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, and the extremely large range of brands meant 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.
The Paris shows ran on 20-23 January, read more coverage below: