The creativity, the splendor, the opulence. It’s like swimming through a dream world.
This is where the magic starts. Depending on the show, the chaos ranges from ultra organized to the moderately disarrayed to the downright manic. Hair and makeup teams, all in black, are ready as the models begin to drift into the room — young, lithe, fresh, aloof.
The hair team work their way through the room with trade tool belts sagging with combs, brushes, hair spray…
The makeup team have their black multi-tiered paint boxes with powders, creams, gels of every hue of the vast visible light spectrum. Armed with all the brushes of all the sizes, they begin their work. There’s more skin contact than I had expected — purposely rubbing in moisturizers and creams, priming their canvas.
The two teams work around each other, reaching over and around, respectful yet urgent.
Then the rehearsal. Girls in curlers doing the runway walk in hoodies and robes—laughing and taking selfies behind the scenes.
We head outside to watch the invitees arrive. And what a spectacle they are. It’s like a Hollywood red carpet, complete with star studded cast. Arya Stark and Elsa Hosk arrive behind Anna Wintour. Street style photogs clamor to get the shot. Plebs (cough cough influencers) with strong selfie games. Then me. Still smiling for photos with a grin like cheese on repeat.
Back inside the Grand Palais to watch the show. And it’s like crawling inside the designers’ minds. The contrast is stark. Where Yohji was austere and structured, Thom Browne was over the top.
Yohji’s creations were like mind puzzles. Intricate knots. Absurd details. Too beautiful. Too simple. At once indescribable, yet perfectly logical. Umbrella hats (everyone needs one), structured dresses, coats woven by tangles. A choreographed dance through the Grand Palais.
Thom Browne. The opposite end of the spectrum. No more or less beautiful, just exactly different. Outrageous. Theatrical. A cast of Marie Antoinette’s prancing around St Germain des Pres.
It starts with birds chirping and light classical music. Models dressed like pre-revolutionary fairies wandering around a paper-mache world complete with Manneken Pis recreation and origami cranes and flowers. A set that cost as much as a Sydney apartment.
Then the music jars into heavy rock and girls pour out onto the scene wearing intricate bodices with hair piled on top of the head and finished with ornate coats decorated with child-like images of sailboats and dolphins. The gold embroidery is exactly that. Gold. Not gold-colored but actually gold. Retailing at just under my lifetime salary.
Then, again, the music erratically shifts gears and the Teletubbies theme song bellows through the National School of Fine Art’s halls. A gorgeous blond (let’s be real, they’re all gorgeous) dressed in all white and pushing a pram starts parading around the set. I was so enthralled with her overt interactions with the audience (so contradictory to the notorious apathetic stare) that I almost failed to notice the crowd. Almost. The audience, full of people too important. Too manicured. At once imperial and fleeting. They all start to laugh. The kind of laugh that starts in the belly. Genuine. And in an age of curation and filters, it is such a joy to see a room full of creative professionals laughing as Marie Antoinette’s doppelgänger skips her merry way to the tunes of Tinkie Winkie, Dipsie, La La, and Po.
It ends the way it began. Fairies gathering all the mini-Maries and herding them off stage. Thom Browne takes his bow.
Then we come back to where we are and everyone starts to file out. Arya gets in her limo. Cardi B hosts an interview. Anna Wintour declines at least 5. I’m mistaken for an influencer and a host of photogs start snapping away. Adding my cheesey smile and classic yearbook pose to the pfw2019 hashtag.
But it’s not over, not quite yet.
Behind the scenes, hair, makeup and models are drinking champagne and kicking back. The weight holding the room is gone and everyone settles into the relaxed aftermath. Models start to disappear as their hair is undone and makeup removed. The guests are now gone. Clean up crew starts poking around.
We leave the venue. And I savor the last of the magic as I swim back to my hotel. Revelling in the genius that is Paris Fashion Week.