A generally positive mood pervaded the Parisian womenswear, footwear and accessories trade shows this season, as brands hinted at a return to form after a successful edition of Who’s Next and Premiere Classe.
The vast halls of the Porte de Versaille exhibition centre bustled with buyers across the weekend, running from 20 January to 23 January. Despite the bitter chill across the city, blue skies and sunshine gave crowds an air of optimism as they browsed the biggest ever edition of the show. A total of 800 footwear and accessories brands showed in Premiere Classe, alongside 700 ready-to-wear womenswear brands across three large halls of Who’s Next.
“This is the best the show has been for the last three or four years I think,” said Mohamed Daya, founder of footwear brand Laidback London. “There’s much more of a buzz this year than there has been, higher footfall and very good-quality buyers.”
The layout of the show was cunningly reworked for the autumn season: the busiest hall, Fame, fed directly into Premiere Classe, almost forcing buyers to pass through the different areas. While the Studio and Private hall was directly opposite this exit, just a short walk outside, the Trendy and Urban sections of the show had been moved to a newly renovated hall a longer walk away at the far end of the expo centre.
The response to this new space was mixed. Teething problems at the new hall left brands and visitors shivering in -5° temperatures as the heating system failed on Friday morning in this hall. A lack of clear signs to drive buyers to the separate building at the far end of the complex also meant some felt left out of the action.
“When we arrived this morning [Friday] there was nothing to announce it was open, the heating wasn’t working and there was no music,” said Debbie Faherty, wholesale sales manager of London womenswear brand Emily & Fin. “As this hall is so far away from the entrance, I think people are disinclined to come this far. It has got busier towards the end of the day as things have warmed up.”
The relocation of the Trendy and Urban hall was not the only way the organisers were looking to mix up the format of the show. Shoppable and transactional lifestyle pop-ups punctuated the halls selling their wares directly to visitors, providing a welcome relief from the sea of classic trade show stands.
Some other stands came in new formats too, without walls to give a much more open and sociable feel to the space. Another new addition were curated brand areas, for example the Girls With Curves section of plus-size brands, and the Neo-Green edit of French eco-brands.
These fresh touches were largely successful and did create a cool look and fresh feel to areas of the show, although in the frenetic buzz of such a large exhibition, many pop-up stores often seemed neglected by buyers on a mission, more inclined to browse the actual wholesale stands than shop for themselves.
Visitor numbers appeared to be higher than previous seasons, and there was a constant stream of activity flowing from one hall to the next, aided by the newly connected Fame and Premiere Classe areas.
International buyers, in particular Japanese buyers returned to the Paris shows, after their absence at the summer 17 edition because of security concerns. Several brands reported seeing high numbers of Japanese buyers, as the show is a key destination for those seeking a touch of Parisian chic for Japan’s francofile shoppers.
Of the four halls, Fame was by far the biggest success. The strong brand mix placed established brands such as Suncoo alongside new and exciting debutants, and offered some interesting finds. Many of the strongest brands were in this hall, which had a consistently busy floor and positive buzz from both brands and buyers.
The Studio and Private hall, separate from Fame, was notably quieter, with an extremely large range of brands meaning the overall offering felt less edited than other halls.
Despite bouncing back from a somewhat nervous spring show, the new format and layout, as well as ongoing concerns over pricing were a headache for some. However, a positive mood prevailed as most people Drapers spoke to declaring the autumn 17 edition of the show a success.
Views from the floor
This is our first season showing in Paris, and yesterday was good. We’ve seen buyers from Spain, the UK and Germany and so far things have lived up to the expectations we had for a lot of international buyers. Today [Saturday] seems slower though, I don’t think buyers enjoy shows when they’re at the weekend, and they’re much less inclined to come. We started out on this season as we always find that the autumn shows are busier, and we’re looking to expand our business in Europe, so it’s a good place to start. France in particular holds a lot of untapped potential, but we didn’t actually see any French buyers yesterday. We were also in Berlin for the shows, and they said they did around a third of the orders they would normally do and footfall is certainly down. We’re confident in our products though, and we’re always writing orders. Paris is recognised globally as showing all levels of trend and a variety, whereas Berlin is much more focused on street style. The scale here is a bit overwhelming, which I think can be good, for new brands to be sat alongside big ones – it helps the buyers find them. The UK trade shows are a lot more curated, you know what you will get at Jacket Required, or Scoop for example. It might be huge but it is nice to have that mix of brands.”
Rohil Kumar, director, Brave Soul
This has been a good show – really busy and we’ve taken lots of orders on the stand. We’ve seen a diverse mix of customers including plenty of international. The second day was a bit slower but it picked up a lot on the third and has been very busy. This show is good for picking up new customers. We have another stand over at trade show Tranoi, which is happening at the same time for our accessories, and that show is a lot quieter.
Emma Gushlow, founder, Gushlow & Cole
This is our first time here and it has been really good, we were recommended it by buyers that we talk to and it has been worth it so far. We went to Capsule in Paris, and we also went to New York – Capsule was really dead, so this has been much better for us. We’ve mainly seen French buyers so far and overwhelmingly from independents. We’re in a really good spot here, and the halls are nice and clear, so the buyers can navigate easily. We fit very well with the brands around us, and the brand mix is really good so buyers know where to go. We’ve written a couple of orders but it is much more of a showcase for us. The buyers here are a lot more thorough and considered than we’ve seen before, they really are taking their time to look at things, in other shows we have found that they’re so rushed they just can’t spare the time to stop.
Sabrina Oubinova, designer, Oubinova
This is the third time the brand has shown at Who’s Next, but the first time I myself have been as I’m based in LA. It’s very different to the trade shows in the US. In the US we see loads of orders, but here people are more cautious. It’s a lot more about promoting the brand as a showcase here, rather than selling things.
Adrien Rho, Endless Rose and English Factory
We’re not too happy this year to be honest, as we’ve been put in a very bad position. We’re right in the corner, so we don’t get a lot of traffic and there’s a lot of dead space on the stand. People are coming and going in waves – this is usually a busy show, but at the moment it has been very mixed. We have mainly seen our UK clients, but we’ve also seen people from Spain. Generally we’ve been speaking to clients who are already familiar with us, and this is much more of a showcase than somewhere we can write orders. Trade shows are changing in that sense. Additionally we don’t fit into the brand mix here, we are a minimal brand and we focus on fabrics, but everyone around us is French and very bohemian. I think it is getting to the time where we have to think about whether Who’s Next is right for us – shows like Pure are better for the buyers we’re looking for, and are much busier.
Fevronia Hanna, retail co-ordinator, Charli
We’ve been busy all day. It’s been full of appointments mainly though, rather than new clients. Its been 80% existing customers. We haven’t seen many from the UK, its been mostly from Japan and Italy. Lots of Asian buyers come to France, and they’re all big stores. We never see them in the UK. The Japanese never come to London, so we come here to Paris to see them when they’re here.
Emin Young, designer, Emin & Paul
Things have been good so far. We’ve mainly seen international buyers, particularly from Asia and the US, rather than the European Union. That’s what we expected really, you expect that level international attention at Who’s Next. It’s getting much busier this afternoon, but before about 11am it was deserted. Last season was a lot busier – maybe it’s the weather as it is very cold. I don’t like the new set-up in the trendy hall, as this hall is very far away and quite separate from the rest of the show. It’s quite a long walk for buyers and a lot of people we’re seeing are coming because they know we’re here. We’ve mainly seen current stockists and we were hoping for a lot more new clients. This is only our third season as a brand and we’re attending lots of shows this season. While it may be quiet at the moment, the show as a whole is definitely feeling positive.
Sanae Zouak, sales and marketing manager, Cubic
The show has been very busy this season and has been a success for us, having seen lots of new and big customers. We’ve some strong people from China and they’ve been writing orders here. Seek was great and this show has been good too. It is good that the show is trying new things, like introducing pop-ups and new stand formats, as it makes the whole thing a little more lively.
Jean D’Hommee, sales agent, Veja
We’ve been coming here since spring 16. It’s been busy with a good mix of new and old customers – mainly French, but we’ve even seen some Americans. The brand mix is OK but some aren’t up to the right standard, which is a let-down. Compared with Premium [in Berlin], where we were last week, Who’s Next isn’t very well organised for exhibitors. Some buyers contacted us that they wanted to come at the last minute but it was after our deadline for free invitations and Who’s Next wouldn’t let them in, so they had to pay. This is bad service. There is no power at our stand either, and the food and drink offer isn’t great.
Lauren Verweg, sales, Anecdote