Every set of interview questions I’ve received in the past year has, in some capacity, asked the unanswerable: which is your favourite city in the world?
To live? Regardless of where I move in the interim for work, I’ll always end up in Sydney. We have the lifestyle, the food, the sunshine, the natural landscape, good educations, great healthcare, super chill vibes, Christmas in Summer, and only the odd racist asshole.
To visit? Morocco hands down. I’ve never had a trip more eyeopening and culturally immersive than my few weeks there (but I’ve raved enough about that on countless occasions, so I won’t do it here).
And Fashion Week? I’ve been working in New York so much over the past five years that it has reached a point of second-home familiarity. I take the subway between shows and appointments (there are way weirder sights to see underground in New York than a girl in heels) and can fairly well navigate dinner reservations, real estate market conversations and food fads of the moment.
London and Milan I hardly know at all – and the bleary eyes and deadened brains from too much meaningless small-talk, abuse from angry Eastern European men in the photo pit, and time ticking deliverables and staring at screens hardly lend the best capacity get to know either. Stick with what
you know: head down, working in the back of the car between shows, eating between the three decent Chinese restaurants in Milan because speaking Mandarin to curious waiters is far more comforting than straining tired brains for the miserable returns of fragmented Italian.
Per favore? Grazie mille?
But Paris (oh Paris) is a different story. No matter how many times I go, for work or for pleasure, the magic doesn’t seem to wear off. I am told that the façade disintegrates quite quickly once you actually live there. “I just want to buy everything I need at one supermarket,” one of my Kiwi friends who recently made the move
declared – “Having to run to a different place for every bloody food group and then everything else is not as Amélie as you’d think.” Fair. But work in Paris never feels like work – every show and showroom is in a more awe-inspiring location than the last. Paris’ blue shadows and yellow lights after dark make heady late nights working from your windowsill quietly poetic. Brutally early call times for shoots and meetings are softened by sunrise along the Seine – one of those tear-inducing sights to be absorbed in solitude with the stupidly cliché strains of an accordion puncturing your imagination.
You really can lock yourself up in a romantic sepia bubble, only allowing yourself to be rudely awakened to deal with logistical nightmares like the entire arrondissement surrounding your photo studio for the day being blocked off for a marathon, or traffic. Dear god the traffic. Fortunately, the car I had while I was in town was a practical Lexus with the most generously proportioned sunroof I’ve ever seen, so I spent most of my time (and I probably did clock more time stationary in traffic than I did at actual appointments) dividing my attention between my laptop and 18th century architecture and amber Autumn leaves rushing (or crawling) overhead.
Further to all that alternate reality of black and white French cinema, Paris Fashion Week really is its own beast. With the exception of breakout design talent or seismic shifts in old fashion houses (everyone had basically been holding their breath for Alessandro Michele’s next round of Gucci since Givenchy’s set and sentiment knocked us out in New York), Paris is essentially where the innovation happens. Nicolas Ghesquière, Raf Simons, Sarah Burton, Rick Owens… (and now perhaps Demna Gvasalia, is Kering has now decreed). That, and the shows are shows – performances with stories – rather than the expressionless up and down of sterile lighting.
Only Proenza Schouler gets away with that – their collections speak for themselves.
In Paris, Hussein Chalayan showered models in ice cold water, dissolving the paper shift dresses that had shielded the meticulously embroidered skintight and abstract reference to the evolution of Cuba – once fully cleansed, the girls walked the remainder of the runway, shivering and glistening with goosebumps and Swarovski crystals.
Chanel staged its usual Grand Palais fanfare, this time boarding Chanel Airlines with every It-model in the game, and instigating an inevitable onslaught of packing editorial still life stories (I can see it now “Travel in Style: 10 things to pack in your Chanel 2.55 suitcase”).
Dior built a gargantuan mound of delphiniums in the Louvre’s Cour Carée, and transported us all back to Picnic at Hanging Rock (through a white-lit rabbit-hole to an equally delphinium-carpeted
dome interior) with new age Victorian undergarments and futuristic ceramic talismans.
Further to the spectacle, Paris collections are truly international, and so increasingly seasonless. Unlike US-centric brands who, for a range of import-export tax handicaps, remain firmly focused on what safe pattern repeats will least freak out their loyal but conservative consumers, in Paris, there’s a market for furs and silks alike. Most of the Asian and Middle Eastern press and buyers I spoke to over the week admitted that they never bothered with New York, London or Milan – the grandeur of Paris was the one that spoke to their readers and clients.
For similar reasons, Delpozo, their comms team explained, will continue to show in New York for the press, and run their showroom in Paris for market, even with industry wondering every season when they’ll make the move to showing in Europe. In New York, they’re the standout that everybody looks forward to (alongside Proenza and probably Marc Jacobs).
So Paris, it seems, embodies both realms of cold hard commerce (plus a little leverage for fragrances and accessories while we’re at it), and the oft other-worldly realisations of genius minds that feed the soul and remind those who care why we put ourselves through this minefield of an industry, rather than admiring from safety afar. Sure, my brother is always the first to remind me in times of work-related hysteria that fashion isn’t saving any lives. Touché. But it does create beautiful things. Paris creates beautiful things.
More on that later.
For now, here are a few PFW highlights for your visual appetite, with more folders of moment HERE. There are plenty more dedicated show posts to come once I’m done with this Media Law essay, kids!
- Get-up worn on the last day of shows in Paris: with go-to Swarovski spike earring, ELLERY top, Maurie & Eve shirt and skirt, Tony Bianco boots.
- Fernanda Ly leading the pack at Louis Vuitton’s SS16 show.
- Mess of show invites and go-to Swarovski jewels.
- Stella Maxwell walking the Balmain SS16 show.
- With the band: Barbara Bui bomber, Chloé top, CMEO flares, Givenchy bag.
- Chalayan’s water installation and melting dresses.
- The remnants of a wild Nuit Blanche (an art and culture night in Paris where all galleries are open all night and there are cool installations like this coloured ice block sculpture around the city).
- Watching the sun rise from Trocadéro.
- Walking between showroom appointments in the 16th.
- Breathtakingly serene Raf Simons moment at Dior SS16.
- The usual airport rush with the Chanel SS16 squad.