I have been to several Paris Fashion Weeks and have reported on my experience as a novice. Now, as a seasoned veteran, I worry the viewfinder I held aloft was rose-colored, indeed. What was once a mythical fairyland of swirling scarves, perfectly puffed pastries and glitzy dinner parties twinkling on past midnight has withered to a nightmarish hellscape: desperate vendors cramming their shoes onto my feet, upstart bloggers screaming for me, paparazzi flashbulbs scarring my pupils.
In the midst of such a cacophony, I find myself wondering: When in my meteoric rise to the dizzying heights of the fashion world will the sun finally burn too hot? I long for the day I may lose my feathers like Icarus, free-fall back to Earth and walk down the street with a beret and baguette unbothered.
As I prepare to leave for the airport, I notice my puffy coat is leaking little tufted feathers out of a hole near my wrist. Recognizing the heavy-handed symbolism, I become terrified and apply a dollop of Gorilla Glue to the hole, effectively stopping the insulation exodus.
Wednesday, February 28th
Shortly after arriving in Paris, my stylist a.k.a. girlfriend a.k.a. editor-in-chief of InStyle asks about the bird shit on my arm. I patiently explain the tear, the leak, the solution. She sends me off to get a new coat.
A breezy expenditure of $80 at Uniqlo will get you this gender-neutral, puffy hooded coat that offers a pleasing assortment of pockets.
For sustenance, I order poulet paillard, which is French for “chicken that looks like a chicken.”
This poor hen stepped sideways into the path of a guillotine. Haughty, but delicious. Afterward, I can feel my grip on reality slipping, so I take a nap and wake up just in time for dinner, which I eat and then go back to bed.
Thursday, March 1st
I am no longer 26 years old and my body does not spring forward into new time zones as spryly as it once did. I wake up at 1 p.m., just in time to bathe and head off to see the Dries Van Noten collection. After being jostled through security and beginning to wonder if maybe I should just go drink a bottle of wine on a Seine tourist cruise, my spirits lift considerably upon finding a familiar face:
Harper’s Bazaar’s Glenda Bailey, a fearless woman who makes her own way and makes me feel like I can too.
Then the lights go up, the chatter dies down and for seven minutes I forget myself and remember why I do what I do. You need only do a minor amount of research to find professional runway photographs of these looks, but what those images fail to capture — and what mine communicate brilliantly — is how little time one has to look at each outfit as the models march by. I’ve highlighted a few of my favorites:
The solid color of the below-left top matches the hue of the detail on the skirt, mirroring the layered duality of the mind-body relationship.
Note how the fabric does not cling tightly but dangles and dances with a motion of its own — suggesting that our own identities are not hewn from stone and shackled to our shoulders but hover all around, knowable only for a moment before shifting once more.
The above-right one looks like Morpheus from The Matrix. Because we’re probably living in a simulation.
I liked this below-left one because of the soft colors…
…and because the model demonstrates why this accessory is called a clutch.
The feathered boa above-right offers one possibility for how the dinosaurs actually looked. I always had a hunch the stegosaurus was a flashy bugger, not that drab, gray-brown galumph my textbooks force-fed me.
Technically, this is a bag.
But it would be more accurate to call it a sack. No Wookiees were harmed in the making of this sack.
Bravo, Dries! Glenda and I bid a fond farewell to each other after I tell her “I liked the feathery bits,” then I head to an appointment with Aquazzura.
The brilliant minds there had these boots made for me, but I know I have no spare room in my suitcase and that they’d render me clumsy in the TSA line, so I have to say, “Thanks, but no thanks.”
In hindsight, I guess I could have chucked a pair of sweatpants to make room. Oh well.
I wind up ordering poulet paillard again for a late lunch (too tired to make a new decision) and, whether or not you think the man is an effective President, you cannot deny:
Garçon, there’s a hairpiece on my food.
Friday, March 2nd
The next day, I take a break from the shows to peruse the Louvre. I greatly enjoy — nay, require as though ‘tis oxygen — being amongst the art. While I wander its labyrinthine halls, the throngs of tourists fade to static and I feel like I am actively communing with some of the great minds humankind has produced throughout the ages. I listen to what they have to say, then use my smartphone to capture the old masters’ stories as they resonate today.
Expending this level of psychic energy is uniquely exhausting, and when I’m at my weakest, I always crave the same thing: a burger. When I sit down at a restaurant and find that the beef tartare, which is far fancier than a burger, is the same price, I order that instead:
I do not know who the pervert in the kitchen is or why he or she interrupted the sacred ritual of a caperberry attempting to fertilize a hen egg. Later, I realize the only difference between beef tartare and a burger is that tartare is not cooked, so truthfully it should have been cheaper than the burger. I make a note to send a letter requesting a partial refund.
Saturday, March 3rd
Back on the fashion grind: I have an appointment with Aurélie Bidermann, who of course wants to adorn me with her wares. I turn down the gifts, as I confess I do not enjoy possessing jewelry. I find its value far too tempting to thieving rascals and terrifyingly concentrated relative to its size (and, therefore, lose-ability). All possessions are of course burdensome and the nature of “possession” illusory in itself, but jewelry crystallizes this notion. For me, looking is enough.
First of all: How much better is the French version of the word “jewelry”?
It makes the Anglo “jewelry” look like it means “toe fungus.”
And look at this ruby- and emerald-inlaid shell pendant.
I’m only sharing this one picture because most of the ones I took were inadequate/marred by glare. But I believe Aurélie’s joaillerie should be strapped to a rocket and launched into orbit so that in the event of humanity’s self-immolation, it will survive, and when aliens discover our planet, they will first discover these items orbiting above our charred and grown-over remains and they will know that there was beauty here.
Next, I go to the Altuzarra show, which is taking place in the celebrated Parisian restaurant La Coupole and is uniquely visible to the curious public assembled out on the street.
My photography once again captures how quickly the models pass by and how little time I had to form an opinion about each outfit, even though my expert mind of course generates such opinions at lightning speed.
Look at how the evening gown below swishes to and fro as the model makes her turn. This one left a lasting impression on the judges for sure.
Another one is purple and has a slit, which exposes the leg.
The shoes are also purple. I liked the earrings, which you can’t really see clearly, but they looked like a bit like that viral video from a while back of a guy using molten metal to make a mold of an ant colony.
After, I feel spent and also a bit ill, so I lay low for the rest of the day in preparation for my big fashion finale: Valentino.
Sunday, March 4th
I don’t want to risk fainting during the show, so I make sure to eat a balanced breakfast.
(I stood on the bed in my underpants to take this and almost fell on top of the table. Honestly, the things I risk for you guys.)
Valentino has built a structure near L’Hôtel des Invalides specifically for the show. When Anna Wintour sees me, she rushes over and gives me a huge hug and we gossip for a bit, but unfortunately we don’t take a picture together as we normally do. I snapped the one above a bit later just to give you a taste.
Can’t wait for our tennis date, Anna!
This row of girls across from me keeps looking over at me, giggling and pointing and blushing. Sorry, ladies, this is a business trip.
But seriously, there was an actual humming sound coming from their collective social media following.
Then the show started. Below are some of my favorites, but really the collection as a whole was my favorite.
…as Karlie looks on, poised as ever.
The above-right one is just layered so beautifully.
The man in front of me was involved in planning the show and got very upset when somebody nearby leaned out to take pictures. Not me, somebody else.
The human peony:
The green one is good luck should you find it while prancing through a field of clover.
This show transported me and reawakened in me a hope — a hope that we are all beings awaiting some form of pollination, capable of transformation, of one day entering a mode of existence beyond our current understanding.
I try to make a surreptitious exit but once again the photographers call for me to stop and pose. The ladies below leapt in front in a somewhat embarrassing attempt to get themselves plastered on Getty Images. NICE TRY, DESPERADOS.
Afterward, my favorite thing: breakfast for lunch.
Café Saint-Régis, you have my heart.
Au revoir, Paris! Thank you for rekindling my passion for fashion.
Photos via Brandon Borror-Chappell.