Fashion shows may get all the Fashion Week media love but there’s a whole other side that people don’t see. They’re the less glamorous workhorses of the fashion calendar; the showrooms, re-sees and trade shows. While the menswear shows took all the Paris glory last month, I spent three days in a parallel universe with the team from Who’s Next and Premiere Classe, getting an insider’s look at the biannual trade show, with a few added leisure activities thrown in.
It was quite a whirlwind three days, with a breakfast at Galeries Lafayette, an afternoon at the Fondation Louis Vuitton and a chance to meet some of the designers from the Future of Fashion programme, curated by Not Just A Label. Here’s what I got up to….
WHERE WE STAYED: THE HOTEL MOLITOR
Press trips can be unpredictable (disclosure: A press trip is an all-expenses paid trip to whatever event the PR is promoting.). Although you get an itinerary in advance, you don’t always know the exact accommodation until you arrive at your destination. I’ve heard stories about editors being asked to share rooms with people they don’t know (#awkward) and I’ve been on trips where I stayed in a fancy hotel, but discovered other colleagues were in a less fancy one (#sorrynotsorry).
But the Hotel Molitor was a fabulous surprise. A one-time famous public swimming baths, it was later known as an artists’, skaters’ and ravers’ hangout and last year was rebuilt in homage to its former glory. The view from my room was of the spectacular (heated) outdoor pool (there’s an indoor one as well) and there were contemporary pop art touches everywhere, from the graffiti mural in the breakfast room, to the spray-painted Rolls Royce in the lobby. The custom-made carpet outside my room boasted the names of Olympic swimmers and the overall vibe of the hotel was luxurious in service, yet laid back and humorous in spirit. I also appreciated how female-friendly it was. Full length mirrors, Clarins everything in the bathroom, sympathetic lighting and lots of hangers in the wardrobe. You know, the important stuff…
THE TREND BREAKFAST: GALERIES LAFAYETTE
I’m embarrassed to admit this was my first time at Galeries Lafayette, a.k.a the largest department store in Paris. We (20-odd international bloggers and trade press) were treated to a breakfast presentation by the personal shopping manager, Isabelle Herve-Penard, who gave us a lesson in classic Parisian style and a look at the key trends. Galeries Lafayette is similar to Selfridges in its mix of classic luxury superbrands alongside quirkier younger labels. This season’s overarching seventies trend is represented at Galeries Lafayette by the likes of Valentino’s pre-coll rainbow stripes and a general mood of whimsy and feel-good fashion. I spotted quite a few British brands including Charlotte Olympia’s bags and Sophia Webster’s happy heels. But I couldn’t help gravitating to the rail of APC jeans, white Agnes b shirts and Repetto pumps, the uniform staples that a true Parisienne never deviates from.
And while the gorgeous young Korean bloggers took their turns to model a stunning Maison Michel straw hat, the playful confection was swiftly whipped off my head by Mme Herve-Penard in favour of a silk scarf round the neck. Zut alors! (She was right of course.) In a break between nibbles of brioche, I managed to grab the very chic Korean translator Joon, to quiz her about brand preferences of the store’s international customers. Perhaps not surprisingly, Chanel and Hermes are still the clear luxury leaders with Galeries Lafayette’s Korean clientele, followed by Isabel Marant and Acne Studio for the more fashion-forward. On the shop floor that evidence was borne out by the orderly queue at Chanel, but the ‘creative fashion’ floor was also abuzz with younger brands including Wanda Nylon, Mother Of Pearl, Ostwald Helgason and new-to-Galeries, Topshop.
THE TRADE SHOW: WHO’S NEXT AND PREMIERE CLASSE
The trade show, an amalgamation of Who’s Next ready-to-wear and Premiere Classe accessories is huge. It’s the destination for department stores and independents to fill their rails with wares that aren’t from the trop cher luxury brands. Over 1600 mid-tier labels like Eleven Paris, Orla Kiely and Antik Batik show at Who’s Next and Premiere Classe in a maze of halls thronging with buyers.
When you’re presented with such an immense volume of fashion, it can be hard to spot the trends. Handily, an area of ‘trend obsessions’ had been curated for our benefit. My big tip for AW15? Fuzzy, tactile, teddy bear textures are going to be unavoidable – from nubby coats, to shaggy multi-media sweats, to very cute sheepskin-panelled bags. Also trending: ‘Just Out of Bed’, a pyjama-and-leggings led look, heavy on sub-Seattle grunge elements and fitted tracksuit styling. On a more personal level, I picked up on By Boe, a range of wearable minimalist jewellery, perfect for stacking and layering.
To add variety, there are lifestyle products thrown into the mix, including artisan teas, candle makers and a pop-up vintage furniture shop. I also spotted a pop-up shop dedicated to 2nd year Chardon Savard fashion students, where their one-off creations could be bought on the spot. (Even though it’s a trade show it seems punters still want to shop!)
Below: Student designs on sale at the Atelier Chardon Savard fashion school Free Lab pop up shop…
Candles and room scents by Made In Paris
Irene Irene vintage pop-up
Xie Xie artisan tea
THE FUTURE OF FASHION PROGRAMME
A highlight of Who’s Next and Premiere Classe is their support for younger brands that are just getting a foothold in fashion. This season marks the final season for The Future of Fashion competition, a collaboration between Who’s Next/Premiere Classe and Stefan Siegal’s Not Just A Label, the e-commerce platform for emerging talent. I loved talking to the designers and seeing their work on the stands, especially as it was the day before the final judging so there was a positive zing in the air. This is the first edition of The Future of Fashion, an intensive programme that helps to launch designers via a valuable mentoring scheme. What began with ten RTW and ten accessory designers had been whittled to three of each, who were given free space at the trade show to sell their collections to buyers.
All the Future of Fashion designers have to be as commercially savvy as they’re creative. In a competitive market, they find themselves multi-tasking or outsourcing manufacturing to other cities where the skills are high but labour is less costly than London. Both Kelly Love and Iona Ciolacu created fabric prints from their own beautiful illustrations. Hanger designer Claire Yurika Davis talked about her love of tailoring and the importance of impeccable fit and finishing.
On the accessories side, there are challenges of pricing to be considered – the designers of Lamat (high end jewellery and handbags) discussed the fine line between keeping prices acceptable and having a realistic profit margin. The winners of the first Future of Fashion prizes will get help and advice with all these considerations, as well as extended business plan support worth €20,000, enabling them to take their fledgling brands to the next level.
In fact, the winners were announced a few days before this post was published. So I can announce that from ready-to-wear, the prize goes to Kelly Love for her soft silhouettes and all-enveloping tactile knits. And from accessories, Spanish-based Vaska impressed the judges with designer Ann Sofi Storbacka’s boxy bags handcrafted from superior leathers and natural fabrics (note the snuggly textures too). Both the winners get space to show at Who’s Next and Premiere Classe in September.
Below: Future of Fashion finalist Iona Ciolacu’s illustrated appliqued separates
Hanger by Claire Yurika Davis
Who’s Next Future of Fashion winner Kelly Love’s collection stood out for its soft shapes and tactile knits
Structured leather bags from Vaska, the accessories prizewinner of the Future of Fashion
DINNER AT BALLS
I must mention the team dinner we had at Balls, a brilliant restaurant devoted to meatballs of every description (including non-meat ones). Our part of thirty-odd took over the entire restaurant where we gorged on really delicious meatballs, risotto, polenta sauces and
wine puddings until we rolled our overstuffed selves back to the hotel well past bedtime.
THE FONDATION LOUIS VUITTON
On our last day I was very lucky to get to visit the recently opened Fondation Louis Vuitton. I think this needs a dedicated post, so I won’t go into too much detail, but suffice to say I was there for three hours. The building is incredible and perfect for an art gallery. Well, I say ‘gallery’, it’s more of a multi-functioning cultural space, with traditional gallery rooms, a music performance auditorium (with specially commissioned Ellsworth Kelly), outdoor installations and then the building itself which can’t properly be described, it just needs to be experienced.
While it’s called the Louis Vuitton Fondation and is sponsored by LVMH, it serves as a not-for-profit gift to Paris, while of course being a very nice (and big) advert for the brand. At the moment there’s an exhibition dedicated to the making of the Gehry-designed building, which finishes on February 16th. Definitely try and get to this one if you can.
The specially commissioned Ellsworth Kelly
Thanks to Who’s Next and Hotel Molitor for hosting my trip to Paris