Designs exhibition report – February 2018

Proposing the right design at the right time, then selling it at the right price. That’s the challenge facing Première Vision Designs exhibitors each season, at a time when the fashion market is growing increasingly complex to grasp.

It’s not easy to find one’s way when seasons are less and less distinct, trends more and more numerous and the new pace of fashion requires brands to renew their collections ever more quickly. And if you add to that an often indecisive final consumer and, in Europe in particular, one facing budgetary choices – a little flowery dress or a DVD? – you start to establish an inventory of all the criteria that must be taken into account by design studios when creating a motif.

If our customers are difficult with us, it’s because consumers have become unpredictable. Women used to dress in a certain way, according to their age or social strata. Today, they’re hard to pin down. So brands hesitate. Even seasons are blurred. We no longer look for a summery pattern in a summer collection. And it’s the same for winter… The other thing to consider is that women today want to hold on to a garment longer. So the pattern shouldn’t be too attached to any trend,” said Irene Morgan, artistic director of the London design studio Owens & Kim. As a result, “Brands don’t know what their customers want anymore, so they buy fewer designs and, above all, try to hedge their risk,” said Jeremy Somers, director of the English studio Circleline.

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Given the market’s indecision and complexity, the deadlines for textile designers are shorter and shorter, while their collections have to offer a maximum of trends – floral, vegetal, graphic, figurative, etc. – to address all kinds of requests.

As they’re at the very start of the chain, these designers can’t do otherwise than comply with the market requirements. “We’re dependent on the health of our clients. If they are doing well, we do well. But if they sell less, they buy fewer designs from us … That’s why distribution is the crux,” pointed out Stéphane Vernet, CEO of the French studio Robert Vernet Creations.

And distribution, perceived as aging in some European countries, notably France, has shifted the focus of business to other parts of the world. “The European market has been buying fewer designs since the economic crisis began. Today, it’s the Asian brands that are demanding creativity, “said Fernando Catalan of the Spanish studio Alicia Villodres. The feeling is the same even at the sector’s big players, like London-based Jack Jones Design, where “business is going very well” with Chinese garment manufacturers who want designs that are easy to wear for their national brands.

Obviously, like everywhere, there are exceptions to the rule, especially in the world of high-end fashion. For example, French design studio Antoinette and Freddy are specifically expected to propose motifs not found anywhere else, and not hewing to any trends.

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