Première Classe At­ten­dance Dips as Com­pany Un­der­goes Re­struc­tur­ing

Ex­ec­u­tive direc­tor Frédéric Maus is putting the fo­cus on ser­vice over sales.

WWD Digital Daily - - News - BY DEVORAH LAUTER

PARIS — Buy­ers at the re­cent Première Classe trade show in Paris stressed the im­por­tance of cu­rat­ing a fresh ar­ray of ac­ces­sories in to­day’s com­pet­i­tive global mar­ket.

“Ac­ces­sories help you create a new style, dif­fer­en­ti­ate, and bring it into the sea­son, so that peo­ple feel cur­rent and up­dated,” said Jamie Rosen­thal, owner of pi­o­neer­ing Los An­ge­les-based re­tailer Lost & Found. “With the In­ter­net and glob­al­iza­tion, it’s hard to re­main orig­i­nal, so as a buyer you re­ally need to do the ex­tra work and go ev­ery­where you can,” added Rosen­thal, who re­cently started her own cot­ton

T-shirt la­bel. Mar­ket chal­lenges has meant stores of­ten “need the mar­gin of a pri­vate la­bel, and some­thing more per­son­al­ized,” she ex­plained.

Or­ga­niz­ers re­ported a slight de­cline in vis­i­tors, at­trib­uted to “fewer ex­hibitors com­pared to the pre­vi­ous sea­son,” with 460 brands par­tic­i­pat­ing ver­sus 530 last year. A se­lec­tion of 35 cloth­ing brands was in­tro­duced in the “Première Classe Dress­ing” and “Show­room” spa­ces, the lat­ter re­plac­ing the Paris sur Mode show. Twenty-five lin­gerie and swimwear brands were also added. The changes re­flected com­pany trans­for­ma­tions since par­ent group WSN Devel­oppe­ment hired new ex­ec­u­tive direc­tor, Frédéric Maus, in Jan­uary. Maus said he also re­struc­tured the com­pany to be­come more ser­vice­ori­ented and less sales-fo­cused. “We have to think rad­i­cally with Première Classe, in the se­lec­tion, in the way we talk and com­mu­ni­cate,” he said.

Trend­wise, Rosen­thal said leather and straw bas­kets from Italy and “that Mediter­ranean life­style for spring” con­tin­ues. She dis­cov­ered Laul­here, mak­ing French berets since 1840, and a reg­u­lar fa­vorite, Dragon Dif­fu­sion’s wo­ven leather bags, with “crafts­man­ship su­pe­rior to any­thing I’ve ever seen.” The la­bel showed a leather bag in­spired by Sri Lankan fish­ing nets.

“It’s a very heavy ac­ces­sories mo­ment, so to cu­rate an ac­ces­sory story in a multi­brand bou­tique is re­ally im­por­tant, be­cause it sets you apart from other peo­ple,” echoed Ikram Gold­man, owner of Ikram bou­tique in Chicago. Gold­man, who is also con­sid­ered for­mer first lady Michelle Obama’s un­of­fi­cial stylist, was drawn to the bags by young French brand Pu­zle, ap­plied with hand-painted flow­ers in 3-D-printed resin re­sem­bling glass. “I love em­broi­dery and em­bel­lish­ment, I think that pops in a col­lec­tion,” she said.

Other trends in­cluded ex­per­i­ments with un­usual ma­te­ri­als, from re­cy­cled cat­tle bones and oil lamp wicks to cre­ative uses of ac­etate and resin. Eth­i­cal fash­ion ap­proaches were preva­lent, while spring themes in­cluded fairy-tale tropes, and ac­com­pa­ny­ing pow­dery tones. Dom­i­nant col­ors in­cluded pale pinks, beiges and nudes along­side light blues, browns and oranges, with fiery or­ange pops. Trop­i­cal color schemes were also strong. Em­broi­dered beads and se­quins con­tin­ued to sparkle, and bags were worn cre­atively on belts or as high shoul­der straps.

Sami Joseph Al­park, head buyer for Alyasra Fash­ion, a ma­jor Mid­dle East­ern re­tailer, said the com­pany was ex­pand­ing. “Busi­ness is tough across the Mid­dle East, but we’re do­ing great, be­cause we have ex­clu­sives, are very con­scious of price to value, and we very ag­gres­sively sup­port all the de­sign­ers.” Al­park adored Philip­pine brand Beatriz be­cause “it em­ploys un­der­priv­i­leged women. I love the bold­ness and the orig­i­nal­ity of the bags. They are re­ally works of art, and the price point is ac­ces­si­ble.” An­other fa­vorite was young Ital­ian brand Les Je­unes Etoiles.

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