Première Vision Virgin
Saying something new about Première Vision Paris isn’t easy. After 40-years of being the de-facto key seasonal industry event for fashion textiles, it kind of doesn’t need the publicity. But nor is it too proud to learn. You could say it is on a continual process of learning on behalf of the industry.
“Actually, PV is an ever-evolving organism. In the time I’ve worked with the company, Première Vision as a company has grown; it launched Denim, and it has developed the product offer in Paris to cover the entire fashion supply chain from fibres and filaments all the way to finished garments at Première Vision Paris each September and February.”
Meeting up with Gill Gledhill, founder of GGHQ Fashion Intelligence and the UK representative for Première Vision SA’s shows for the last 12-years, I was curious to find out how newbies to PV find their way without getting lost in the miles of fabrics, and how these visitors can source exactly what they want. In some respects, it’s actually more a case of finding themselves first.
“The UK has an incredibly strong art and design training system, we are a magnet for students from around the world and we produce outstanding new designers. I’m really keen to connect with new creative talent and help them to understand how PV works and use it as a resource.” Gill explained that for the student/ graduate fraternity (something like 2,000 students visit in February as part of organized groups). “It’s about having a game plan. Ask yourself what you want to get out of your visit. Are you there to see trends, if so focus on the 15 fashion forums around PV Paris. Or do you want to make contact with companies for work placements, jobs, or to source fabrics? It’s about being prepared. Do the research on the individual manufacturer you want to see. And, especially if you are not known, take the trouble to contact them in advance and book a meeting.”
The message is clear: be professional in approach and execution, put yourself across in the way you wish to be received. PV is a professional trade show and so the 2,000 or so exhibitors are there to do business with their clients. Imagine you are the manufacturer on a stand trying to maximize your investment in the show. How might you respond to a stream of visitors who are a million miles from ordering anything and can barely articulate a meaningful question to demonstrate they have a clue what fabrics you specialize in or what you are looking for? It’s not to put people off, but it just ends up being an extravagant waste of everyone’s time if the visitor isn’t prepared.
If it is part of an organized college trip, then the complimentary College passes to attend PV become an extension of how tutors can prepare their students for a visit to the show (conscientious self-vetting alert, tutors?). “Just by giving the student tasks to complete during their visit forces a requirement of mental engagement in the event.” The degree of preparation from student to student varies a great deal, from none at all to “fully formed and professional as part of their training” by RCA students.
To their credit, Gill and the organisers of PV do their best to provide a level playing field and give a presentation advising how to get the most out of the event. Which is all part prep for transitioning from graduate to professional designer or textile specialist. PV in this regard is a non-discriminating leveler for those ready to get the most out of it. Clearly the students of today are the brand developing design innovators of tomorrow.
Gill has her pedigree intact, not just by virtue of helping to shape UK and Ireland’s active participation in PV in Paris for so long – after France, the UK tops the visitor leader board each season – but as a textile design graduate at Chelsea, she has been there and knows the form. I asked what makes a student more ready for PV? “Those who are about to make the transition into their professional lives will benefit most– undergrads and post-grads – who can use the opportunity to see the inside of the fashion industry and how it works, and maximize that knowledge in their working lives.”
Gill is not in the business of stymieing interest, but student access is given to BA and MA courses only. And for those that want it, Gill accepts offers to go to colleges and give talks on what PV is all about.
One of the more obvious transitional links between the undergraduate and professional worlds are the sponsorships carried out by PV to support new design and creation. For example, PV is a major sponsor of the Texprint which selects and mentors 24 new graduate designers each year, each of whom is given a booth to show his or her work at PV Designs in September.
For the 58,000 global professionals attending PV each season, it is a business-critical part of their design process. Many designers I speak to, it’s about the inspiration it offers, unmatched by any other event. Whatever the individual drivers and motivation may be, PV actually delivers on a fundamental level that is the bedrock of our entire industry. It was like a master class in understatement to hear Gill explain the colour palette genesis that PV is responsible for understanding, formulating and disseminating season-by-season, year-by-year. The fact that it just happens to be the colour card that everyone heeds, gives you some sense of the pivotal and vital role Première Vision plays in guiding the global fashion and textile industry along its merry way. It’s not called Première for nothing. The ‘Vision’ comes via the impressive array of influencers who contribute to the realization of this singularly industry-defining activity. An activity drawn from the players themselves and fed back to the myriad of designer, retailer and wholesaler and producer and supplier networks, internationally.
“When you consider, it’s people like Beryl Gibson, (member of Premiere Vision Committee and Chair of UK Fashion and Textile Association, British Colors & Textiles) who participate in PV’s globally represented forum of discussion, with decision makers of a similar standing, it gives you some idea of the focus of attention the colour palette synthesis receives. Anyone working in the fashion world will heed the information on the palette.” And ipso facto, if all the brands are observing and following the palette, it’s easier to coordinate your collection as designer, stylist or customer. Or as Gill succinctly puts it, “it helps the world go round.” And on the eighth day, there was PV.
One starts to get a picture, bewildering in its multi-dimensional and multi-layered-ness that not only is matrix-like, it might actually be the fashion industry’s matrix. The agenda of PV throughout the year, via its head office and country-focused teams (such as GGHQ) is synonymous with its objectively defined role: a constant monitor and curator combining trends, filtering ideas, synthesizing color, textures and processes to establish where the market is going globally. What product areas are growing and what are the changing manufacturing processes? PV, without trying or needing to be, is resolutely objective and does not pander to brand-led influence.
Within Première Vision Paris there are six separate events: Fabrics, Leather, Yarns, Design, Manufacturing and Accessories. “Can you imagine the niche marketing taking place, market by market, globally on these individual areas alone?” I can and at the same time if I’m honest, I probably can’t. PV, as a major gathering of the global fashion and textile market, is where major fibre companies launch campaigns and talk with the press – around 500 international members of the press come along to PV, too.
Beyond the six PV Paris shows, there’s also Denim Première Vision in Barcelona and Tissu Premier in Lille. At all of the shows, the exhibitors are selected on the basis that they are producing seasonal collections rather than commodities.
Gill says they have a great database and I can believe her. After 12-years she must know pretty much everyone in the UK that has set up a brand, or ever held some fabric in their hands or has felt that first flush of fabric production excitement, who are now PV lifers. At some point they may have asked for her advice or opinion, and had it freely given. It is this aspect that is particularly comforting to hear. There’s no hidden agenda soft consultancy being peddled. “If we get asked is there a lace company or a shirting company we know, we will give our suggestions, based on what they are looking for. There’s no desire to offer consultancy, it’s all about marketing the events and making sure people find the inspiration and the elements they need to create their collections – our aim is to help people do better, more informed business.” Simple and ethical.
See the Autumn/Winter 16/17 collections at Première Vision Paris, September 15-17 2015, for more information contact the GGHQ team: email@example.com
Interview by Paul Markevicius