Thursday, 18 February 2016

Behind the Rack: Our latest buying trip to France

Springtime in Paris. You’ve heard the song and seen the movie. You can close  your eyes and picture the blossoming trees in the Jardin des Tuileries. You may have even taken your own mid-April stroll through les arrondissements. But if you're a fashion buyer, you know January’s the time to be in Paris.

Every January, the fashion houses unveil their fall/winter collections for the upcoming year, and everybody who’s anybody in this business heads over for a look, a few sit-downs with fashion’s elite and the odd soirée. If you’re a bit envious reading that, you should be. Buying trips are great fun and a seriously awesome perk of our business. But they’re also a lot (a lah-hawt) of
work, and it starts weeks before we leave.

First, we have to set up appointments with our favourite labels and designers. Ours are located mostly in the fashion district just off the Champs-Élysées, and also in the Marais, the city’s old garment district that has since become the trendy part of town. We have a lot of people to see and we’re not the only ones seeking an audience. So we have to be strategic. 

Once we have our meetings booked, it’s wheels up and off to Paris. And the fun begins.

The fairs 

We start with Pret a Porter (PaP) near the Porte de Versailles. This is the city’s most well-known fashion fair featuring four massive halls of clothes and accessories, and one hall exclusively for jewellery. It’s so big, in fact, that moving sidewalks take us from hall to hall. We start here for a few reasons. First, the size of the show gives us a good idea of what the year’s colours, fabrics and cuts are going to be (which gives us perspective when we go to see our preferred labels and designers). Second, the show does a great job of highlighting up-and-comers through their “Who’s Next” exhibit. It’s way over the top, but so much fun! One of our goals every season is to discover at least one new collection. But it can’t be planned. We have to stumble upon it, and that can only happen from getting out there, looking around and schmoozing it up with other buyers. So in addition to Who’s Next, we make time for a few of the smaller showcases. The second floor at Galerie Lafayette featuring young French designers is one we like to visit. This year’s big find was Italian up-and-comer Diana Gallesi, who we discovered in the Premiere Classe pavillion at Who’s Next. We’re proud to be the first boutique outside of Italy to carry her collections, and we can’t wait for you to see 
it on the sales floor come the fall. But before that, we’ll introduce you to her here on the blog. Stay tuned for that.

The meetings
Consistency is one of the big reasons our clients keep coming back to the store. That starts with having solid relationships with our suppliers, and our meetings with them are a great way to solidify those relationships and pick the right pieces. Our first meeting this trip was with Marty, the president of Aldo Martin’s of Barcelona, a knitwear producer. We go back a long time and it’s always a pleasure to see him. He begins by offering us a café au lait, which we graciously accept. Then we give him the floor. He takes us through the highlights of his five distinct collections, which all share a theme. After he’s made his presentation, he gives us our coloured rings ⎯ every buyer of the day gets their own colour ⎯ and leaves the room so we can go through the pieces on our own and flag the ones we like.When we’re done, Marty comes back, this time with a model who tries on different items so we can get a sense of the tailoring and how the different colour palettes work with the knitwear prints. Once we’ve put enough successful combinations together, we choose the specific items we want for our racks and build out our own “looks.” We take photos, mark the prices and discuss delivery dates. A standard meeting with a supplier takes about three hours, just about the time we spend with Marty. Then we say our goodbyes, grab a quick bite on the road and keep going to the next meeting. This was one of our busiest visits to Europe, and come the fall, you’ll see that it was well worth the extra effort.

The unexpected
There was a sombre side to Paris this year that we’d never felt here before: a much heavier police presence, over-heightened security at every show and far fewer delegates (Japan sent no buyers at all this year ⎯ we can’t remember the last time that happened). This has translated into a much less lucrative two weeks for the local businesses. For example, every time we go to Paris we
always make time for a dinner at Polidor in the 6th arrondissement, just northeast of the Jardin Du Luxembourg. They don’t take reservations so we wait in line every year because the food’s that good. Not only was there no line-up this year, but there were four empty tables the whole time we were there. Sad.

The pics

Have a look below at the shots from our trip. And if you have any questions about what we’re planning for the fall, feel free to email us or come for a visit. Like Marty did with us, we’ll start you off with a coffee and go from there.

The Arc de Triomphe looked beautiful on our first morning. A sign of things to come.

A mid-morning stroll along the Seine.

Love that Louvre.

We had to stop for a shot of the tower.

This was the scene early at the Who’s Next pavilion.

Before the crowds was the perfect time to check out the set design.

Modeling Fall 2016 tops.

This is a page of a typical inventory book we reference at a designer meeting.

Here’s a chemise that stopped us in our tracks. You’ll be seeing this one in a few  months for sure.

Dorothea chatting with a designer. The stuff’s great so she’s happy.