"Fashion Week" whether London, Milan, Paris, or wherever will all try to tell you this is where you will see the newest, most exciting thing in the fashion world, but frankly in my opinion that is untrue, for me the real excitement started approx. 12+ months ago.
The “excitement train” started at very different kind of trade show, where the real designers and innovators show us their wares, where a very un-glamorous group of men (& growing number of women!) show us "what’s really new”.
Ken is off to the industry foremost show in Paris next week - it is called "PV" (by the cool kids!)
PV stands for Premiere Vision and even those of us without a French O Level can work out that Premiere Vision translates to "first look"! And a first look is what we will get - you have to pay an eye watering admission fee but once inside you will get an opportunity to see virtually everything that is new in the world of fabric, leather and trimmings.
Much of it is behind closed booths so just because you have paid over the national debt to get in doesn't automatically allow you past the feisty gatekeepers. Credibility and longstanding in the marketplace, will open doors, but some of the very innovative companies will ask questions and quiz you thoroughly, with the really big boys being invitation only - an invitation that if not sent to you, should have been applied for months in advance.
The fabric side is the most protective of its new developments, weave compositions, colours, blends, patterns, the list of "new stuff" is endless and all waiting to be discovered by the designers or in the case of the huge names the designer’s gophers.
But being a gopher for a huge designer name doesn't mean you will be fawned over no matter how big your principal’s name is in Vogue. In fact I find it quite amusing to see the juniors learning life's lesson that is that no matter how huge a household name is in one field it can be a pain in the arse in another.
I will always remember a few years ago being at the New York version of Lineapelle (the leather industry flagship trade show), I was on a stand with a potential (not even an established) supplier.
The mature Spaniard and I were discussing a collection of leather that Owen Barry was considering, (it was being launched for the following year), mid conversation a young lady approached the table and asked if she could “just quickly butt in and get some cuttings” – the tannery rep and I stopped conversation midstream and I sat back to allow the guy to respond “No sorry I am busy – can you call back ? ”
With that she placed what she thought was going to be her trump business card on the table “Ralph Lauren” and very politely but firmly explained that she was extremely busy and she had to visit all of the stands to collect cuttings for the design team before going back up town.
– I immediately thought “bugger – that’s me kicked into touch” so you can imagine my surprise when the tannery guy responded very brusquely “NO sorry we are in the middle of an important conversation – please call back later, we are here for 2 more days”.
She stood there flabbergasted (I must admit, I was equally surprised), with that he turned towards me and looked to resume our conversation, as I remember the young lady garbled a response and scuttled off.
That is when I said, “Eduardo you could have seen to her, that was a good opportunity”, his reply has always stuck with me – “They are just collecting ideas for their scrap book – Ralph Lauren has never bought from me, all of these designers are here just to get ideas for their next show – I am here to write orders so I have to deal with people who can buy leather. We spend thousands of Euro a year developing leather for our tannery to produce, not for a little girl to play with!”
He was (and still is) a passionate but grumpy old tannery man, who loves developing new leathers and he knew that I, being a grumpy (but passionate) old leather buyer would love, understand, appreciate (and possibly buy) his new collection not least because of all the work that had gone into developing it – so to him I was far more important than the promise of a name on a calling card.
So what is the moral of my story – I don’t know really, but when you are looking for something NEW please don’t be impressed by the Emperor’s New Clothes, when you are buying your next fashion, lifestyle, gift or even technical gadget appreciate the provenance of the product not just the label. I feel it is true to say that most of the actual design and development came originally from a scientist, textile techy, specialist factory or a grumpy tanner who can make in our case, a piece of old skin become like silk that (with a bit of help from us) will sit resplendent on your shoulder.