Color and Caution Dominate at Who’s Next – celebritiestalks
PARIS – Nearly 1,300 exhibitors – about a third of them newcomers and 59 percent hailing from outside France – made for a jam-packed show floor at the recent edition of Who’s Next, Impact and Bijorhca at Porte de Versailles.
While this made navigating the massive event, held over three days from Sept. 2-4, overwhelming for some, buyers said it also meant there was plenty to choose from.
“You have to really pick through, but it also means that everyone will find something,” said Sandie Harrow, co-owner of high-end retailer Stocks in Henley-on-Thames and Marlow, U.K. “A lot of it is very down-market, not suitable for our consumer,” she added, however.
Another U.K. retailer, Anna Park, owner of the Anna chain with five stores in London and the Southeast of England, was shopping for quirky accessories. “I’ve always liked this show, it’s good to pick up inexpensive add-ons for the till-point,” she said. “Everything we pick up here is at lower price points.”
Despite consistent sales growth over the past five years – with the exception of one year during the pandemic – Park said she was ordering cautiously. “I’m still a bit nervous about the economic situation, I don’t think we’ve hit the peak yet,” she said. “My consumer is affluent, so it’s not really affecting her, but it could yet.”
Sophie Salleron, owner of L’Appartement boutique in Périgeaux, a popular tourist spot in the Dordogne area of France, was looking for standout pieces. “I go towards stuff that catches my eye, and brand stories,” she said, admiring designs from colorful accessories label Boks & Baum. The summer tourist season had been complicated, she said. “French people are pessimistic at the moment.”
Her sentiment was echoed by Rafael Zabalgogeazcoa, sales director of Bollman Hat Company, which was exhibiting with the Kangol and Bailey 1922 brands. “There’s uncertainty across the continent, so that is having an impact, especially in [Eastern European countries] like Poland,” he said. “People have had a tough summer, so they’re buying less for summer 2024.”
“The market is difficult throughout Europe, and in much of the world,” said Karim Meflah, general manager of LPE Group, owner of ready-to-wear label La Petite Etoile and the new licensee for Brigitte Bardot apparel, which it relaunched at the show. “People are generally worried, especially about inflation, and are splashing out less, making it all the more important to offer joyful collections,” said Meflah.
To wit, much of the offer at Who’s Next was very colorful, with plenty of breezy printed dresses and resort-wear, plus a plethora of statement accessories. There was a distinct shift away from sportswear and towards dressier silhouettes.
Highlights this session included sustainable area Impact, staged in tandem with a selection of brands under Neonyt, a German event hosted by Messe Frankfurt, and a selection of 20 labels from China in partnership with the CHIC Shanghai show.
Two years into its integration into Who’s Next, jewelry showcase Bijorhca hit its stride as part of the broader offer, and key exhibitors praised a coherent layout that merged seamlessly with the neighboring jewelry selection within Who’s Next.
“It’s been really dynamic, although we haven’t seen many visitors from outside Europe,” commented costume jewelry specialist Satellite sales director Ludovic Delpierre, whose current focus is a massive expansion in China. “The link between the jewelry offer at Who’s Next and Bijorhca works really well, there is a continuity between the two worlds,” he added. Buyers were very conscious of prices, however, he said. “They are looking for creativity, but very much at the right price point.”
Overall, visitor numbers at the events were flat year-on-year, and 35 percent of traffic hailed from abroad, mainly from neighboring countries.
“I think it’s because we have an extensive offer that you don’t see elsewhere in Europe. The ready-to-wear and accessories selection is really broad, so a retailer can pretty much purchase their full assortment here, that makes it very practical,” said WSN chief executive officer Frédéric Maus.
Regarding what some described as a confusing layout between the different product categories – notably in the various apparel sections – Maus said the format was set to evolve for future editions, with Who’s Next set to celebrate its 30th anniversary in January. “We’ve expanded very quickly post-pandemic, we need to work to make the layout more practical and more inspiring for buyers,” he commented.
Brands, including labels that initially launched direct-to-consumer, are rediscovering the relevance of wholesale, said Maus. Among newcomers this session were French eyewear label Jimmy Fairly, opening up to wholesale for the first time with big plans for the U.S. market in the coming months. “We’ve seen a lot of major retailers, it’s been really positive,” said a spokesperson for the brand. “The U.S. is our third-biggest market online; Americans who have discovered the brand in Europe know and love it for its combination of trend-driven design and affordability.”
HIGHLIGHTS AT WHO’S NEXT AND BIJORHCA
Italian designer Angelica Mingardo, a NYKY SRL alum, was one of the labels attracting the most attention at Who’s Next. She named her fledgling brand, made up of colorful embroidered striped, checked or tie-dyed shirting inspired by her travels, after her late mother and her blue eyes. Launched just a year ago, the brand was picked up by Lane Crawford via Instagram before it even entered production, and is expanding fast. Next stop later this month is Coterie in New York.
Price range: 140-200 euros wholesale
After training in economics – he is a silver medal winner in China’s Mathematical Olympiad – William Shen turned his talents to Fashion, building a collection around ultra-luxury graphic down jackets made from recycled nylon stuffed with goose down, their 3D motifs inspired by traditional Chinese bamboo weaving. He debuted at Shanghai Fashion Week in 2020 and showed his second collection at the Great Wall of China, and has since shown in Milan. The label is currently stocked at Joyce in Hong Kong and will soon launch at Modès in Milan and Paris.
Price range: 2,000 euros plus (retail)
Created in 2019 by a former professional sailor, a sporting goods designer and a marketing specialist, La Virgule aims to put an end to the performance-goods industry’s major waste problem. The Lille-based brand’s heavy-duty yet stylish bags are crafted from recycled rigid inflatable boat fabric, car seatbelts sourced from scrapyards and repurposed materials thanks to partnerships with labels like The North Face and Salomon. “Performance materials used in sporting goods are by necessity some of the most durable that exist, but there is no recycling stream for them,” explained co-founder Maxime Labat. “We want to drive circularity in the sporting-goods world.”
Price range: 149-179 euros (retail)
Boks & Baum
Category: Accessories and jewelry
This eight year-old label offers a quirky range of handmade jewelry pieces and crocheted handbags featuring colorful Murano glass or semi-precious stones. Designed in Paris, handiwork is performed by artisans in the brand’s atelier in Mexico City. Highlights in the spring 2023 collection included fluffy chenille clutches or a full-sized purse with a cross-body chain in a multitude of hues. Around 150 stockists worldwide include New York’s Museum of Arts and Design.
Price range: 150-700 euros (retail)
Sing a Song
Ingrid Allouche was born into a family of jewelers in the southern French city of Marseilles. Frustrated by a perceived lack of creativity from the brands stocked in the family store, Yos, she turned her hand to creating her own designs, which quickly gained a following. Ever a music fan – Lenny Kravitz is her idol – she said the idea of turning guitar strings into jewelry took root nine years ago, and she has since turned it into a flourishing business, with nickel-free strings specially made by French expert Savares.
Price range: 65-180 euros (retail)
Color and Caution Dominate at Who’s Next – celebritiestalks