Sweet baby Jesus it’s early. 3-freaking-am. Due to my conscientious work nature plus the fact that I’m Northern, I’ve saved a small fortune by flying out of Luton aka Britain’s worst airport instead of taking the more civilised Eurostar route to Paris. You could call the flight out the Fashion Express™ and once my eyes re-open I catch-up with Mukesh Desai, a denim guy I used to work with 20-years ago. He mentions that it’s only one stop on the train from Charles de Gaulle to the Parc des Expositions to which I reply that the venue is south of the river, non? Non. Merd. So when I checked Google Maps before I booked my AirBNB I am now in fact staying a 2-minute walk from the head office of Prèmiere Vision and not the exhibition itself which is at least a 45-min drive from my apartment. I kick myself then take the train to arrive at the exhibition 30-mins before the doors open.
Last time I visited PV was 1995 in my final year fashion degree. The seasonal fabric and trends show is attended by designers all over the globe, so as I’m technically a marketing guy, I’ve never needed to go but this trip is a 24-hour mission to discover new materials for FITE. The scale of the show is ridiculous, I mean HUGE. With my overnight bag checked in, I sit down with a decaf coffee and plan where I need to go. Eventually I find the right hall and knit section where all the jersey suppliers are based, doing a recce of which stands look best. Day 1 offers up 5 on-the-spot appointments where I select around 25 options before hitting the wall mid-afternoon and in much need of a power nap, but not before grabbing a vegan burger from one of my go-to places in Paris, Hank. It’s tiny and cute in the most Parisian way with distressed plaster walls and up-cycled furniture plus it’s right across the street from creative agency store Black Rainbow, which is always worth a look in.
Fast forward a few hours and feeling slightly more alive I walk up to the Marais to meet my friend Mohsin who’s just arrived from Manchester. He suggests going to Chez Omar which he informs me is Rei Kawakubo’s favourite restaurant in Paris. An unassuming brasserie from the outside, inside it’s wall-to-wall fashionistas and near impossible to get a table unless you know the owner (Mo does). The menu is Algerian-French soul food; my dining partner is vegan so all he’s interested in is the couscous and légumes whilst I have possibly the best steak frites outside of Entrecôte. Finally, its a moonlit walk back past the Notre-Dame towards instant slumber.
Day 2 is a more respectable wake-up time and it’s surprisingly sunny so I head out in shorts (!) next door to Breakfast in America to fuel up before heading back to PV for my first appointment with a Japanese supplier where I spend a good hour going through everything they have. This one meeting was the highlight of the trip as I’m confident they have at least one amazing fabric we can introduce to our line. 3 more appointments and over 50 options later, I meet Mo and his friends for some trade show sushi as gluten-free sandwich options are non-existent. In between halls, there’s a comedy moment when I sit next to 2 girls on a bench before another guy comes over to sit down and the entire thing collapses. “Is it broken?” the guy says as we’re all picking ourselves off the floor. Finally as I leave to catch my flight I bump into Kestin Hare who’s opening line to me is “what’s with the scruffy yeti look?” I tell him I was going for “sexy viking” before we go on to talk about his new top secret project planned for PFWM next January.
Being new to PV after a 20-year absence, I like it. Yes it’s a practical necessity for any fashion brand that uses new fabrications, but also it’s inspiring and energising at the same time. The creative installation areas showcasing themes/trends; meeting suppliers old/new to discover innovative materials; collating ideas on what’s next and hanging out with some of the industry’s finest outside of fashion season. Next time though I’ll take the Eurostar and stay somewhere within a 50-mile radius.