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Ode to Champagne – Paris Fashion Week

I always thought, if another week would have to be added to 6-7 days of Paris Fashion Week, I would had needed direct champagne line going straight to my head, feeding my brain 24×7. That and the constant buzz, and, sometimes purely Brownian motion of designers, buyers, fashionistas, journalists, bloggers, people to be seen and people not to be seen ever…All of this creates the feel of madness after which one needs to sleep for few days, somewhere, in the soundproof room…

The fashion week usually starts with preparation. Your PA would make your appointments and would also make few mistakes, resulting in you flying from one arrondissement to another within a minute.

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It usually continues with arrival to Paris, naturally…As much as anybody dreams Paris, Aeroport Charles De Gaulle is a bit of a shock and would be better fit for the city like Moscow. Warsaw or Berlin,  than for the City of Lights. It is plain and  grey. It could be sunny and hot, it could be rainy and cold, it could snow outside, inside of this airport the colour is always grey. If it was intended to turn off the visitors, it did not work…

Upon the exit from the airport, the reality throws you another curved ball – Parisian Taxi Driver…Parisian Taxi Driver will not speak any English and will not take credit cards. When you give him a big tip, he will say “Thank you” in English without a tinge of an accent. You spend 10 Fashion week seasons dreading taxi drivers in Paris, and Paris in all totality, until you come up with a unique idea of hiring your own driver. You quickly realise that this decision is blessed by heavens. It changes your impression of Paris forever, for the better. You start to smile and notice that the world is smiling back to you.

Designer showrooms…

The first morning of the fashion week starts from 5 minutes before the appointment, because you sleep in. Forget the breakfast, nobody in Paris has breakfast anyway and here you go.

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5 appointments per day mean 2 hours spent on each appointment. You have to really concentrate on the sizes, silhouette, the preference in colours for Russia or Australia. Sometimes you really have to concentrate, because your designer friends give you so much champagne) Sometimes, you have to interrupt the appointments for the fashion shows of the designers you buy or are lured to buy.

Fashion Shows…

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The fashion show is an animal on its own. It is a good manner for a designer to start later. The more important this designer feels about him/herself, the later is the show. Rick Owens shows usually start 1.5 hours later, John Galliano (before his famous escapade), used to start 2 hours later than scheduled. It is interesting that Junko Shimada shows were always on time (and she is one of the famous remaining couturiers in Paris). It is imperative to be sitting and to be seen in the front row. For the buyers and bloggers it is not a problem. There is also the pressure to be photographed and not to look exhausted or fat)… It starts to take its toll at the end of the day. Champagne is always handy and it comes handy before or after the show.

Trade Shows…

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To make the story really complicated there are very important shows outside the designer showrooms and outside the designer shows. They are called Trade Shows and they are split between Tranoi and Premiere Class. Tranoi is owned by the owners of L’eclaireur (chain of the very good concept stores in Paris), by Hadida family, namely by Armand Hadida. It takes place in Palais De La Bourse and in Carousel Du Louvre.  Tranoi started in 2002. You need two full days to visit those locations and to make the orders.

The other Trade Show is called Premiere Classe and its usually held in Jardin Des Tuileries. It is very good for the buyers of shoes, bags and accessories. Champagne is served during lunch, afternoon tea and, I am afraid for breakfast. Premiere Classe started in 1989…

Two Fashion Weeks Per Season…

To make the story even more complicated, there is another fashion week in Paris end of June/start of July and end of January/start of February. It is for Haute Couture and Men’s collections. I am afraid, that people who attend four of those fashion weeks in Paris are completely champagne dependent.

A Little Bit of History…

Long before Fashion Weeks became, what they are today, fashion reigned, as you may have guessed, in the salons of France. The concept of the fashion presentation dates back to 1858, when Charles Fredrick Worth first developed the concept of showing his clientele a pre-prepared selection of original designs (a collection). Furthermore, he shocked high society by showing his designs on real, live women (models) for all to view. Both were highly novel ideas at the time.

In 1868, Worth helped create the Chambre Syndicale de la Confection et de la Couture pour Dames et Fillettes, a trade association whose mission was to develop the French fashion industry. One of the most noteworthy functions of the association was to legally regulate the phrase “haute couture” – meaning it could only be used by registered members of the Chambre Syndicale. The organisation also set a minimum number of looks for those designers who were granted membership.

The tradition of bespoke fashion presentations in private residences or in a designer’s salon for aristocratic clients continued in France into the 20th century, securing France’s reputation as the fashion capital of the world. As the trend grew, the presentations became more and more grandiose, engaging all of the senses in a full experience of photography, music, sophisticated staging and sets. Designers started calling them fashion “fêtes”, and thus, the basis of the modern fashion show was set. As the world looked almost exclusively to Paris for fashion inspiration, international fashion magazines from around the world filled their pages with chic styles being shown at these fêtes.
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The course of fashion history changed, however, in 1943. With World War II at its height, fashion journalists were unable to travel to Paris for fashion inspiration, with the shows being cancelled due to the Nazi occupation in France. In an unprecedented maneuver, a fashion publicist named Eleanor Lambert seized this opportunity to divert the attention of the fashion industry from Paris to America, in order to enhance the reputation and prestige of local American designers on the international scene. She invited all of the journalists to New York instead, arranged shows, and advertised that “Press Week” was coming to town.

There are Main Four Fashion weeks now – three of them preceding Paris (New York, London, Milan). For the buyers, Paris fashion week is still the best venue, since almost everybody from New York, London, Milan shows comes there with their collections.

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Paris is a very hectic place at the time, and if you are a tourist, just wait for another 5 days to feel fully welcome in this beautiful city. All decent brasseries and restaurants are fully booked and the Right Bank is teeming with all fashion week characters. The places to be seen and eat well are Les Flottes in Rue Cambon, Le Meurice Restaurant in rue Rivoli, Les Jardins Du Marais in uber trendy Le Marais. The places to drink champagne and to be seen doing so are Costes Hotel, Pershing Hall, Experimental Cocktail Club, where you can say goodbye to mojitos and margaritas, since it is a proper mixology bar.

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That’s not it, of course, for Paris fashion week. I failed to mention the friendships you forge, the encounters with people from all over the world. Paris fashion week is a like a little World Global village of like minded people. I dread it every time, I miss it all the time…

A bit thirsty now, in desperate need to reach for this long stemmed glass of perfectly cold champagne…

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