This edition of Playtime run simultaneously with Maison&Objet (and the various adults shows), transforming Paris in a very lively-buzzing-multicultural city.  It might have been quite a stretch for people who were exhibiting at both fairs, but it seems it had a positive impact on Playtime.

My overall feeling is that this edition was rich and interesting, confirming that we are quite out of a repetitive cycle of diluted versions of existing concepts – “a la”… (a la Bonpoint,  simple kids,  Atsuyo et Akiko, Bobo Choses – you name it). Brands seem to be making more personal statements, opening new roads, offering more creativity and diversity.

There is a geographical shift, as new countries are becoming stronger, in a landscape long dominated by French, Belgium, Scandinavian and Spanish brands. It’s the rise of German, Swiss, Austrian, Baltic companies (Macarons, Apunktchen, hilda.henri, L’Asticot, Paade Mode, Leny Tomy Factory, Hebe, etc…).

What stayed with me after the show? The wonderful collections of established brands, that I would buy in full, should I have an unlimited budget (Simple Kids, Maan, Miller, Caramel Baby and Child, AO, Gold, Rita Co Rita, Max et Lola, pepe…). But these are almost “evidences”.

I liked the poetic, delicate and very well crafted pieces for baby by Treehouse by anja schwerbock. The gorgeous shoes by Chapter 2 (for the happy few). The concept of working with Mexican artisans to support their traditions, brought by Maravilla, as well as their their beautiful woven pieces and knit quality. The rainbow collection of Cocotruc. The collection for teens, with Japanese inspiration by Mono. The recycled tees + the tyvek hats (draw and wash) by Apunktchen. The thick, Andean hand knits of HBB Industria Argentina. The magnificent embroideries and velvet jackets at Paade Mode.  The vibrant and jungle inspired prints by Little Carabi. The colour palet, textures and fresh installation by Oyu moyu. And much more. I said it was a rich edition!

Being innovative when you start might be easier than after 5 or 8 years of existence. So I was happy to see a bunch of relatively young brands who stay true to themselves, with high quality standard while bringing fresh ideas into their collections.  Like for instance Aravore, Hucklebones, Nixie Clothing, Yporque…

I love chatting with young designers and owners of newly launched brands. They often start with very little knowledge of the industry and they often get remarkably well informed, in a short amount of time. Being at a trade show allows to quickly understand the dynamics of the market, to see how other brands do, to know what buyers want. That said, as I know some seek advice on Pirouette, and as I also see lots of regrettable mistakes around, I have decided to list a few points that brands should take into account when launching.

  • Choosing a name.

I don’t know if people are lazy or if they badly lack imagination, but names very similar to existing ones come too often, sometimes up to a point that makes you wonder if it is done in total innocence. Why would you call your line “Valentine et Lucas” when there is already a “Valentina et Luc”? Ou “Germaine in the woods” when “Germain in the forest” has been registered? This can only bring trouble and discredit. I  know two recent cases of brands who had to change name, and that means lawyers bills and lots of energy/time; changing labels, buttons, packaging, letterhead, website, etc.  isn’t fun at all. And this is without saying that a name that looks like another established one will prevent people to bother looking at what you do. So make a thorough research before you pick up a name to make sure you are not too close to existing ones. And please, please, be inventive!

  • Displaying clothes on the rack.

It is always better to think in terms of colours and themes, like visual merchandisers do in successful stores. Buyers are like consumers, they need good products, and they also need visual stimulation because they walk alley of  stands and something has to catch up their eye. If you have 6 colours in your range, you might be better picking up only 2 or 3 that work together well, that are strong and new, and showing the other ones just in the colour card. Place strong pieces at the front of the rack or on your walls, work with silhouettes to give an idea of how the clothes can be mixed up or layered.

  • Setting up a booth.

Some designers are very clear when they build a collection, making it easy to “read”, with a clear logic and segmentation. And when it comes to their booth, they lose it, putting so many decorative elements that one can’t pick up the essence anymore. The message is lost. Don’t be afraid of emptiness, avoid adding un-necessary details and decorations that will act as a distraction. Focus on the core of your work, on what you want buyers to remember of you. And finally : hide your personal belongings, lunch leftovers and other type of messy details under a table or in a box! If your stand looks like a teenager bedroom, it will be hard to trust your ability to deliver on time.

  • Dealing with visitors.

Some people have the magic touch, a natural and smooth way to welcome their visitors, with present and informative manners. Try to imitate them! Avoid letting people take photos of your whole collection before asking their business card. If you are busy, ask people if they can come back instead of ignoring them. There are many brands on the market and each visit on your booth is very important. I am not a key buyer or a top editor, so I am terribly touched when people take time to write a little note – even as a group email, to say “Thank you for your visit”.

  • Playtime Paris in numbers

Total number of visitors : 8164

From France : 50,36%

International : 49,64%

Of which : Europe (ex-France) : 36,26% Asia: 5,08% The Americas: 2,49% The Middle East: 2,11% Africa: 0,45% Oceania/Pacific: 0,41%

Top 5 Europe: 1. Belgium 2. United Kingdom 3. Italy 4. Spain 5. Switzerland

Top 5 Ex-Europe: 1. Japan 2. USA 3. South Korea 4. Russia 5.Hong Kong

Visitor’s breakdown per day : Saturday (Day 1) : 35,39%,  Sunday (Day 2) : 32,04%,  Monday (Day 3) : 32,57%

  • International visitors

Amongst the 400 collections present, over 2/3 came from abroad.

  • New visitors

Amongst the 8164 visitors, more than 2000 were walking the alleys of the show for the very first time.

This season Playtime was held simultaneously with two other main Parisian events of international reputation : Who’s Next (fashion) and Maison&Objet (Furniture&decor). This certainly played a role in the strong international presence, as shows the example of Jamie Rosenthal who comes to Paris to buy for her wonderful concept store Lost and Found based in Los Angeles. Jamie said she was happy to be able to visit the three shows in one trip, as she can’t come from so far there different times per season.

It seems to have been positive for exhibitors who sell products that are both clothing and gift oriented, although a be strenuous in terms of organisation. British brandBob&Blossom was showing not only at Playtime Paris and Maison&Objet, but also at Bubble London. “It was challenging logistically. However we had a great response at all 3 shows – opening new accounts, catching up with existing customers and launching new products” said Kirsten Harris, owner of the brand.

  • An attractive fair

I don’t want to sound like I have been paid to always say so much good about Playtime, this is pure enthusiastic and honest feedback. The show is well organised, all the best indie brands are showing there, and Paris, although not always the most friendly town to visit (please MR the mayor do something about the taxis and the transport from RCDG airport!), is very easy to reach from all parts of Europe.

Moreover, Playtime always give a little extra through artistic installations and trend spaces and also with PlayWithDesign, an exhibit around design open to both professionals and the public.

“Today, we can confidently say that Playtime Paris benefits from an international drawing power that is unrivaled in the children’s universe, offering professionals from around the globe a rendez-vous that can’t be missed” say the organisers.

Next edition is 5, 6 and 7 July 2014…see you there!