PARIS -- For a sector that pretends to welcome change, fashion can be steadfastly resistant to it. So the collective appearance of four new designers at four big-name luxury houses in Paris this season -- Anthony Vaccarello at Yves Saint Laurent, Bouchra Jarrar at Lanvin, Maria Grazia Chiuri at Christian Dior and Pierpaolo Piccioli, solo for the first time, at Valentino -- had the potential to trigger a sizable creative and commercial ripple effect, especially among the front-row coterie of buyers from the world's best-known luxury department stores, boutiques and e-commerce sites.
In a trading climate rocked by economic swings, stock market volatility and terrorism fears, combined with the implications of the growing "see now, buy now" trend, the musical chairs in top-tier houses could have proved a headache for many of these retailers, straining customers' brand loyalty with a new and unfamiliar flow of inventory.
"I hate change," said Jeffrey Kalinsky, designer fashion director of Nordstrom and founder of the Jeffrey boutique chain, as he left the Valentino show recently.
Laura Larbalestier, the women's buying director of Browns in London, added: "There are always risks when a big brand or designer has a changing of the guard -- and some can prove more challenging for us than others."
"Plenty take their time when it comes to finding their footing with a new clientele," she continued from Milan. "Plus there are always varying levels of impact in terms of how much an individual impacts the overall aesthetic of a house."
And yet, the debuts this season -- for the most part -- left many buyers sanguine, thanks to the collections' decidedly commercial, and therefore customer-friendly, bent. And many store representatives suggested they would increase their budgets accordingly. It seems the less aggressive or eccentric the looks, the more appeal for the regular shopper (but not all the critics).
Here, three prominent buyers on the debuts:
Ken Downing, senior vice president and fashion director at Neiman Marcus
"My favorite debut? Pierpaolo at Valentino -- the show was standout from start to finish. He proved himself to be a true design talent who could deliver the goods alone, despite the questions around the brand in the last six months. It had romanticism, fluidity, trans-seasonality and a good color palette. I see those pieces really selling. I have to tell you I have a very strong Valentino business which attracts a loyal customer, and these clothes will speak to her -- and possibly new customers as well. As much as we believe today's customers know who is designing what, plenty don't. The revolving door of talent is just too continuous. Ultimately, they just want to put beautiful things in their closet they don't already own.
"Meanwhile, over at Dior, Maria Grazia made a fresh start -- that is very common when a designer takes to a new house. There needs to be a palate cleanser, and it is important that they set the tone for their own vocabulary and what they feel the house is going to represent going forward. Ultimately with Saint Laurent and Dior, well, it is much like a first date. You have great expectations, but you are not quite sure what you are going to be in for until you arrive at that table and you eat. They were both lovely attempts. And they will leave us wanting more in terms of what might still come."
Kalinsky, designer fashion director at Nordstrom
"Ms. Grazia Chiuri's first show at Dior, for which she had six weeks to create a new collection, split the front row. But Dior was my favorite debut. There was just something very 'of the moment' about that collection. I could see there being great sportswear and evening wear and cocktail attire and suiting -- really great takes on all the ways a woman can dress. And I loved, loved, loved the accessories. For Jeffrey's, we are also buying Olivier Theyskens -- that was another strong new collection."
Lauren Santo Domingo, co-founder of the luxury e-commerce site Moda Operandi
"A lot of our customers are already familiar with Bouchra and her designs, and Lanvin this season had lots of new evening wear components that could really excite women who don't just want another ballgown. So we feel it is our responsibility -- and that there is a real business opportunity -- in communicating to them that Bouchra has moved to Lanvin, that the house now has a quite different direction, and then guide them as to exactly what to expect from it. The key premise of our site is to allow users to order a look from head to toe, directly off the runways of fashion week. As a result, clients often respond strongly to the way catwalk pieces are styled -- one of the clearest ways a creative director can make his mark so a shift in creative direction matters to us. With evening and occasion wear currently one of the most lucrative categories for Moda Operandi, we will start buying Lanvin for the first time this season. Honestly, any opportunity to communicate change and excitement is also an opportunity to build on our relationship with our customer."
High Profile on 10/16/2016
Print Headline: Buyers pick favorites among Paris Fashion Week changes