By Astrid Wendlandt
PARIS | Sun Oct 2010
PARIS (Reuters) - Luxury designers such as Lanvin and Valentino were playing safe at Paris fashion week with collections strongly focused on their traditional styles, though they were declaring the downturn over.
While buyers are slowly returning to the shops in Western Europe and the United States, designers seem to have received the same instructions to create outfits, bags and shoes that are both sellable and clearly recognisable among fashionistas.
The message being received is now is not the time to test consumers' appetite for something radically new and different.
Many had wondered if designer Sarah Burton, who recently took over at Alexander McQueen after its eponymous founder's suicide in February, would remain faithful to its feral looks and tapestry-inspired dresses.
After the house's show on Tuesday, critics were unanimous she clearly did.
As for Chanel, Karl Lagerfeld delivered the brand's traditional fringed suits and Jean-Paul Gaultier at Hermes(HRMS.PA) drew inspiration from the brand's equestrian heritage, with tight-fitting leather pants and suede panchos.
"Brands have a fantastic advantage when they have a flagship product, which is easily recognisable and very representative of their style," said Luca Solca, analyst at Bernstein.
"Blending the core codes with new ideas, and standing out is not easy - especially in a market where fast fashion retailers are making trends and new ideas ubiquitous."
But if fashion houses tried to stand out, many explored the same themes. See-through dresses and lace outfits were spotted at Valentino, Alexander McQueen and Christian Dior(DIOR.PA).
The androgynous look was played out strongly at Balenciaga, Stella McCartney, Balmain, Givenchy and of at course Yves Saint Laurent, whose founder's past work influenced many designers this season.
Fashion buyers said well-to-do shoppers were back but spent money more carefully than they did two years ago.
"Customers are returning but the challenged economy is still with us, so when we buy something, it needs to feel worthy of the price," said Neiman Marcus Fashion Director Ken Downing.
"People pay a lot of attention to detail and craftsmanship. They won't buy something which is expensive for the sake of being expensive, there has to be some value in