I was standing against a wall backstage at Jean Paul Gaultier this morning surrounded by a choice selection of the world’s most beautiful women. Here was Natasha Poly having her eyes done, there Magdalena Frackowiak being attended to by a team of hairdressers. A little further away sat a chain smoking Sasha Pivovarova, sketching furiously and not seeming to notice as a blonde woman set hair extensions in place then hacked at them with reckless abandon. Did I mention Tanya Dziahileva, Lara Stone, Kim Noorda, Alexandra Agoston, Karlie Kloss and Emina Cunmulaj? They were there too. I’m sure you’ll agree with me when I say that there’d be worse ways to spend your final day in Paris.
White out – Denisa Dvorakova and Eugenia Mandzhieva backstage at Elie Saab
It was always going to be hard to top last night for me at Chanel, though I must say I feel for Karl Lagerfeld; it must be difficult to rustle up some world press when you’re holding your show on the same night as the memorial service for the most famous man of our generation. This morning I woke up exhausted and sad, with a strange mix of the German designer’s clipped tones and We are the World ringing in my ears. Nevertheless I hauled myself out of bed and along to the Elie Saab show, figuring I owed it to them – for some inexplicable reason the company had chosen to give me a backstage pass. I arrived about twenty minutes before the show was scheduled to start and found Steve backstage, already shooting up a storm. A slightly remixed Henry Ford quote came to mind: ‘you can have any colour you like, as long as it’s…white?’ All around me stood girls in exquisite couture gowns ranging in colour from white to slightly goldy off-white. Hey, we’re in a recession – best to focus on one thing and do it well am I right?
Next stop was Jean Paul Gaultier. I exchanged heated words with a security guard out front for not letting me in, despite the email I repeatedly showed him from JPG’s PR explicitly stating that I was invited. I gave up on that rude man and went to a different entrance where the lovely PR lady greeted me warmly and welcomed me inside. I went to the front desk, picked up my standing ticket, asked for directions to the backstage – round the corner, up two flights of stairs – and set off. It looked like such fun back there that I decided to stay for the whole show. A very good decision.
There’s a reason Jean Paul Gaultier has a repuation for being fun. Backstage just had a different feel to normal – the designer ran around eating Magnum ice creams, the girls were cheekier, nobody tried to police anything and when it came time for the show, all the photographers were allowed to stand in the extraordinarily tight tunnel leading to the catwalk. Moments before the show started the girls were all handed flutes of champagne. An American drank hers a bit too quickly, and, placing her glass back on the waiter’s tray, let out an almighty burp that echoed around the narrow corridor. Laughter erupted.
The clothing was equally tongue in cheek. I couldn’t find a theme running through the collection – he showed everything from couture velvet overalls to dresses made entirely from film reel, oh and spacey rubber unitards – but it all just gushed irreverence and good humour. The man puts on a damn fine show. When it was all over he ran around kissing models and chomping on another Magnum.
I should have left things on a high note there at Jean Paul Gaultier and just gone home, but there was one final big show to try – Valentino. The relaxed atmosphere at Gaultier had made me complacent. I arrived at the Valentino venue late, no game plan in mind and walked straight past the security guards. They didn’t like that one bit. They pulled me back and refused to speak to me again – even to check if I was on the list. There was no getting in. My last show of Paris Haute Couture was a failure.
But I’m not going to complain, I’ve had a damn good run. Backstage at Christian Dior, Giorgio Armani, Chanel, Elie Saab and Jean Paul Gaultier, front of house at Givenchy and plenty more. I might have to start making a habit of this.
Special thanks to the Telecom XT network for my incredible Blackberry (with which I took all the shots you see above) and to the NZ Herald for supporting me to cover the shows in my way.
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