PARIS — Seeking to create a more selective, showroom-like atmosphere, a number of players at the recent round of apparel trade shows here scaled down in size, targeting quality over quantity.
Tranoï had let go of its Cité de la Mode location to concentrate on its two remaining venues at the Carrousel du Louvre and the Palais de la Bourse, where it has started hosting fashion shows as part of the official Paris Fashion Week calendar. In addition, organizers launched Tranoï Week, a small showroom/trade show hybrid in the Marais district featuring some 35 French and international designers.
“Before we offered too much to choose from,” said Tranoï director David Hadida. “So we decided to go for the best, basically. We have focused in on ourselves and become more concentrated geographically as well. We’ve narrowed down our offer and added several strings to our bow.
“It’s our duty to reinvent ourselves and to make people dream,” the show director added. “And it’s so exciting to work on a project for six months or a year, and to see the immediate results all at once.…It’s a first step toward change. This is just the beginning.”
The well-received first edition of Tranoï Week was held at the VNH Gallery and organized in collaboration with London Show Rooms, the K-Fashion project supported by the South Korean government, and the ethical French brands group Ethipop, along with other independent designers.
Simon Burstein, founder of the women’s concept store The Place London, and former chief executive officer of the London specialty retailer Browns, gave it the thumbs up. “All these venues allow small brands to obtain visibility and reach which group showrooms don’t offer. The flip side is an overwhelming offer of apparel. You need to sift through and have comfortable shoes to cover the distances,” he said.
Meanwhile, Paris Sur Mode’s director Sophie Guyot said the aim regarding her salon was to create “more of a luxury, big showroom in the center of Paris.”
“I really don’t want Paris Sur Mode to be an enormous trade show, so I tried to narrow it down with the best selection corresponding to the market,” she said, including an emphasis on emerging, lesser-known brands. An exhibit showing the 10 finalists for the Hyères Festival promoting young fashion designers was also on display at the show’s entrance.
Guyot also wanted to trim exhibitor numbers to cater to retailers looking to fill gaps with new, special items at the end of the buying season, and “buyers need spaces that are more confidential, more human, more welcoming.”
Capsule chose not to show with Paris Sur Mode at the Place de la Concorde this session, having shared a tent for the last few seasons, and instead skipped the French capital entirely. Capsule cofounder Deirdre Maloney explained the decision via an e-mail: “Paris women’s has always been a challenge for us location wise, we never found the ideal venue to house all our designers and garner the traffic we are known to attract. So we decided this season to sit Paris out and shift our focus to our new [third season] Los Angeles women’s show, which came about as a request from our brands as that city gains importance.”
The strategic changes have come following what many described as a general “slump” surrounding Paris Fashion Week last year and in January, after a series of terror attacks shook the country and taxi strikes made headlines.
“There was a [period] when we saw that buyers were coming less to Paris,” Hadida said. “They were afraid to come, because Paris was no longer welcoming.…So when we lose that flame, it’s hard to claim we’re at the top.”
Hadida also believes that changes wrought by the Internet across the industry also required trade shows to rethink their usual modes of operating, and to “reinvent themselves,” though he dismissed the idea of creating an online version of Tranoï.
Fewer buyers has meant trade shows have become harder to afford for designers, pushing some to search for cheaper showrooms, despite the fall in foot traffic. In turn, the departure of more designers has pushed some buyers to spend less time at trade shows, or even to skip them all together.
Rhys Hallett, buyer for Frances May in Portland, Ore., while visiting Woman Paris, said she no longer goes to Capsule, and didn’t realize they were not in town this season. Capsule had “just gotten so big, and a little overwhelming and a lot of our designers have actually jumped ship anyway,” she said. “If you know that only one brand is showing at a trade show, it’s hard to make the trek.”
Hallett said she finds new brands through word of mouth and prefers hunting down showrooms in the Marais to attending larger venues, because “weirdly it’s less overwhelming.”
“The Woman Paris [trade show] is a little bit smaller, so I feel it’s a more palatable trade show experience,” she added.
The five-year-old event keeps the number of exhibitors at a maximum of 100 and has earned a reputation as a more selective venue that manages to strike a good balance between size and quality.
“We started Man and Woman after realizing that trade shows were getting bigger and bigger,” said show director and cofounder Antoine Floch. “The whole concept is based on the precise selection of brands. So we look at the brand identity, collection, production, price points, distribution, and when all these filters come together, it makes sense for the brands to be in the show.
“If we had 500 brands, we wouldn’t be available to our brands, or buyers,” he added. For the sake of “maintaining our freedom,” Floch and cofounder Olivier Migda have turned down several requests to buy their show.
Vendôme Luxury stuck with its intimate venue at the Le Meurice hotel, with a special presentation of Argentine designers. Fabian Zitta was among them, a well-established designer in Argentina who chose the salon for his first European exhibition. His collection was inspired by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava and combined beautifully balanced structural modernism with a light airiness that felt flattering and feminine. Wearable art, as it were.
Some saw the shows’ smaller formats as a bad sign.
Stevie Moore, a buyer for Elements in Dallas, said while visiting Paris Sur Mode that efforts to condense shows suggested businesses had considerably calmed, and that too many good designers were being lured away. “There was a feeling that it was slowing down before, but now you can see it,” Moore said. “Physically, this space is smaller than it was last year, the Tranoï Bourse location is smaller than it was last year.…People just aren’t here, and it’s frustrating,” she added. “It gets less and less productive as people leave these shows, for us to be here. But I don’t think we’ll ever stop coming, because we like to support the concept of it.”
Still, Moore found some new, exciting brands at Paris Sur Mode, and was especially interested in South Korean labels who had “a huge presence.”
“That’s exactly the kind of thing that you can find, if you take the time to go to the shows. A lot of good people have left, but a lot of good people have also come in,” she said. South Korean label The Loom, which recently underwent a change in creative direction, was among the favorites, with Moore singling out its focus on tops, sleek design, cotton for spring and sizes that run generous. “Unfortunately, the market is still not showing anything bigger than a 12 in contemporary fashion brands,” she said.
Some trends to spot around the shows were bright colors, and an endless range of original prints by designers and collaborating artists. Revisited vintage looks and some Nineties nostalgia were on hand, as well as pastels and florals for spring. The mix and match of pattern and embellishment with a Gucci-esque, over the top bent made consistent appearances, as well as its sober, minimalist opposite. Waist-cinching, cocktail length and longer striped skirts have become a staple, and drop hem, silhouette defining skirts gave a little bit of a prairie, spring air to collections. Handcrafted, locally produced goods that preserve traditional garment-making practices, and help preserve the environment, also made a strong impression.
Lauren Yates, creator of the young W’Menswear brand that showed at Woman Paris, took the philosophy to new heights with her attention to detail. Yates for her T-shirt fabrics works with the world’s oldest, slow-tick knitting machines in Japan, with other styles made of woven story cloths and accessories including buttons found in a shuttered factory in the French countryside.
There was also plenty of yellow to be found at the shows.
Amy Gardner, owner of Scarpa in Virginia, and buyer Capi Bowles loved the intensely colorful, original prints and jacquards at Carlotta Canepa, a favorite at Tranoï. “Can I just say, it had color, that wasn’t yellow?” Bowles said. “I love saffron, but every single thing we’ve looked at in New York and here — it’s saffron and paprika. When you see it everywhere, it’s less effective.”
The duo, whose budget is up, were also interested in the emerging label Hagahi at the same show, by South Korean designer Gahee Ha. For her first spring collection shown in Europe, Gahee Ha collaborated with an artist to create floral patterns from photographs, printed on pleated, ruffled and punk-inspired asymmetrical silhouettes. Some proceeds from Hagahi sales go toward supporting the arts.
“This is a really good show, but we wish it was earlier,” lamented Rhona Blades, owner of the British eight-store chain and online shop Jules B, while visiting Tranoï. She was searching for special, new holiday items in all categories.
Le Bon Marché style director, Jennifer Cuvillier, praised the new Rose Carmine collection at Paris Sur Mode, and the Pierre-Louis Mascia collection at Tranoï.
Several boutique buyers spoke about their responses to online consumption, and how to better complement or combat it.
“The Internet is very disruptive,” said Sherri Guggenheim, owner of the American stores Vivi G. Shoes. She said the stores capitalize on their closer contact with customers, and create head-to-toe looks that keep customers returning.
Buyers touched on the importance of creating that much sought-after “experience” to lure bodies off the computer, and into their brick-and-mortar boutiques.
The Avant Toi collection at Tranoï did just that. The label wowed buyers with its launch of a home decor line it used to transform the booth into an alternate, modernist universe, including a forest of hanging woven cashmere strips, vintage scraps, bulbous hanging fixtures and cashmere rugs suggestive of wooden planks.
The display was “an amazing, sculptural presentation,” said Liora Zak, buyer for Comme Il Faut, an eight-store Israeli chain. “They built a whole adventure that gives you an idea of how to present. It’s beautiful.”
“A lot of our best customers aren’t as motivated by online purchasing. They’re excited to come in. They want to interface with us,” said Michael De Perno, cofounder of Plain Goods in New Preston, Conn. Some collections he loved included Apuntob or A.B., Kaval, and Evam Eva at Tranoï.
“I think that there are a handful of stores throughout the world that are doing something really thoughtful and really relevant,” he added. “And they have been able — and I hope we’re one of them — to create an experience for a customer. A tactile, visual, emotional experience when you open the door, and you come in. There is something that exists, and people feel that.”
Some key highlights from the Paris trade shows:
Show: Vendôme Luxury
Designer: Fabian Zitta
Inspiration: Tipping its hat to Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava, the collection combined structural pleating and meticulous craftsmanship with a feminine, flowing lightness.
Key styles: Some of the pleated tops and collars can be used to layer over a simpler dress or blouse, creating an ethereal winglike effect.
Prices: Blouses with pleats range from $200 to $300; gowns with pleats from $850 to $1,200.
Designer: Gahee Ha
Inspiration: The contours and drapery of flowers inspired this collection, made with original prints designed from photographs and poems by Parisian artist Stéphanie Lagarde. Gahee Ha studied the arts at The New School’s Parsons School of Design, and collaborates with a new artist for each collection. Proceeds from sales go toward an art-related cause chosen by that season’s collaborating artist.
Key styles: The iris print dresses with pleated drapery had a delicate quality that balanced edgy modernism and wearability.
Prices: Dresses cost under $600. Jackets $550. T-shirts range from $150 to $175. Novelty shirts $245.
Designer: Carlotta Canepa
Inspiration: Carlotta Canepa for inspiration likes to explore the archives of her family’s silk and jacquard factory. The Italian designer makes her own prints and jacquards, and recently decided to develop them into a women’s wear line. “I’ve spent my whole life in that [family] business,” she said. “So this is the most fun for me: to work with fabrics and the patterns and colors and give life to my fabrics.” For her third season, the designer seduced a steady stream of onlookers with bright, unusual color combinations and prints, which she said are like a “voyage through color,” with some roots in the Far East.
Key styles: The long gathered-at-the-waist skirt and blouse are a brand classic. The designer also developed silk pants with “ironic” patterns for a feminine, fun look. Oversize taffeta jacquard coats bring it all together for an impressive statement. Fabrics are made sustainably, with as little waste production as possible.
Prices: Skirts cost 450 euros; silk shirts 300 euros, and coats 600 euros.
Designer: Lauren Yates
Show: Womens Paris
Inspiration: “In terms of inspiration, I don’t really look at other brands,” said designer Lauren Yates, who grew up in Australia and Thailand. “Every weekend I spend at the flea markets looking at vintage inspirations, and [the collection] is very much influenced by my life in the country, cooking, gardening and going surfing and skating…in the north of France.” Yates also said her love of men’s wear strongly impacts her designs, as well as the post-World War II era, in which women began doing labor-intensive jobs traditionally reserved for men. Every piece of material she uses for her garments has a story and is sourced at its traditional roots. Yates also writes about “slow living” in her online Ponytail Journal.
Key styles: The Cargo dress is made of a hand-woven Khadi fabric and was inspired by repaired vintage clothing, which is why roping is used as the neckline and fabric is sewn together in different sections. An early 20th–century French work dress is made of cotton ikat, or “story cloth,” with vintage ceramic buttons.
Prices: Range between $100 and $500.
Designer: Whitney Pozgay
Show: Womens Paris
Inspiration: The American designer was inspired by Georgia O’Keeffe’s “escape” to Ghost Ranch. Her original prints draw from wildflowers, the moon, photos of shadows of plants on adobe walls. Pozgay also likes to experiment with new ways of printing, as a “ghost print,” or white pattern print on white fabric, or printing on different types of woven fabrics.
Key styles: The items are made from breathable, natural fibers and hang loose from the body, though they can also be brought in at the waist if desired. Skirts can either be high-waisted and fitted or be unbuttoned for a looser look.
Prices: Dresses range from $478 to $528; tops from $268 to $295.
Designer: Eva Karayiannis
Show: Womens Paris
Inspiration: The London-based brand is best known for its lifestyle and children’s clothing line, but designer Karayiannis recently headed in a women’s wear direction, inspired by a modern vintage sensibility and her own personal style. The spring 2018 collection played on layering, where dresses could be worn under other dresses, or alone. All prints are original.
Key styles: Wrapdresses and skirts in Japanese fabrics and linens, as well as a lot of Italian fabrics.
Prices: Silk dresses cost 465 euros, a classic blouse 200 euros, and coats 559 euros, with shirts starting at 150 euros.