Paris, the city of lights, the fashion capital and home to some of the world’s most iconic architecture. Paris is also where I call home and after seven years of living in arguably the most romantic city in the world, it’s safe to say I’ve experienced my fair share of Fashion Weeks. I’ve also worked in the fashion industry in various ways for almost a decade and still haven’t managed to obtain an invitation to any of the high profile shows – this is just the tip of what it’s actually like to live in Paris during fashion week. Perhaps you have an idealised view of what it’s like to call Paris home and even more so during the prestigious Fashion Week shows. Well, it’s time you knew the whole story, the good, the bad and the complete truth about what life is really like in Paris during the most influential of times. Fashion Week is over for another season and this is my story.
Aside from the battles with bureaucracy, learning the language and understanding unique Parisian culture, one of the things you learn very quickly in Paris is that everybody is something. Everybody is a dancer, or an artist, a photographer, or a designer. Sometimes they are a writer or a stylist, a journalist or a model but people both locals and expats, identify themselves as their creative side even if they are sitting in an office most of the day in order to pay their extortionate rent. Paris just seems to bring out the creative nature in people and allows them to explore their talent either professionally or in an amateur way and no more so than when Fashion Week comes to the city.
Living in Paris when it’s not Fashion Week is very similar to living in other cities only with better bread, inexpensive wine and café culture. It’s very different to taking a trip here because you still have to work and do laundry and on a daily basis you aren’t visiting the tourist spots. But when Fashion Week arrives, most of the shows are hosted in well known locations so for those of us lucky enough to call Paris their home, it’s a chance to reconnect with the city and its landmarks, breathing new life into her.
Fashion Week this season began on a Monday and by Friday I was sick of cursing the highly anticipated event. I had a meeting across the city and my route led me right into the path of the Balmain show. Heading down the stairs to the Metro, the crowds on the platform meant I had to let three trains go by before I could actually fight my way onto one, even still, we were all shoved together with the doors barely closing. I had a huge feather trimmed jacket tickling my face while another woman lost her balance and stabbed my toe with her giant platform heels. Fashion Week is all fun and games until it gets in your way! Finally, I arrived at my stop, the same stop everyone else was getting off for the show. I attempted to zig-zag through the crowd, hoping to get past them as quickly as possible. Running late, my patience was wearing thin with those people who had nowhere else to be, it felt like they were purposefully going out of their way to make my journey as difficult as possible! If you have to go somewhere in Paris during Fashion Week and your route happens to cross over a fashion show, it’s a stressful free for all and is best avoided at all costs! For the rest of Fashion Week I cocooned at the office, trying to avoid the chaos of the streets as much as possible.
For the last day of Fashion Week, I headed out with some photographers, my Boston Terrier by my side for the Chanel and Miu Miu shows. Chanel was held at the Grand Palaiswhile Miu Miu was located close by at the Conseil Économique Social et Environnemental. Over at Chanel, models and show attendees arrived from all directions, sending the photographers running towards them at warp speed, elbows first. Many simply kept walking towards the entrance of the building, while others paced up and down posing for the cameras and obeying the photographers requests to turn their angle or stay for one more shot. Of course most were dressed head to toe in Chanel, the more extravagant the outfit the better. I felt sorry for everyone attending who wore skirts and bare legs, it was freezing outside and raining but they showed no signs of discomfort, not a single goose pimple! I really wanted to join in and wear my most stylish outfit and my highest heels but reality kicked in at the thought of standing outside for hours on end. I put my comfy ankle boots on with tights and a tunic top and covered the whole thing with a faux fur trimmed black wool coat.
Of course my pooch was also wearing a sweet knitted sweater to keep him warm too! We were all very much aware that this was the last Chanel show by Karl Lagerfeld and the atmosphere definitely reflected that. There was tension in the air and a sombre attitude underneath the excitement at seeing what everyone was wearing and who the next famous face to arrive would be. Gradually the attendees came less and less as the show start time approached, with a Chanel model making an appearance in her off duty outfit of jeans, sweatshirt and chunky sneakers before heading off backstage.
While the show was going on, we opted to warm up with an espresso on the heated terrace of the nearest brasserie while we watched the show online. It was extremely moving to know this was all happening just a few meters away from us in real time. As the models walked down the runway for the finale, led by Cara Delevingne in their plaids and alpine knits, they frolicked in the faux snow laid out for the Chalet theme, laughing, clapping and wiping away tears, I found myself welling up at the same time.
Over at Miu Miu the atmosphere was much more light hearted and the clothing worn by the attendees certainly reflected that. The crowds outside Miu Miu were an acidic rainbow of electric pink, shocking neon green and vibrant yellows. Many of the influencers attending the show hung around the press for a long time, showing off their style and elaborate outfits. But the secret was to watch for the understated outfits, as Grace Coddington, Creative Director at Large, American Vogue, swanned into the crowd wearing muted colors, paying no attention to the photographers and leaving only the image of her iconic hairstyle in our peripheral vision. My little Boston Terrier caught some of the limelight too, with many photo ops and coos sent his direction. After everyone had gone in and the show had begun, we headed off for some much needed caffeine refuelling and to digest the day’s events.
It was amazing to see my fellow expat friends working in action, making connections and truly breathing in our city. For that’s what Paris is really about after all, it’s about opportunity, about creativity and about taking a chance. My pooch and I headed home on a quiet metro and cuddled up on the sofa, the two of us completely exhausted after such a busy and fast paced day. Yes, Fashion Week in Paris is very exciting but to be honest I’m very glad there’s a six month break until the next one as with the fun and excitement, also comes a heavy dose of exhaustion! Au revoir Fashion Week, see you next season!
Article Commissioned by Mod'Art University of Shanghai