Première Classe Attendance Dips as Company Undergoes Restructuring
Executive director Frédéric Maus is putting the focus on service over sales.
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.