The next Fashion Week is fast approaching: At Paris’s monuments, from the Eiffel Tower to the Grand Palais, huge building sites are suddenly popping up, well protected by tarpaulins so that nobody can see what’s happening inside. Top secret so that it’s a big surprise on Day X. A fashion show only lasts 20 minutes, but for quite a while it’s been about more than the simple presentation of a new clothing collection: The bigwigs of Paris’s fashion circus are said to spend more than five million euros on their trumped up catwalks. Each one wants to outdo the other, no matter what it costs.
For a long time, it was just Chanel seeking to impress everyone, and nothing was too big, too crazy or too expensive. In Grand Palais, Karl Lagerfeld set off space rockets or put in tailor-made cruise ships. When I received one of the coveted invitations again last October, I checked in on the Chanel island, the glass palace had been transformed into a beach: Real waves washed up on the 240 tons of white sand, there were blue skies, beach huts and lifeguard chairs. And clever perspectives for the perfect trompe-l’oeil to give the selfie and Instagram generation something to photograph and film.
But the others are following suit: For Dior I had to travel far outside the city. They set up a gigantic temporary hall on the Longchamp racetrack to present an XXL black box inside with a mixture of fashion show and dance performance: The models paraded between the ensemble of Israeli choreographer Sharon Eyal, and the finale was marked by white blossoms raining from a height of about 50 metres.
In front of the Eiffel Tower, twice a year for three weeks since 2016 tourists have had to do without one of the world’s most popular photo motifs: Because the construction containers have occupied the entire Place du Trocadéro for the fashion house Saint Laurent. They pay the city 400,000 euros in rent to set up their show stage right in front of Paris’s landmark. For the debut of Hedi Slimane at Céline, a huge hall was constructed in front of the Dôme des Invalides, and Louis Vuitton occupied the inner courtyard of the Louvre. The fashion house used the magnificent setting of the museum to construct a mirrored extensive glass tunnel on the square around the pyramid, a cool technical, black container construction with white neon tubes and light that followed the models’ steps by motion detector.
One might think it pretty decadent to spend so much money and effort on just 20 minutes of action. But it’s based on ice cold calculations. A fashion show is the marketing for the next six months. The brand is on everyone’s lips and not only sells the new collection, but also its perfumes and accessories. Expensive but worthwhile fun. An industry expert calculated that every 100,000 euros spent results in a media echo worth 1 million euros. A sum that must be much higher today thanks to the additional dissemination of images on social media networks. There’s no question that the event agencies that have specialised in staging such fashion spectacles can look forward to a bright future.
NEW YEAR’S EVE
LA BARBIÈRE DE PARIS