PARIS — Conscious consumption was top of mind for a number of designers visiting the recent Blossom Première Vision trade show here, exhibiting fabrics for the spring 2020 season. Mills from Hermès-owned silk specialist Bucol to Scottish cashmere producer Alex Begg said they were increasingly adapting to a circular economy model.
“The movement is in motion. There’s still a long way to go but it’s already a mega trend,” said Chantal Malingrey, director of Blossom Première Vision, adding that the sustainability commitments of heavyweights like Kering and LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton is speeding the industry’s transformation.
Presenting an edited selection of high-end weavers, tanners and accessory manufacturers, the show, held at the Carreau du Temple here on Dec. 12 and 13, logged a 20 percent rise in attendees versus the equivalent year-ago edition. The lion’s share of visitors, or 81.5 percent, came from leading French fashion houses, according to a statement from the show, with the remaining 18.5 percent based at international brands. Following France, Italy had the second largest number of visitors, with attendance up by 50 percent year-on-year.
“If I can order fewer skins for my production, it’s better,” said Mathilde Possoz, head of design at Ellery, who was visiting the booth of Rial 1957, France’s last remaining shearling producer. “It’s all about exchanging with suppliers to find solutions for creating less waste.” Silks and Lurex were also on her shopping list.
“We have to produce exactly what the market needs. If we’re more efficient, it will be a great victory for everybody,” echoed Daniele Carlo Patruno, a designer at Giorgio Armani, characterizing sustainable practices as the next big business opportunity.
Coming off a challenging year and anticipating a slow start to 2019, the industry remains under pressure, said Gilles Lasbordes, general manager of Première Vision Group. The only bright spot, he added, is the “the highly creative luxury market,” with Asian buyers continuing to fuel demand.
“There is a price issue, especially from the middle market, which is under in pressure in terms of sales and is asking for cheaper materials,” he said.
Exhibitors described creativity and sustainability as being vital to their survival.
“Ethics is the word that best defines the era,” said Eve Corrigan, founder of Malhia Kent, which launched a new more accessible line of jacquards and tweeds at the fair, dubbed La Fille and designer by her daughter Alexia. In an industry increasingly under scrutiny, Corrigan cited intense interest from one of France’s biggest luxury brands looking to tighten its ties with the country’s artisanal producers. In terms of assets, Malhia Kent boasts a stock of 4 million euros-worth of thread stocked in a wholly automated hangar in central France measuring around 54,000 square feet.
“Luxury can no longer afford to take risks. It’s all about transparency. Companies cannot afford to have secrets anymore, especially in the age of the Internet,” she said. “It was social media that led to the gilets jaunes [yellow vests] descending into the streets without a leader. It takes 30 or 40 years to create a beautiful brand, and five minutes to destroy it.”
Key fabric trends including vivacious hues contrasting with soft neutrals. “As the collections demonstrate, there is faith in the future with mills continuing to invest in creativity,” noted Première Vision’s fashion director Pascaline Wilhelm. “But don’t forget this is a niche sector, with luxury and demand for personalized fabrics still doing well.”
Wilhelm also spoke of opposing directions across collections, moving between ultra-light materials, dense and compact wools and super stretch fabrics.
Fanny Goldsmith James, head of design women’s, men’s and kids shoes and accessories at Kurt Geiger, observed a trend for fluorescent accents on technical fabrics and tweeds. “These really nice neutrals with flashes of neon,” she enthused.
Coming off a “fantastic year,” Emily White, design and sales director at Lindéngruppen-owned Alex Begg, said “we’ve found, particularly at this show, people aren’t necessarily looking for one season.” Demand for bespoke creations has grown so much, the company is looking to expand its facility, with the latest collection themed around Scottish folklore. Highlights included a two-tone fringed cashmere with a yellow and petrol blue warp and bright red weft; a classic hound’s tooth “exploded in scale,” and a lighter cashmere with placement strips of bouclé yarns.
Lyon-based Bucol, which boasts one of the most important silk archives in Europe, presented heritage updates including an evening piece-dyed jacquard made from raw silk, and a range of painterly animal print silks.
Sylvain Joubert, the house’s commercial director, flagged a slow start to 2019 versus the equivalent year-ago period as well as growing demand for qualities made from recycled polyester yarns. “Most people in fashion are now very involved in this process,” he said. “To begin with, people just saw it as an added value but now we have another category of customer that is really looking for it.”