In the early afternoon on the third day of Premiere Classe, the international accessories trade show of Paris Fashion Week where young designers showcase the fashion trends of tomorrow, a group of exhibitors gathered to find the perfect word to describe their experience of the first two days at this year’s four-day event.  Depressing didn’t quite cut it; surprisingly, nor did catastrophic.  But, as often happens in small groups who through happenstance are thrust together during emotionally charged times, a single word was uttered in unison.  That word was devastating.

Was it the threat of the COVID-19 that replaced fashion headlines last week in Italy and prevented so many of our Asian and Italian friends from participating in one of Europe’s most anticipated fashion weeks; was it the current economic ramifications and future uncertainty of this deadly virus; was it the cold rain of Paris that is nowhere near as romantic as it’s portrayed in movies; or was it the closing of the Louvre that kept significant buyers and seasoned press away, and thereby devastating the hopes and dreams of the fashion creators of tomorrow?  Whatever the cause of this seemingly perfect storm, what resulted and persisted was a stoic façade and a genuine camaraderie among Premiere Classe exhibitors.

These relative strangers, whose only commonality appeared to be the misfortune of participating in Premiere Classe 2020, no longer behaved as such.  Although stress levels were undoubtedly high, they exemplified that stereotypical artistic sensitivity as they commiserated, encouraged, advised and appreciated one another.  The veteran trade show exhibitors, who were at their fifth, tenth or even twelfth show, despite their own obvious financial loss, deeply empathized with the newcomers.  Yet, they didn’t hold back as they divulged their truth: They spoke of the progressive decline of Premiere Classe as a trade show over the past several years, and the reluctance of buyers to take risks on fresh and innovative ideas as they display bewilderment over the closures of their once well-established stores.  Possible solutions to these unfortunate trends, such as alternative venues and markets, how to spot potential buyers and how to display your inventory, were also addressed.  What wasn’t seen and what wasn’t felt was any kind of rivalry, and more importantly, there was no displayed fear of the COVID-19.  A sense of unity prevailed, and an afternoon that began with a deep sense of devastation transformed into one of comfort.

Day four, the morning mood was somber.  As the day progressed, participants began to wander farther from their booths.  No longer was the dire state of affairs and possible solutions the focus of conversation.  Acceptance had found its resting place, and with it came the freedom to truly appreciate the work of others.  Not surprising, the majority of which was fresh and exciting, so much so that one began to see the glimmer of hope breaking through the surface.  One such hope is that the buyers and members of the press who were scheduled to attend Premier Classe 2020 make a concerted effort to research the innovative work of the participants of this event, through WSN Community, the app provided with their invitations.  Those that do are sure to find a fantastic fusion of artistry and artisanry.

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