Despite hideous, cold, snowy, awful weather in most of the US, particularly the East, it’s springtime in Paris. It’s almost embarrassing to admit it, sunny, with still a little nip in the air, but beautiful weather, and it feels like spring, with temperatures in the 60’s. And it has been challenging to get to Paris for all the buyers and editors coming from the States. One of my daughters had a 25 hour flight from LA to Paris (normally a 10 or 11 hour flight), with an emergency landing in Boston, and a stop in New York, in a blizzard, and long delays. And many flights were cancelled, while the East of the US was pummeled by snow storms and arctic temperatures—-all of which made arriving in Paris, in the sunshine, with gentle weather, seem even more magical. And it’s that wild, busy, chaotic exciting week in Paris again, with the fashion shows of all the major French designers, packed in day by day for 8 days, while fashion magazine editors, store buyers, designers, stylists, models, international press from all over the world, come to Paris to run from one location to another to see the runway shows of each French designer’s line of women’s clothing for the upcoming fall and winter season. They show the clothes 6 months in advance, so stores can order them, and the manufacturers can make them in time for the fall/winter season. (Spring summer clothes are shown in September, also 6 months in advance of when they’ll be available in stores. Fashion week is an advance look at the next season, for the entire world to observe). And if you can’t get to the shows, you can see them all, listed by designer, on style.com
American designers show their lines in New York, to kick off “Fashion Week”, which is really fashion month, Italian designers show their wares in Milan, the British in London, and the grand finale is 8 days of non-stop fashion shows by French designers in Paris. (like Balenciaga, Celine, Chanel, Givenchy, and all the big French brands, and many other French brands). And for the past several years, the ready to wear shows of fashion week is where all the fashion action is. You not only see what will be in stores 6 months later, but you see a fascinating cast of characters at the shows, in the audience, and even outside in the streets. Even the gawkers who come to stare at who goes in and out of the venues, wear some pretty fabulous or intriguing costumes. Famous actors and actresses flock to the shows in droves, fashion notables, important socialites, singers and entertainment celebrities from all over the world. And you can’t just decide to see your favorite designer’s show and wander in, you have to be invited, and seats at the shows are harder to get than winning lottery tickets. It’s a BIG deal to be invited, and be allowed to go. The most important attendees are the fashion magazine editors who will write about the clothes, and either pan them or make them successful, and the store buyers who will decide to order them and sell them. But all the fanfare is not just on the runways, with big name stars from around the world coming to be seen at the shows, and even people who just like fashion. And the stars are checking out what they will want to borrow from the designers to wear to important press events in the coming months. And fashion is BIG business, billions of dollars change hands in the fashion industry every year. So fashion week is a MAJOR event, as a form of advertising, a spectacle, a glimpse of the styles to come, and a harbinger of what will the look will be in 6 months, and which designers will be the most successful this year. Vast fortunes are made and lost in fashion. And it is VERY exciting to be at fashion week, and see what’s going on, and what’s to come. And with 3 daughters who work in fashion, I get interesting tidbits of information that even I didn’t know, after years of being an observer on the fashion scene. (For instance, most of the models you see on the runways at these shows, who look like totally adult, sophisticated women, are actually between 16 and 18 years old (and are chosen by the designers for their thin bodies and lack of curves, so as not to interfere with the clothes) and some are as young as 15, and at 15, they need a medical certificate to walk in the shows, parental approval to do so, and a chaperone at all times. A few of the models are in their early twenties, and it’s a rarity to see a model who is 25. After that, they do magazine work, but don’t walk the runways at fashion shows. So if you’re comparing your body to those very young girls, don’t. No one looks like that except teenagers, no matter how grown up their faces are!! Many of the models are Russian and from Eastern Europe, but generally they come from all over the world. And often they are discovered by ‘scouts’ who travel around looking for rare beauties and new faces for the fashion scene. Being discovered can change their lives forever, and turn a waitress in a small town into a major star. Many young girls dream of that, although it happens to only a chosen few. And they’re not all traditional beauties, some have very interesting looks, and all of them are very tall!!!
When one of my daughters was a fashion editor on a fashion magazine, I tagged along to many shows with her, sometimes to designers I didn’t even know. But now, with all three of my fashion business daughters established as stylists, I either go to the shows they help put on, or the designers I like to wear, so this time I am only going to 3 ready to wear shows (I went to the Haute Couture shows in January, also in Paris, but that’s a whole different scene, and less of a stampede). There was a fourth show I really wanted to go to, but had a conflict on the same day (for my own work), and another show where I couldn’t get tickets. But I’m satisfied with the 3 I’m planning to attend, and all 3 are important shows!!!
I opened my fashion week participation with an absolutely dazzling show that my own daughter is involved in as a stylist and design consultant. It was Balenciaga, a very distinguished old French brand, which was recently modernized and revitalized and given a burst of new energy by famous American designer Alexander Wang, who still designs his own line (under his own name), and does Balenciaga as well. And he’s done a spectacularly beautiful job. I’ve been lucky enough to know him since he went to high school with my daughters. He is an ENORMOUS talent, and like my daughters is in his late 20’s. And his fashion show this season was absolutely spectacular, held in the evening, the collection was majestically elegant, both fashion forward, and innovative, while respecting the traditions and esthetic of the house’s original designer, Cristobal Balenciaga. The venues for these shows are an important element too, and set the stage for the mood the designer wants to set to show his line. Balenciaga chose an almost complete construction site on the Left Bank in Paris, in the 7th arrondissement (and crawling through a crush of traffic descending on the location adds to the heightened excitement of getting there, while you worry that you’ll be late, but shows never start on time, fortunately, to add to the anticipation, and while waiting for hundreds of people to find their seats, and everyone has an assigned seat, and where you are seated is important too!!!). The almost finished construction site had a modern industrial look, it was a huge venue, carpeted with miles and miles of criss crossed black and gray carpet installed for the show, and very dim lighting as we found our seats. I was greatly honored to find myself seated next to the famous Editor of Vogue Magazine, Anna Wintour, looking very chic as always, in signature haircut and dark glasses. And on my left was a mysteriously empty seat.
There are young male ushers in black suits to help you find your seat, and after about half an hour while photographers comb the crowd for famous people, suddenly an electric current goes through the crowd and you’re told that the show is about to begin, just as a fleet of people appear to remove the protective paper, covering the strip of carpeting, between the rows of seating facing each other—-where the models will pass between us near enough to touch. Bright lights come on over the runway, music explodes to life, while everyone waits expectantly, and this time, the house of Balenciaga had a surprise for us, BEFORE the show began. Suddenly, after we were all seated, in the expectant hush, down the long runway pranced a dramatic, familiar figure, in a black dress specially designed for her, with a slit to the hip, in the shoes the models would be wearing. She came dramatically down the aisle, as people realized it was Lady Gaga, and I was the most surprised of all when she took her seat next to me, so I had an impressive woman to my left AND right, and the photographers had a field day. She took her seat very elegantly, as the tension in the room continued to increase, and then Lady Gaga became an observer like the rest of us, after model after model came down the runway in absolutely spectacularly elegant and exciting clothes. Coats, suits, jackets, dresses, beautiful shapes and colors and textures, with wonderful details, in bejeweled plexi see through shoes, with black and beige details and jewels on them. Every detail of the show was perfect, and the clothes themselves breathtaking. And now and then, Lady Gaga and I would whisper something to each other, as we admired the clothes. I had met her before 2 years ago, when we were on TV, on the View, at the same time, and she is an immensely talented, extremely disciplined lovely person, and I was delighted to see her again.
There are roughly 50 ‘looks’ or outfits in a show, worn by 50 models, and the overall impression is truly stunning, and for me was doubly so, first to see such gorgeous clothes, and then to realize that my daughter had contributed to each look and design, working with Alex Wang—-and I was very, very proud of her—-and of Alex, since I’ve known him since he was so young, and he is so immensely talented. It was a really, really, REALLY exciting show for me!!!The show ended with thunderous applause for the designer, while he ran down the runway, to take a rapid, modest bow, and then it was over, and like Cinderella, we were left to shuffle through the venue, in the crushing crowd (of 500 or 600 people) trying to leave, hoping we didn’t lose a shoe. It was an absolutely gorgeous show with spectacular clothes!!!
Two days later, on a sunny Sunday morning, the fashion elite made their way through a park to a private tennis club, where the mood, the attire and the crowd were relaxed and at ease, to see the Celine show, one of my favorite lines of clothes, they are easy to wear, always elegant, with a casual touch, and the ambiance in the tennis club was one of relaxed excitement, where most people had opted to wear upscale Sunday gear. What the audience wears is part of the magic too. I wore jeans and navy loafers, a navy Celine sweater, and a multi colored coat, also Celine (dark blue, flamingo pink and yellow—wild but fun). At the Balenciaga show, I had worn black sweater and pants with a dressy plain black coat, high heels, and a big rhinestone necklace—-a dressier look!!! There were lots of running shoes at the Celine show, and colorful easy clothes. I was once again honored by my seat, this time next to the new Ambassador to France, Ambassador Jane Hartley, a lovely woman I recently met when she arrived to take her post in Paris in December. Last year, I was seated next to Kanye West at the Celine show. It’s always fun to see who I’ll be seated next to at the shows!!!
And the collection at Celine had a whole different feeling from the high fashion impact, look, and silhouettes of the Balenciaga show. At Celine it was all about fun, and ease, comfortable layers, soft fabrics in soft natural tones, wide legged pants with cut outs, fun coats, slip dresses It was a youthful collection, with fun, funky shoes—-which they do often, last year they adapted Birkenstocks and skateboard shoes. The whole collection was young, playful, and easy, in keeping with the venue, the time of day, location, mood, and their customer. It was a great show, and my daughter and I went out for brunch afterwards to talk about what we’d seen.
There’s no doubt about it, I love fashion, and all the fun and fanfare and surprises that go with it, as we wait to see what will be available to us next season. The Celine show was a great way to end the week, and the Balenciaga show a powerful opening to an exciting week of fashion…I can’t wait to see what comes next week……stay tuned!!!! There’s more to come!!!