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Buyers Divide on Paris: Some Praise Season, Others Call It Lackluster

In one of the most divisive seasons in memory, retailers took distinctly opposing views of Paris Fashion Week: Some said sizzle, some said fizzle.

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…and pencil skirts at Yves Saint Laurent.

Photo By Giovanni Giannoni

PARIS — Did the Paris collections sizzle or fizzle?

That all depends who you ask. In one of the most divisive seasons in memory, international retailers took distinctly opposing views of Paris Fashion Week, which winds up officially today. And with the continued weakness of the dollar against the euro, U.S. and Far Eastern retailers said they would be ordering fewer units from Paris for fall, just as they will be from Milan.

“One comes to Paris to see people lead and not follow,” lamented Robert Burke, vice president and senior fashion director at Bergdorf Goodman. “I didn’t find a lot of originality. We found the same themes of vintage, couture, ladylike and bows. It was a continuation of Milan and New York. Usually I’m caught by surprise in Paris. I usually depend on Paris to provide something that the customer didn’t know they wanted.”

Majed Al-Sabah, owner of Kuwait-based Villa Moda, agreed. “I’m quite disappointed with Paris this season,” he said. “Milan was much stronger. But there were three collections that were the stars in Paris: Chloé, Valentino and Yves Saint Laurent, which was unbelievable. It’s a pity [YSL designer Tom Ford] is leaving just when it’s turning around.”

“It has not been so exciting,” said Yoshio Fukuzawa, merchandising manager at Matsuya Co. Ltd. in Toyko. “I didn’t notice any significant trends this season: There was a lot of black. Nothing stood out in particular. But Chloé was quite impressive.”

Even hometown buyers found little to cheer about.

“Milan was by far the best,” said Cedric Charbit, chief women’s buyer at Printemps. “Women will be coming out of summer wearing muslin and chiffon and I have difficulty seeing them embracing the masculine fabrics and rigidity in many of the collections here. Paris was all over the map: China at Yves Saint Laurent, retro at Celine and Givenchy and masculine at Jean Paul Gaultier.”

But while some criticized the Paris season, others applauded.

“Milan and New York were good, but Paris rocks,” said Julie Gilhart, vice president of fashion merchandising at Barneys New York. “Overall it will be a great season, even with the [poor] exchange rate. I loved the masculinity that crept into fashion here. It balances that plethora of womanly retro looks.
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