After several years of struggle, Paris’s fashion fairs are showing signs of renewal. On the weekend five fashion fairs in the southwest part of the city, Porte de Versailles, and the huge interior and furniture design fair Maison & Objet in the north of the town reinforced the reputation of the French city as “capital de la création.”

The biggest news on this weekend was an announcement by the executive board of Prêt-à-Porter of a change in the 2009 schedule. Following the January edition (Jan. 30-Feb. 2) the show will be split into two: the first part of the fair will run Jul. 5-7; the second from Sept. 4-7. “There was too long of a gap between the January fair and the date in autumn. The fashion industry is changing. Customers want more often and earlier new trends. With the change in the schedule we are responding to the needs of the market,” said German press officer Mayouri Sengchanh.

With the new dates Prêt-à-Porter will be the first fair after Pitti Uomo and earlier than Bread & butter. “The first season is adjusted for our creative clients, the second for more traditional-oriented businesses,” Sengchanh added.

In preparation for the new strategy the fair will also install a new segment called LINK.FR for fast fashion in January 2009. Visitors have already been able to preview the new segment with six high-quality enterprises from Centergross in Florence.

Under the new schedule, Prêt-à-Porter would also going it alone. Its younger competitor Who’s Next and the affiliated accessories fair Première Classe will not follow the split. “We made a poll for our clients and decided that it will not make sense for us. As we show especially young and creative labels they will be not ready with their collections in this early time of the year,” said spokesperson Elodie Lavesvre.

Who’s Next has a different approach instead. “With special events this year such as the invitation of 23 Brazilian labels and the backing of very young labels and newcomers, we are trying to extend a different offer to our clients. We prefer the presentation of small stands with a selective offer rather than the big super-presentations which serve only for image purposes.”

The strategy might work. Who’s Next and Première Classe noted a 15% increase of visitors compared with the September fair a year ago. Said Elodie Lavesvre, “The reasons are multiple: Paris again became the most important city for fashion, the city makes better promotion for the fairs, there is a new fashion pass which makes the visit easier and—we have to confess—the relocation of the lingerie fairs Modecity and Interfiliere (previously in Lyon) brought some new visitors.”

—Barbara Markert