Sales of the men's spring-summer 2024 ready-to-wear collections, which are now drawing to a close, set the tone for a Paris Fashion Week that welcomed an upsurge in exhibiting brands and the return of Asian buyers.
Looking back on our comparison with the Cannes Film Festival, discussed in a previous article, on the sidelines of show business, there is the law of the market. In Paris, financial transactions take place in showrooms (collective, multi-brand or mono-brand) and at trade fairs (Tranoï and Man). While the Marais district has long been the flagship of designer fashion, it seems that sales campaigns are now more dispersed, and have even moved to the eighth administrative division of the city, where the Arc de Triomphe is located, leaving the centre of Paris to tourists.
There are no figures to quantify the volume of business generated by the designer and luxury brands presenting at Paris Fashion Week. The last survey, conducted by the IFM and Kantar, dates back to 2018. Defi and the IFM are reportedly about to produce a new one. This is a welcome initiative, since the post-Covid situation has changed and an analysis could only be based on the testimonies of professionals in the sector.
Starting with feedback from the No Season showroom (rue de Braque, in the Marais), renowned for its cutting-edge selection of men's brands. Its manager, Benjamin Mazza, admitted that he continues to offer designer labels, because "that's my DNA", but that the bulk of his business is now with women's collections.
In fact, under the guise of genderlessness, many brands present men and women on the same catwalk during Men's Fashion Week. "I've had a lot of requests from women who saw in my silhouettes the possibility of adopting the boyish/working girl style," attested Steven Passaro, represented by No Season. “I took the plunge because the women's market is more dynamic. Genderfluid is still a niche that not many concept stores are getting into.” A reality that goes hand in hand with the fact that Men's Fashion Week also concentrates on purchases of women's pre-collections.
Paris remains the marketplace where international fashion players meet
The professionals interviewed noted an upsurge in exhibiting brands, the return of iconic showrooms (Ryodan by Seiya Nakamura, 247Showroom, etc.) and the arrival of new formats capable of attracting the interest of buyers, such as Untitled, Likewise (Egon lab, Jeanne Friot, etc.), Aim Agency (Benjamin Benmoyal, Gunther, etc.).
Paris has therefore regained its power of attraction, even if these retail players are complaining about the prices charged. Xavier Latapie and Giulietta Canu, founders of the guide for professionals Moddity, are categorical: "The general consensus is that Parisian prices have gone delirious: that of spaces with services that are not always up to par (no air conditioning - it was very hot from 21 to 25 June 2023 - and unfinished work) and in the rental market, with rooms being rented for 500 euros a night near the Gare du Nord. This reduces the teams of buyers and the time spent on site."
Still, the seductive capital of Paris seems intact, despite all the things that can paralyse transport in the city (demonstrations, Fête de la Musique, Pride march), "on the contrary, it gives the image of a dynamic, festive Paris, imbued with freedom" added the duo.
"The number of accounts (or boutiques) that attend Fashion Week Paris Hommes is estimated at over 400,” said Christelle Cagi Nicolau, head of economic support for FHCM brands, and a lecturer at the IFM. “This ranges from cutting-edge designer boutiques to digital giants and department stores. A hundred or so have both an image policy (in other words, they communicate a lot) and a substantial turnover.” An assessment of sales will be made next week by the FHCM, but we'll have to wait for confirmation of orders, at the end of July 2023, to find out whether buyers have rediscovered a taste for business or not (assuming the amounts are counted).
Would designer fashion exist without the enthusiasm of the Japanese, South Korean and Chinese?
Although Chinese buyers seem to be more fickle - many would launch multi-brands and would like to make a quick profit, without taking the time needed to develop a brand - the opening of borders has brought a sigh of relief to the industry, as everyone agrees that Asians are curious and daring, and are the strong link in the niche market represented by the designer brands exhibiting during Paris Fashion Week.
”We hosted the Boon the Shop (Seoul) and Onion (Bangkok) concept stores," said Boris Provost, in charge of the Tranoï Men's show. “Mo Studio took two orders in Japan. Joah Kraus scored in Paris and Japan. The Japanese and Koreans are very loyal.”
Christelle Cagi Nicolau added: "At Sphère, we welcomed Korean customers who were keen to consume and select new brands. Chinese groups own several megastores. Finally, the Japanese remain leaders in ‘daring’, with smaller budgets. This season, it was more the European (Italy) and American markets that had shrunk.”
The way buyers work has changed
In a context where the space occupied by designers, previously estimated at between 15 and 18 percent of the sales floor, is now down to 10 percent, according to Boris Provost, professionals are finding that the way they work has changed with digitalisation. There is no longer any question of making notes on the spot. Buyers come to see the collection, touch the fabrics, take photos and note down references. Back home, they finalise their choice and the corresponding quantities.
As a result, the role of the salespeople is diminished and the volume of sales is tending to fall. "Where we used to sell for 10,000 euros, we're happy when we sell for 4,000 euros,” FashionUnited was told off the record. This is all the more true given that prices have soared as a result of inflation. “An order for shoes valued at 3,000 euros has risen to 4,600 euros, including transport and taxes,” said Bénédicte Collard from the No Season showroom.
The duty to adapt the product to the reality of its market with the means at hand
More and more competition, pop-up boutiques, limited orders - so this is what we should remember about Paris Fashion Week, which took place from 20 to 25 June 2023? Hopefully not. The emergence of contemporary fashion with items that are undoubtedly simpler, but which take into account the commercial aspect, brings the market a new lease of life. For example, the experts at Moddity cite Holzweiler, who exhibited in a private showroom in the Marais district: "A Swedish label with very beautiful knits, a sustainable dimension and the opening of an eponymous boutique soon."
"Anything alternative is a matter of instagrammable fashion that doesn't necessarily correspond to the reality of the market, but boutiques are already struggling to sell,” they added. Another business lever, craftsmanship. Exclusive embroidery, natural materials, eco-responsible ethics have delighted the 700 buyers who attended Tranoï and have backed labels such as Baziszt, which is based on a concept of embroidered shirts made from vintage fabrics.
It is evident that the end consumer will always be present, if brands know how to find them and what suits them.
This article originally appeared on FashionUnited.FR. Translation and edit by: Rachel Douglass.