Who's Next trade show sets tone for positive start to fall season
The Eagles de Meaux, the group of entertainers that welcomed visitors to the Parisian trade show at the Porte de Versailles on Friday morning, were not celebrating the fashion market's elation. The impressive stunts performed as well as the freestyle basketball shows were in line with the theme of the September session, which played on the codes of American universities and capitalized on the country's sports craze. But against a global backdrop of inflation and cost-savvy consumers, the fashion event kicked off with a sense of optimism that went beyond its colorful set design and stadium-like entrance.
"We were here in January, which was okay. But the first day of this year's edition was really, really dynamic," explained Lara Noel, director of Lara Ethnics, whose booth was positioned between the ready-to-wear and the swimwear departments. "But it is also the fruit of our work with our customers who come from the French overseas departments and regions as well as from abroad," she added.
"A trade show also involves a lot of preparation beforehand," explained Maison Toufet's stand manager. "We emailed our customers several times, networked and arranged meetings." As a result, the women's footwear label seemed to be very pleased. The brand, founded in 2015 by Marion Toufet, claimed to be off to a very good start.
A further positive point is that the thousand or so exhibitors presenting jewelry, footwear, accessories, beauty and, of course, clothing, were all located in the same pavilion (hall number one), making it easier for visitors to find their way around the fair.
"It was a good idea to group everything in one hall. This can help us bring in more potential customers," explained Olivier Criq, CEO of the MCC group (owner of brands Notshy and Absolut Cashmere). "The show is bustling and off to a good start, better than last year, and the turnout is good, with many French and a few European visitors," he detailed.
"Traffic is good, all of us are together and the selection of brands is appealing. We saw a lot of people at the stand on Friday," said Philippe Corbin of Léon & Harper. "Saturday was a little quieter since retailers were in their stores on the first weekend back from vacation," he stressed.
In terms of supply, there was another pleasant surprise at the fair: the brands designed their collections with the aim of standing out, experimenting with color, prints, and materials... Along with the price hike they all had to apply.
"We come to visit the whole show and we really look at everything," explained Nathalie Samsom Friedlander, co-founder of high-end multi-brand Brand Bazar. "There are always brands to be discovered at the back of the hall and in the selection of brands that are not yet well-known," she said.
Between the in-depth work carried out by the established brands, the sustainable approaches found in the Impact space, the Villa Beauté concept, the collections created by international players, as well as designs offered by the group of Taiwanese brands present near a conference space designed to resemble an American soccer stadium, a wide range of products and ideas were on display.
Thalie Moliner, which exhibited at the Ulule space dedicated to young fashion companies, noted a significant number of journalists and agents, yet a lower number of buyers.
"We are enjoying a very pleasant atmosphere, and it is an opportunity to meet other designers with whom we were already in contact," explained the creator of the men's swimwear brand Calanque Swimwear, which produces its pieces using recycled plastics from the Mediterranean.
"What surprises many players is that prices have increased in all product categories. We have tried to control this increase, but it really is an important point for some in their choices," said Spanish ready-to-wear brand Skatïe.
For leather goods brand Nat&Nin, Friday proved to be a good day's work, although the quieter Saturday raised a number of questions.
"Either the fair comes too late in the season or too early. Also, the start of the return from the vacations and the fact that the Maison & Objet show is being held a little later, whereas it used to be held on the same dates, has an impact on the presence of buyers," said the brand.
This season the label is trying out a new formula by running two separate stands: one to present its spring 2023 collection and another to present its winter 2022/2023 collection to stores that would like to place orders immediately. The brand's aim is to respond to the expectations of multi-brand retailers in the best way possible.
Finally, most of the exhibitors were able to meet with their customers as well as make deals with potential customers. All in all, this indicator remains key for brands playing the physical trade show card.
Not all exhibit areas had the same kind of positive momentum. The Impact area dedicated to sustainable solutions was apparently a little less visited than in previous editions. Coming from South Korea to present Supportex's eco-responsible manufacturing processes, director Anny Ann perceived a satisfactory activity, especially on Sunday. However, she felt that this year's event proved to be slower than when she first attended in September 2021.
Sunday proved to be busier than the previous day, according to exhibitors FashionNetwork.com spoke to. "It's a particularly stimulating atmosphere of networking and interaction," said Bianca Benloukil, founder of Dutch brand Rainodd. Housed in the Impact space, the brand offers designer ponchos made from recycled plastics, inspired by the designer's time in Bali.
On the other hand, the spaces dedicated to ready-to-wear and accessories saw a large influx of buyers, especially from department stores along with multiple high-end French multi-brands, which, according to feedback picked up at the fair, have not cut back on their spending budgets. Colorful ready-to-wear brand Frnch Paris, for example, said it was its best season yet at the show, and Lemasson Paris said it has landed its first customer from New York at Who's Next.
Cotélac, which is returning to the show after several years of absence, established contacts with European visitors as well as those from overseas, specifically "from the French overseas departments and regions, Canada and the United States".
The show was also a success for Red Legend, a Marseille-based denim specialist that uses Italian yarns and French materials, attracting new clients from Ireland, Italy and even Japan.
This was an exception, however, as visitors were still mostly French and European. Brands are still waiting for the return of international buyers, particularly Asian buyers, who once placed sizeable orders.
After a five-year absence from Who's Next, Bangle Up, the jewelry brand acquired last February by Emmanuel Venot, has come back with a very specific strategy.
"We want to reach a more domestic clientele and especially more specialized in our field, which is fashion," said Venot. In a few days' time, Bangle Up will participate in the Maison & Objet show, where it will instead target international visitors.
The Who's next trade fair is scheduled to end on Monday evening.
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