Paris Fashion Week Unzipped

Seven days, twelve designers - a voyeur’s diary

(page 3 of 4)


THE FRONT ROW: Model Gemma Ward at Chloe with the American Vouge team

COSTUME NATIONAL About a third of the shows are held at the Carrousel du Louvre. To get there, you enter the Louvre from the Rue de Rivoli, go down an escalator, head through a marble passageway, then turn left and keep going until you hit The Hub. It is a chaotic, overheated hive, and everyone is taking somebody’s picture. There is a security checkpoint, which feels to me like the tarmac at some glamorous airport—all those Chanel bags getting manhandled by guards. Next there is signage: Andrew Gn to the right, Cacharel to the left.

I’m thrilled because the show I’m about to see, Costume National, is right after Valentino, and I don’t have to leave the building. I can relax in the press area, where everyone drinks shots of espresso in little white plastic cups.

This season, there was a lot of discussion about models’ weights. With all this talk of their exploitation, it’s lovely when you glimpse them having a good time. I’m seated in the far corner at Costume National, so I can see the women making their exits. With Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” playing, Irina Lazareanu works it down the runway with an expression of seriousness, then, the second she rounds the corner of the set, I catch a glimpse of her rocking out backstage. This little private moment is one of my favorites of the week.

DRIES VAN NOTEN At Dries, early arrivers are rewarded with a preshow: backstage developments visible through a scrim. I love watching the models after their exits. Most keep walking, looking straight ahead, until they arrive at their designated dressing area, but Sasha Pivovarova, the Russian who reminds me of an intense android on the runway, turns her long neck and gives a death stare right at the audience from behind the scrim.

HUSSEIN CHALAYAN Chalayan is going to be a madhouse, so I get there early. I know this, because even the most jaded fashion types are going around saying things like “Chalayan tonight!” and “This is why we come to Paris!” And I know that they are saying this for one reason: His previous collection was one of the most provocative shows of the season, delicate and scientific at the same time. He made gowns morph mechanically onstage—the first look went from Victorian gown to flapper dress in less than a minute.“He’s doing it again,” says a spectator behind me when a dress begins to glow. There are shining orange space-alien helmets and whirling mini tornadoes. “It’s a comment on the environment,” someone behind me says.

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