section at the Prêt dubbed Shibuya, after the fashionable district in Tokyo, will cater to sportswear and denim brands with a younger bent.

“It is an emerging category,” said Mocho, noting that in the past it was not such a high priority for buyers. According to a new study conducted by France’s Institute Française de la Mode, or IFM, spending by women between the ages 13 and 25 increased 8 percent last year, and young women preferred quantity to quality when it came to spending on fashion items.

This story first appeared in the May 24, 2006 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

Who’s Next organizers are also tuning in to the teen category for next season. “The demand from the 15- to 20-year-old category is continually increasing,” said Xavier Clergerie, organizer of the Who’s Next and Première Classe contemporary ready-to-wear and accessories shows, which coincide with the Prêt à Porter at the Porte de Versailles.

For the upcoming session of Who’s Next, which runs Sept. 1-4, a new section, dubbed Face, will target women between 15 and 20. “Buyers today are more willing to buy into younger fashion,” said Clergerie, who said the section will showcase some 140 brands. “Young people are looking for a state of mind. They don’t care as much if it’s 100 percent cashmere.”

To accommodate the increase in exhibitors, Who’s Next will move to the larger Hall 1 on the same fairground. Bijorhca’s Eclat de Mode show, running Sept. 1-4, will shift into Hall 5, on two levels. The ground floor will house silver and gold-plated jewelry, watches and semiprecious stones, and upstairs will be costume jewelry, accessories and supplies.

A retrospective of French jewelry designer Philippe Ferrandis’ work will be held upstairs as part of the show’s new exhibition initiative, as well as sections dedicated to Brazilian and Philippine designers. “Both countries are showing a strong evolution in terms of design and have a real fun approach to presentation,” said Richard Martin, deputy director of the show. The organizers expect a 10 percent increase in visitors.

Mode City, Eurovet’s lingerie and beachwear trade fair based in Lyon, will take place Sept. 2-4, along with the event’s Interfilière fabric, lace and trims forum. Main growth areas will stem from Eastern Europe and South America for visitors and exhibitors, according to exhibition manager Patricia Harivel.

“There’s a lot of potential in [Croatia], as with Eastern Europe in general,” she said. Following an increased Brazilian presence last September, Colombia will take center stage for the salon’s next edition, which will hold conferences focusing on the country’s dynamic textiles scene, according to Harivel.

Following positive visitor feedback from Eurovet’s Paris salon, SIL, which took place in February, lingerie brands will be grouped in the same thematic sections, as will beachwear. A few new U.S. brands will join the show, including Aviana, Expose Beauty and Crown Jewels. Beachwear newcomers will include Burberry and Vivienne Westwood. A rise in hosiery and sock brands is also expected, according to Harivel, particularly from the French market.

At Première Vision, Europe’s foremost fabric fair — which will gather at the Villepinte exhibit halls Sept. 19-22, together with yarns and trimmings fairs Expofil and Mod’Amont — exclusive high-end fabrics continue to drive business. “The extremely high quality of our exhibitors is key and is of no comparison to the mass market fabrics from China,” said Daniel Faure, president of Première Vision. Faure noted a rise in new exhibitors from South America, Japan and Turkey.

Organizers at the show are focusing on time management for their visitors. “It’s essential that buyers take full advantage of what’s on offer,” Faure said. To that end, organizers will show buyers a short film called “Bistro Best,” which will showcase the best-selling products from leading exhibitors.

“It is difficult for buyers to benefit from the entire offering, due to timing, so we wanted to find a method to see more in less time,” Faure said.

Across town, Texworld, a fair organized by Messe Frankfurt featuring less expensive textiles, expects some 700 participants to attend during its Sept. 18-21 run at the CNIT complex at La Défense.

Meanwhile, organizers continue to concentrate on luring buyers from beyond French borders by taking their shows on the road. Première Vision stages sister shows in New York and Shanghai, and has added some 30 exhibitors to its New York venue, while the Prêt à Porter, which recently launched the Train in New York and Livingroom in Tokyo, is also extending its presence abroad.

A handful of smaller fashion-forward fairs throughout the capital will run around the same time as the runway shows. Workshop, staged Oct. 4-8, is a designer forum under the auspices of Workshop Fashion Agency by Sarah Tenot. It will convene at the Cercle Republican, Avenue de l’Opéra, as well as at the Regina Hotel on the Rue de Rivoli. The show is expected to host some 120 exhibitors. Tenot recently extended her reach to the travel retail category and teamed up with the TFWA Asia Pacific exhibition in Singapore to create a platform for 40 European brands.

Designer fashion show Paris Sur Mode, to be held Oct. 6-9, will pitch tents in the Tuileries Gardens to join Atmosphère d’Eté and the second edition of Première Classe. Tranoï, organized by Armand Hadida, now has two locations, on Avenue Montaigne and Bourse de Commerce. It will also run Oct. 6-9, while the 19 Vendôme show, hosted by Carole de Bona and catering to smaller luxury brands, will be held Oct. 5-8.