The museums, the cheese, the history—there are countless reasons millions of visitors flock to the City of Light each year, and for many of us it is to see Paris fashion. The very best of international fashion lines the avenue Montaigne, the Faubourg Saint-Honoré and now, even the quartier Saint-Germain. Independent designers fill the Marais and a neighborhood known as le Sentier. La mode is everywhere you look. To modify a quote from the Musée d’Orsay’s recent “Impressionism and Fashion” exhibition, Paris IS fashion. Which is why the entire fashion world pours into the city for Paris Fashion Week several times a year. Paris Fashion Week Fall 2013 begins February 26, and it is a fabulous time to be in Paris, even if you’re not invited to the shows.
Today, the Girls’ Guide to Paris takes you there with a visit to the Elie Saab fashion show held during Paris Fashion Week Spring/Summer 2013, where the Lebanese-born designer rocked the catwalk, enchanting stars like Taylor Swift and Rachel Zoe. Receiving an invitation to a show for Paris Fashion Week was at first a thrill, but then came the trauma of what to wear. In the end, it didn’t matter. It was a cold, rainy day, and the only thing visible below my large black umbrella was a large canvas tote.
I showed up at the large white tent in the Tuileries gardens 10 minutes before showtime. The entrance was full of journalists, fashionistas and young designers in outrageous outfits, hoping to be discovered. The fashion photographer from Toronto’s Globe and Mail loved the black-and-white beach scene on my bag, asking me to hold still for a shot.
At 10 minutes after the invitation asks you to be there, the security guards open the red satin cords and the crowd pours in. Stars arrive a few moments later, straggling behind as they pose for the gaggle of paparazzi. Inside the tent there are steep bleachers with a central runway. The more important you are, the closer you sit to the catwalk. I was in the rafters but thrilled to be there. It takes another 10 minutes for everyone to settle in.
The music starts, pumping like the excitement in the crowd, and the first model saunters out. She wears a nude-colored dress that I am too excited to even see, then we see a short-sleeved summer dress with black ribbon forming a kind of Union Jack pattern, a sedate short suit, some monotone pantsuits and some business suits, followed by the gowns—long gowns that seductively capture movement as fabric layered between lace and organza flows down the catwalk. Five minutes later, it is over. Five minutes that speed by in a whirlwind of photographic clicks and flashes, ending with a crescendo of enthusiastic applause for the designer.
When you see Paris Fashion Week photos, you often see outrageous outfits you would never see on the streets, much less imagine wearing yourself, but Elie Saab’s Spring 2013 collection was extraordinarily wearable. Subtle laces in gorgeous jewel tones of sapphire blue, turquoise and red garnet are integrated into dresses designed to flatter the female figure, accenting the waistline with room for breasts and hips.
It takes another five minutes for everyone to gather their belongings, file back out and rush across Paris for the next show. The entire event takes a mere 20 minutes of my time, and only a quarter of that time was spent observing the collection. But what a collection! Elie Saab was first invited to Paris Fashion Week in 2000. He is known for his work with sumptuous fabrics and impressive beading. Unlike many of the shows, Elie Saab’s featured dresses I actually could and would wear: silhouettes that flatter in cuts that are wearable, creating fashion at its very best.
If you want to explore Paris fashion and would love to see more than just the shops, Galeries Lafayette has weekly fashion shows, and Meeting the French allows you to visit designers in their studios. Or just hang out in the Tuileries during Paris Fashion Week to watch the crowd!
Meeting the French
Editor’s note: We have several partners who can help you with shopping and fashion trips in Paris. Learn more about Fashion Week Trip and Eva Eriksson Events. It pays to be a GG2P Travel Club member.