Who’s Next /Première Classe
Porte de Versailles
Sept 7th – 10th 2018
The fashion exhibitions Who’s Next & Première Classe, which run together twice a year at the Porte de Versailles are in fact two separate and distinct shows, both owned and organised by the same company. Who’s Next being mainly ladies, casual girls/guys clothing and beachwear, with a small area of urban streetwear, and Première Classe the show for selected accessory brands.
Première Classe was the brainchild of Patricia Lerat who had the foresight, more than 25 years ago, to realise the importance of accessories and their potential within the fashion industry. Seeking an international market she bravely invited a number of high level accessory brands to show in a small marquee on the edge of the Hippodrome d’Auteuil race track during Paris Fashion Week, and the exhibition was a success. Soon enough brands such as Kokin, Mühlbauer and Philip Treacy were showing there and were making contact with top international buyers. Before long the show was spotted by the organisers of Prêt-à-Porter, and Première Classe was invited to open as a niche accessory show in Hall 7 during the main show. From its opening Première Classe was held in such high esteem that accessory brands begged and even demanded to be given space here, but true to her original concept Patricia Lerat kept Première Classe for high-level design-led accessories only. Over time the area expanded, until in 2004 Première Classe took the decision to open as a separate show in Hall 5 under its own brand name. As Patricia had predicted accessories became huge in the market, bags became ‘designer brands’, headwear became international, and with shoes, jewellery, scarves and belts, there was just no end to the range on offer. The show pulled in major buyers from around the world, especially from Japan, and accessory brands prospered.
With the success of Première Classe, the company launched a second show, Who’s Next, as a young, vibrant, offbeat street show in the style of the hugely successful BBB in Berlin and the defunct 40degrees in London. Who’s Next was a little tame in comparison and never attracted the large international menswear labels, but for the French buyers it was a success, and the clever title ‘Who’s Next’ attracted even more international buyers. By 2011 the owners became overconfident and took the arrogant decision, without consulting their faithful exhibitors or buyers, to move the summer show forward from the successful September window to open in July, the week before BBB in Berlin. Everyone was outraged! During the following nine months the owners also bought the declining Prêt-à-Porter show. And so the following July (2012) the three exhibitions opened together for business. The French can be pretty stubborn at times, and the buyers hated the new time slot, it came during their high demand summer season, even before their summer sales, and so they boycotted the show and never came. It was a disaster for the show, and became a watershed from which it never fully recovered. After three years the owners capitulated and the show was put back to its original dates at the beginning of September, as a shadow of its former self.
Also Paris has taken more than a few hits over the last few years, which has certainly had a bearing on the number of visitors both French and international. However, Première Classe are still the best accessory exhibitions in Europe, maybe the world. This season there were nearly 60 brands of headwear for both men and women, from small designers to large international labels, across a wide price range.
However, speaking to both buyers and exhibitors attending the show there was some concern about the increased number of mass produced far eastern brands, the low turn out of new buyers to the show, the lack of a special heading in the programme for ‘Headwear’, which the sector has had previously and the Who’s Next App, which has always worked well in the past, seemed to be unobtainable for many buyers this season. I personally felt there should be a ‘Buyers Lounge’ for international clients to meet sales teams before ordering. The lounge should be well run, with refreshments, and also operate a coat check. There is space at the show, and it would assist all buyers who spend a great deal of money coming to Paris and hate wasting time queuing for coats and refreshments.
If you are visiting as a headwear buyer, then allocate two days to walk the show, select products and place orders. The majority of exhibitors are from Europe and are companies who make a large proportion of their products in their own factories. During my years with The Hat Magazine I visited and reported on many of the companies here. And although some information may be out of date the articles still give a good insight into where and how the company makes its headwear and introduces the owners. (Where available the issue number is given at the end of the report)
If you are a retailer who visited Première Classe, I would be pleased to hear from you – many thanks.
Directions for Spring Summer 2019
With limited time at the show this is a fairly lightweight report! The very hot summer experienced by many countries across Europe meant that business had been good, stocks were cleared, retailers were happy and gave an upbeat feel for 2019.
The men’s collections tended to be fairly classic, with trilbies, fedoras and pork pie styles, in high quality panama straw to crochet raffia and lightweight braids. There were a larger range of colours and more elaborate trims, but the overall trilby/fedora shape remained.
The ladies collections presented a number of new innovations. The flat-crown hat was definitely in the forefront of many stands. Either as classic boaters with small grosgrain trims, smaller shapes draped in veiling, with wider brims nicknamed the ‘Zorro’ hat, or more elaborate styles taking inspiration (for both ladies and men) from the Spanish Andalusía region and Italian gondoliers.
The cloche or smaller downbrim was also more visible, a good hat for cycling, easy to wear, with a feminine feel. There were many styles using combinations of materials and colours, some including piping, lacy trims, or others with a more ethnic finish.
New materials included the revival of shiny Swiss straw braid (Treccia Micanicha), used in glossy black or a palette of strong colours; clear plastic for brims; fine lightweight hemp braid; embroidery and lace; and a combination of many textures.
The new colours seemed to be all about shiny silver and gold, this could be the entire hat, a trim, or just a bind.
bedacht, Germany www.bedacht-online.de
Bronté by ID Hats, the Netherlands www.bronte.nl
Marzi Firenze, Italy www.marzi.com
Mayser, Germany www.mayserhut.com
Mühlbauer, Austria www.muehlbauer.at
Seeberger, Germany www.seeberger-hats.com
As I departed Paris on Sunday, the news was that the next Who’s Next & Première Classe, in January 2019, would take place in the more modern Hall 1. Let’s hope so, as this is a far better space for accessories than they have at present. And a final message for the organisers: Please add a ‘Headwear’ section to the programme so that new hat brands and new designers can be easily found. And please let the brands keep their allocated spaces from one season to the next, easier for buyers, easier for exhibitors and better for orders!
Première Classe holds two editions each season – the first is at Porte de Versailles (as above) in September and January, and the second at the Jardin du Tuileries usually 3-4 weeks later. This second exhibition is far smaller, has a higher level of craftsmanship/design, at a higher price point, attracting a different category of buyer. A few brands show at both editions including: Marzi, Mühlbauer, Bronté and Anthony Peto.