So first up I owe you an apology. This blog was meant to go out at the beginning of last week. Life sometimes gets in the way of my blogs, damn it! I figure better late than never. Plus one fashion week comes to an end while another one is just around the corner. In fact NYC FW is about to kick off and then it’s back to Paris for the fashionistas so in a way the next couple of lines are not that dated. In my humble opinion the best way to enjoy Fashion Week is by seeing as few shows as possible. At Haute Couture in Paris the other day I made it to two shows exactly and it was more than enough. But hey that’s me. I like keeping things fresh. Besides the reason for my trip wasn’t Fashion Week but rather to celebrate my good friend Olympia’s birthday. Coincidently the party fell into Couture Week, which meant that I stayed for a few extra days just to make sure I wasn’t missing out. Besides there are not that many Couture houses left so I figured, do them while they last. It’s kind of like going to see the last dinosaurs before they go extinct.
Olympia’s birthday night at the Ritz was a good way to get into the buzz. The Ritz feels cosy, plush, slightly dated and fashionably untrendy. We were all chilling at the back of the hotel apparently where Gianni Versace held his last show before he got shot a few weeks later (a bit of fashion history for you, it is FW after all.) That night the room was in a warm spirit and filled with lots of beautiful girls and a few boys of course all of us very close friends of Olympia’s. In fact quite a few of us girls go way back to our crazy student days at the American University of Paris. The summer before I started at AUP I went travelling through Indonesia with my sister and in Bali on a beach called Dream Land met up with a gang of girls, four to be precise (the kids of friends of friends of my mum.) It was love at first sight. From then onwards we became an inseparable gang, the “Poulettes”, the chicks as we called ourselves. Above the original gang today with our birthday girl in the middle (myself and Tatiana far left and Alexia and Josephine to the right.) Coincidently we were all studying at the same school so after the summer, back in Paris, each class became a cosy cocktail party “entre amies” rather than a proper lecture. In breaks we would hang out at the beautiful apartment of Tatiana’s mum. There we would feast on home-made Brazilian lunches, listen to music or even work-up a sweat with the mum’s good-looking Brazilian trainer. In class we all sat lined up one next to the other in our colourful clothes, boots and bags, long messy hair and absolutely unprepared for lessons. Even miles off you could have seen we were a gang. Today we all are slightly more grown-up, working and scattered around the globe so most of us don’t see each other nearly as often as we would like. Oly’s birthday was the perfect reunion for our original and extended gang. Sushi was piling up along the tables but in true girlie spirit the deserts were the main course two delicious cakes, personally customized cookies for Olympia hand-delivered all the way from London, macarons, petit fours, madeleines, lots of champagne and sweet cocktails to rinse it down. It was so cosy one could have almost forgotten it was FW until suddenly the likes of Kate Moss, Riccardo Tisci, Carine Roitfeld started pouring in.
The next day as I sat there waiting for the Jean Paul Gaultier show to start, already an hour late I asked myself whether these enormous runway productions weren’t a little over? Looking around I felt that even Couture, the last resort of chic, seemed to have become a bit naff. No wonder some stylish designers, i.e Tom Ford or Marc Jacobs, have changed route and now only do tiny little shows rather than huge productions. It might sound blasé to someone who has never been to a show but picture this: Rushing through Parisian traffic into the deepest and busiest arrondissement, the Marais, you arrive at a building (home of JPG) covered in paparazzi and crazy people who seem to think anyone who attends a show is a superstar. You push through and into the building, along a runway of tight-faced women looking more like vultures than human beings trying to ignore the hoo-ha as best you can. Angry fashion editors who have gone through this exact same Spiel several times already on an empty stomach of course, sit there. Middle-aged heiresses, particularly during Couture, dressed to the nines head to toe current collection, splattered with make-up, big purses and jewels they sit there proudly. I don’t object to woman actually buying clothes priced like cars. They are providing for hundreds of seamstresses and thereby ensuring that the long tradition of highest quality of made-to-measure survives but seeing them all bunched into one room gagging to be noticed is somewhat soulless. As you glance along the catwalk there are certain spots in the first row where photographers bundle together hectically snapping away. Just by looking that direction you get sore eyes. Sometimes as they evaporate to feast on their next prey you recognize a vaguely familiar face i.e Claudia Schiffer or Beyoncé. At other times you have no idea who these faces are. At JPG there were two dolled up girls next to me posing well behaved for each photographer. I think they were Greek singers or something like that. It is quite disconcerting to me to see how these starlets in desperate need of attention have to sell themselves. Their outfits borrowed from the showrooms they loll around in front of the press till photographers tire of them and move on. I mean imagine, often its not even 11 o’clock in the morning and these people are wearing cocktail dresses, heavy make-up and hair and right after the show they go home and change to have their picture taken in a different dress at a different show. All this can go on for hours. The designers are overwhelmed and late to start and while I sit there I wonder why on earth I rushed through the stunning Mondrian retrospective at the Centre Pompidou in order to be stranded here instead.
There is a time and a place to enjoy the madness. Back in my Poulette days when I first moved to Paris I used to love Fashion Weeks. I would play along with it all. Wide-eyed I’d be delighted to attend as many shows as I could. I was even more delighted to be able to scavenge through the press offices choosing the craziest outfit I could find, my favourite at the time being always Dior. Once my sister and I told a French journalist sitting next to us trying to figure out who we were, that we were a punk-rock girl band from Iceland. What else were we going to say, Princesses?
The following night after a lot more hoo-ha at the Valentino show we celebrated Giambatista Valli’s first store opening. Pale stone flooring and wood are the new home for his stunningly elegant, understated, yet playful clothes. Giambatista manages to reunite us girls every time. In fact he should be made an honorary Poulette. Later that evening during a caviar and potato dinner at Caviar Caspia I realised that the best thing about Paris is and was seeing so many of my old friends especially my girlfriends. This is why I end up at FW again and again and again it’s our Poulette reunion.