Fashion Week

Help! I've got nothing to wear!

It's that time again: Paris Fashion Week. Mademoiselle Lili broods on keeping up with the fashion marathon. 


Whoever follows Paris Fashion Week in the media might think that it’s only about catwalk fashion. Wrong! The visitors scrutinise each other just as critically as the collections of the designers. Fashion Week is an exhibition of egos for everyone involved. Just like every marathon too: it's about taking part, not winning. Actually, you can pretty much wear what you want ­– even sneakers, T-shirts and jeans are okay if they have a Gucci, Chanel or Balenciaga label. You can also put a flower pot on your head if it matches the overall look. But what you definitely can’t do is to go dressed in Zara or H&M.

Every year at Fashion Week, I am therefore faced with the same problem: what on earth should I wear? After eight years in Paris, my wardrobe contains a few expensive designer items, but not enough for me to present a new luxury label every day for 10 days. For a long time now I've been wondering how everyone else does it. For example, a 29-year-old fashion trainee who earns EUR 900 a month walks around in Saint Laurent boots worth EUR 2500. And the next day she’s wearing Jesus sandals from Isabel Marant worth anything from EUR 500. And, every day, she's got another designer bag hanging from her shoulder. Most people think it was a gift. But that’s not the case. Journalists get a 30 percent discount if they're very lucky, which is just as much as the employees get who work for the luxury fashion companies. In other words, the chic boots or handbags still cost as much as the average French person’s net monthly salary.

You either have to be very famous or an influencer to be given luxury fashion as a gift. Gone are the days when fashion journalists were invited to almost weekly press sales, where they could get real bargains. But buying garments at real boutique prices? I would cheekily assert that only heiresses, trophy wives or lovers, drug dealers, oil princesses or high-class “escort ladies” could afford those prices.

But the French fashion mob has become inventive. “Arlettie” at the Trocadéro has a luxury bargain counter every week. For a EUR 50 annual membership fee you can shop for brands such as Givenchy or Fendi, Lanvin or Zadig & Voltaire, with generous discounts of up to 80 percent. But I’ll warn you that this is anything but relaxed shopping. You queue for hours and people literally fight over the best bargains. If you want to know if that silk blouse really fits, you have to do a striptease because there aren’t any changing rooms. But being able to take home a genuine Givenchy dress for EUR 500 instead of EUR 2000 makes it all worth it. 

In addition, in France online shopping for second-hand luxury fashion is really flourishing. It is probably boosted by all the influencers and rich shopaholics whose wardrobes are apparently bulging with clothes. After all, the fashion industry is constantly bringing to market new collections, and has thus rolled out a lucrative shadow market. The Parisian start-up “Vestiaire Collective”, which was founded in 2009, has successfully advanced to Europe’s market leader within a few short years. The company made 140 million euros in sales in 2017, their revenue grows every year by almost 70 percent. I also often find items on “Videdressing”: whether nearly new Prada shoes or Armani sunglasses, up until recently you could get your hands on a few bargains from a mere 100 euros. But the demand is high, and the private suppliers are raising their prices accordingly. A Dutch lady in Paris had an idea I made fun of at first: she set up an online rental agency for luxury handbags (www.sacdeluxe.fr). For EUR 80 a week you can rent a Chanel-2.55 handbag from here. Okay, I thought. I’ll score points this Fashion Week with a rented (nobody will know) Hermès-Birkin bag for EUR 300 a week. Forget it! The waiting list for renting the Birkin is almost as long as that of Hermès shoppers. The question remains: What on earth should I wear?