“Alright boys, that was good, that was good, but some of you were looking a bit glum, a bit down beat. I want you to be full of energy, you’re having fun, you’re on your way out to a party. Let’s do it!” I’m sitting backstage at Paul Smith, and the man himself has just finished his preshow pep talk. All the boys are cheering. In a corner of the room sits a 20-or-so-year-old English model named Jonny. He’s being interviewed by an Italian fashion TV channel. As it ends, they tell him to say hello to the camera. “Who am I saying hello to?” he enquires. “Say hello to whoever you want,” comes the reply. He looks straight down the barrel. “Hello to whoever I want!” Then, pausing, “Oh wait, let’s do that again. That last bit made me sound like a proper wanker didn’t it?” The boys cheer again.
Kanye West and Pharrell Williams chatting preshow at Lanvin
The day began with Lanvin, always my favourite of the Paris week. Not just for the clothes or the opportunity to stare unashamedly at Alber Elbaz (though both are good enough reasons), but for the food. You’d think with all the money these designers throw at their fashion shows, they could afford a few croissants. Mais non, Lanvin is the only house to feed its guests. This time, caramel macaroons and peppermint tea. Exactly what you feel like on the morning of the final day. I arrived late and sat on the stairs about a metre and a half from Pharrell Williams, who was standing chatting to Kanye West while Amber Rose posed for photographers nearby.
The catwalk was long and curved, with a white wall on one side and the audience on the other. We were all sitting in an enormous stand similar to the ones at a sports match. Hundreds of people stood at the top of each row, and all the stairs were crammed with seated guests. There was no getting up or down. The lights dimmed, then bathed the catwalk in blinding white. A blonde model walked out in a floaty cream tee shirt, skinny pants in the same colour, and knee-length black coat in thick, soft wool. The mood, as always, was relaxed elegance – the kind of clothing you’d expect to see worn by a man-of-leisure from a bygone era. Silk trenchcoats belted at the waist, misshapen, oversized knitwear that clung to the body, coats in bouclé, suiting in soft-as-sweatpants cashmere. And the colours – rich ochres and clays, textured charcoals, buttery oatmeals. All a marvel in their own right. Lanvin is the perfect wardrobe supplier for that billionaire flaneur in your life – we all have at least one, don’t we?
Back at Paul Smith, Australian model (and son of rockstar Nick Cave) Jethro Cave is sitting in a chair having his hair straightened. It’s usually a scraggly mess. He glances in the mirror and laughs. “Oh my God I look like Cameron Diaz!” First looks are called. The producer steps forward. “Just a few photos then I’m going to ask everyone to leave please!” Three models are being interviewed by that Italian TV crew about the outfits they’re wearing. One of them looks down at his colourful suit and stutters. “I don’t know, what do you want me to say? I’m a model. I’m just supposed to wear the damn thing.”
The room is jam packed and the temperature is quickly rising. It’s a sweaty sauna of jostling photographers, half naked boys and scurrying assistants. The models are ecstatic. It’s the last show of the week and they’re ready to party. Paul Smith shows are always like this – anything-goes, up beat and happy. That Italian camera crew is following Paul Smith as he points out different elements of the collection and introduces models. He stops at Jonny who takes the opportunity to publicise his weekly London radio show – every Wednesday at 8:30pm.
Everyone’s jumping around, getting in everyone else’s way, but nobody’s complaining. Nobody except the American backstage photographer – loudly – who’s never seen without his cowboy hat. “He’s always complaining,” another photographer tells me. “We call him ‘The Tourist’ because he’s American and annoying.” There’s more. “You should have seen him backstage at Henrik Vibskov. The designer asked him to move and he refused, offered him his camera, and said, ‘But look at my composition. It’s perfect!'”
The din rises a few decibels as cans of Heineken are handed out to the models and crew. Most are downed in one or two gulps. “Hey!” shouts the American in the cowboy hat. “Where’s mine?” Some people are never happy. The producer allows for one last photo then pushes us all out. It’s time for the show to begin.
Like I said, Paul Smith has a consistent style. It shows in his backstage as much as it does in his collections. Energetic, colourful, filled with patterns and eccentricities. Much like the swinging London from his teenage years. This collection has it all. Suits in purples and electric blues, red and black checkerboard trousers, velvet slippers in dusky maroons, ginger-haired models. A great show to finish the week on. Right now, the crowd is cheering while Paul Smith and the boys dance down the runway. Jethro is on somebody’s shoulders, there’s laughing and singing, everybody’s happy. Almost everybody. The American in the cowboy hat is shaking his head and scowling. Looks like somebody blocked his final shot.
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