As most of you know, earlier this month I was in Paris for Mode a Paris - that’s Fashion Week to you and me. I was mostly there as usual to shoot street fashion photos of the models, editors, glam attendees, stylists, fellow bloggers, fashion students, and random gorgeous French girls. (Mark thecobrasnake to me – “You don’t shoot guys?” Me – “Not so much.”) Paris is the sexiest city in the world…and the twice-yearly RTW fashion weeks just amp the sex, glamour, and romance up that much further. It literally seems like the entire city is a set for a photo shoot or a film…not only do you see an astonishing number of glamorous girls with amazing outfits…but the city itself – the buildings, the bridges, the statues, the light – seems to recognize that it is a special week and it glitters just that much brighter.
This season as well as last, I stayed in Montmartre and it’s becoming my favorite neighborhood in Paris. Montmartre is defined by the hill at the center of the neighborhood – the “butte Montmartre” – and the entire area has an ancient/steep staircase/narrow winding streets/cobblestone feel to it that is beyond charming. For the first time this season, I stayed on the back side of the hill when looking north from central Paris – in the part of the neighborhood behind Sacre Coeur. This part of the neighborhood in particular still retains a village atmosphere, and even has cool little electric buses that are painted the same as a normal Paris bus yet are sized to navigate the ancient narrow streets. This is Amelie territory up here and I love it. Here are a few more of my favorite things from Paris this season:
Favorite show: Sonia Rykiel - the clothes, models, and venue were all great. Strangely enough – at nearly 80 years old and with the line now mostly in the hands of her daughter Nathalie – she seems to be hitting her peak. The best bits of the show…the knitwear – especially the long-yet-slim-and-clingy sweater coats and oversized cardigans that managed to look both cozy AND sexy which is difficult to do…the wool coats – which were sexy and body-concious as well…any piece with stripes…the palette – I especially loved the camel/tan pieces…the models – who were smiling, high-fiving each other, and seemingly having loads of fun in general…the playful yarn poof balls that many of the models were wearing as a sort of hat/topper. It’s these sort of vaguely retro and childlike “Guignol” elements like the yarn poof balls and the stripes that people are thinking of when they say that Rykiel is “very French” yet fail to say in what way she is so. (I’m convinced that most people who say that a Rykiel show was “very French” or that a Chanel show was “very Karl” have no idea what the show was actually about…they have merely come to realize that most people hearing their “review” will not know enough about what it means to be French or about the design history/personality of Karl Lagerfeld to prove them wrong. It’s a way of sidestepping a potentially tricky question – “Hey, what’d you think of the show?” – by putting the onus of disproving the answer back on the person asking the question.) You can watch the official Rykiel show video here. I also really loved Vanessa Bruno this season and the Celine and Chloe collections were both full of beautiful clothes.
Favorite Berthillon ice cream order: Deux boules de caramel au beurre sale (salted-butter caramel) avec creme Chantilly SVP!
Favorite party: I hung out with lots of my friends (Esther, Estelle, Jessica, Fiona, Alex…) at the intimate A.P.C. drinks thing in the shadow of the spectacular Eglise de la Madeleine. I didn’t go out much this season though as the weather was sunny and I was focusing on shooting and getting up in the mornings and working and stuff. If I had gone out, I would have gone to the Purple Diary opening at colette, the Purple party at Le Montana, the New York, New York party at Le Regine, and the Dazed party. I’m not sad about missing parties though because I’m pleased with my photos from the week. Je ne regrette rien!
Favorite Paris snack while shooting: When running around New York shooting street fashion, the pizza slice man and the burrito cart dude are a hungry photographer’s best friends. Their equivalent in most European cities is hard to find. (Sorry Stockholm and Paris but a 7-11 hot dog or a Nutella crepe – respectively – do not a Calexico carne asada burrito make.) That’s why this season I was so excited to discover the ham, cheese, and butter baguette sandwich at Le Petit Vendome. A very French and very authentic little retro 1970′s-esque wine bar that is popular at lunchtime with local office workers and the Le Fooding crowd of gastro-hipsters as well. The location (8 Rue des Capucines) – just off the Place Vendome and a short walk from the Tuileries and the Louvre – is ideally situated for my purposes as there are multiple fashion shows in the area. What you want to do here is this…very little English is spoken as is the case throughout France for the most part…if you don’t speak French, try to find someone else in the sandwich line who speaks a bit of both French and English…this is important, trust me…have them tell the sandwich girl that you would like “double meat” on yours please and that you will pay extra…order the “jambon de pays avec Cantal et cornichons”…this will produce a sandwich on a buttered artisinal baguette from boulangerie Julien, with a proper amount of salt-cured “country” ham, and wonderful tangy cheese from the mountainous Auvergne region of France. Without directing your order this way, it’s possible to end up with fairly standard boiled ham, no cheese, and no cornichons – not advisable. Oh yeah, I had this baby two days in a row…I even rolled up on the Louis Vuitton show while finishing one off…haha.
Favorite runway music: I got chills when they opened the Chloe show with Trentemoller’s menacing remix of Bruce Springsteen’s “State Trooper” turned up LOUD.
Favorite way to pretend I’m Parisian (day version): Is there anything better on a sunny day than a walk in the Luxembourg Garden?
Favorite way to pretend I’m Parisian (night version): Have dinner at Brasserie Lipp (order the fish soup to start and soak up the original 1926 interior and stunning floral Belle Epoque wall tiles), cross the street afterwards for coffee and the beautiful crowd at the Flore (Karl Lagerfeld was there this season), and then head next door to try for entry at super-chic Le Montana. Bonne chance!
Favorite Paris Fashion Week muse: Wow – there were so many this season – it was out of control! Let’s see…how about Denni, Hanneli, Leigh, Weezy, Esther, Rose, L.A. Fifi, Mira, Elisa…and loads of mystery girls who I shot photos of only once and then never saw them again. I think beautiful and stylish mystery girls are my favorite muses of all. Even in the internet age, an ancient city like Paris still has its romantic secrets!
xxx Mr. Newton