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PARIS — Eurovet is continuing to evolve the positioning of its summer trade shows in France in a lackluster market.

Unique by Mode City — for which Eurovet had previously revealed plans for a consumer-facing event in tandem with the trade show this July that failed to materialize given the difficult market — presented an enhanced beachwear focus with specific areas for resortwear, a Millennial area and a new space at the entrance for young brands offering products like cosmetics and accessories as retailers seek out add-on categories to grow their business.

“The market is extremely difficult, we are talking about the worst year [in 2018] for the past decade,” said Eurovet chief executive officer Marie-Laure Bellon at the show’s opening press conference. “Brands cannot afford to invest, and we realized that it would not be possible [to create our consumer event this year].”

French women’s swimwear sales fell 3.4 percent to 231.2 million euros last year, according to data from Kantar Worldpanel for Eurovet, although sales in volume increased 5.3 percent. Department stores were particularly hard hit by the decline, with their swimwear sales down 30.9 percent.

“Distribution is changing, and brands are increasingly going direct-to-consumer,” said Bellon.

Eurovet had not revealed traffic data at press time, but brands present at the show cited slow footfall at the event, which has seen consistent declines in traffic over the past five years (with the exception of 2017, a year after the event decamped to Lyon because of the UEFA Euro 2016 soccer final in Paris). Unique by Mode City and Interfilière were held at Porte de Versailles here from July 6 to 8.

Several of the major French houses, including Simone Pérèle and Groupe Chantelle, were notably absent. While such groups are undoubtedly stronger in lingerie — a category largely absent from the show for the first time — than in swimwear, and they continue to participate in the Salon de la Lingerie in January, they had also visibly ramped up their presence in beachwear over the past few years.

Among the major players present, there was a marked shift toward sustainability. While certain young, smaller brands have been building environmentally focused concepts for several years, it had yet to permeate the collections of the major players.

Lise Charmel presented its first sustainable collections, with castor-oil-based polyamide, raffia embroideries, tulle made with the manufacturer’s own pre-consumer recycled waste and recycled polyester embroideries. “We have been working on this for three years,” said Olivier Piquet, managing director of Lise Charmel. “We wanted to offer a complete product, with both the fabric and the accessories coming from sustainable sources, and that makes it more complex to implement.”

He continued, “Retailers, especially in the U.S., are responding well, and telling us that consumers are sensitive to this. As a high-end manufacturer, we no longer have a choice about taking action on sustainability.[…] We manufacture several million swimsuits per year.”

Wacoal was also debuting sustainable swimwear under its Fantasie label, with certain designs made from 99 percent recycled fabric and others from Seaqual fabric, made with ocean plastic. High-end resort and swimwear label Melissa Odabash launched a sporty swimwear collection made from recycled nylon.

Among other developments from core brands, Empreinte debuted its first ath-leisure line, In-Pulse, with underwired sports bras available up to an H-cup, shorts and leggings with metallic details.

Over at sister fabric and trim show Interfilière, Walter Colombo, technical manager of Italian lace specialist Iluna Group, reported an uptick in demand for its sustainable qualities. “We have started to receive a lot of orders on recycled quality,” he said. “We are now starting to produce our more complicated lace in 100 percent recycled qualities[…]using pre-consumer waste.”

While the recycled laces are around 10 percent more expensive than traditional products, demand is growing, he said. “A couple of seasons ago, all our customers were asking about sustainable products but not buying. In the next two seasons, very big brands will start to present sustainable lines.”

Billon Design, Interfilière’s designer of the year, was showcasing its innovations based on bio-sourced polyamide made with castor oil, as well as recycled polyamide. Stretch fabric specialist Roica, part of Japanese chemical firm Asahi Kasei, also highlighted its sustainable developments, including fibers supplied to Wolford, which recently gained Cradle to Cradle certification for products made with technical fabrics using the company’s fibers.

In terms of trends, yellow and a broad palette of shades of green as well as earthy shades like russet and touches of metallic were very visible at Unique by Mode City, as were a broad range of tropical and ethnic prints. Over at Interfilière, similar trends looked to be ongoing for summer 2021, with luxuriant and animal prints and earthy, natural tones dominant on the show’s trend forum.

Among the younger labels present at Unique by Mode City, standouts included France-based Ada Perlu, which offers lingerie and swimwear made from cotton or bamboo fabrics, some of them organic, all printed in Fair Trade communities with Indonesian batik motifs, showing in the Millennial space.

For resortwear, Congo-born designer Muzy Burton’s Muzy B label showcased fluid designs made from silk or viscose and printed with modernized interpretations of African wax prints, many of them with mix-and-match one-piece swimsuits.

Among the young labels at the entrance to the show, standouts included Nemmes, which allows consumers to design their own jewelry online; Niu, a natural sun-care brand working to support the replantation of coral reefs, and Cabas Me, which offers personalizable straw bags.

While overall most exhibitors mirrored Bellon’s view on the difficult market, high-end labels are reportedly performing better than mid-market brands as buyers seek out something different that stands out. “All my clients have increased budgets for us,” stated Katy Solomons, French agent for Melissa Odabash, adding that the U.K.-based label’s palm print designs were proving particularly popular with buyers for summer 2020. “The French middle market is catastrophic. There are less and less multibrand boutiques, [and] there is a massive hole in the middle of the market. It’s the cheaper brands that are really suffering.”

Emmanuelle Atlan, owner of the Divina boutique in Paris’ tony 16th arrondissement, echoed her sentiment. “There is always a customer for high-end products,” she said.

“Nevertheless, the Internet has really penalized us. I am looking for new brands, something that is not available online,” she said, citing flat budgets for summer 2020 as she chooses to cut certain labels with broader distribution from her portfolio. “I’ve doubled my budget for Melissa Odabash,” she said, citing Marseilles-based Pain de Sucre as another strong seller.

For next year, Eurovet plans to launch Swim Culture, a new event at the Palais de Chaillot in central Paris offering runway shows for core brands, exhibitions, and a “Swim market” offering a selected edit of direct-to-consumer brands for sale. The event will be created in partnership with Jimmy Pihet, the former spokesman for the Fédération de la Haute Couture et de la Mode, who recently launched his own agency, Culture Mode.

Eurovet stands by its view that in today’s complex market environment, brands need to engage more with consumers.

Staged in tandem with Unique by Mode City and Interfilière, the dates will be shifted forward to June 27 and 29 to coincide with men’s, resort and couture collections in Paris, hoping to attract greater media attention and more cross-category buyers.

“We need to get much closer to fashion,” said Bellon. “We are aiming to mix with [other fashion] communities, our sector is a little partitioned.”