It was at the Stephane Rolland show this afternoon that I happened upon one of the few ladies left in this world who can still afford to buy Haute Couture. Sibel Seyhan Shenkartal is the granddaughter of a Turkish princess and spends half her time in Paris and the other half in Istanbul. I didn’t dare ask her age, though I’d conservatively estimate it at about 68 or 70. Standing at five foot flat, she wore a glorious fur coat, with jewels literally dripping from every extremity – one finger alone carried four diamond rings. She told me of her life in Paris – “I am part of the society here, many of my friends are Countesses or Baronesses, I go to many parties and dine at the Cercle de l’Union interalliée.” Her English was near flawless, learned at an American high school in Turkey, but she also spoke perfect Turkish, French and Farsi – as a child, her father was a diplomat and took her to live in pre-revolution Iran.
During the show she gave me a running commentary of her likes and dislikes (she was particularly fond of the African American model Sessilee Lopez), and told me about a friend of hers who bought five couture gowns for her wedding day, ranging in price from 50,000 to 300,000 euro. The finale wedding dress at Stephane Rolland with its encrusted diamonds, she thought, would be worth somewhere in the range of half a million euro. But nothing she saw was as impressive as her Givenchy couture gowns, bought 30 years ago, and still in mint condition. After the show I walked her to her chauffeur driven car, and, as we parted, she handed me her calling card. “Whenever you are in Paris, make sure to phone, I will take you to dinner.”
Paris turned on the chill this morning. It was negative one when I left the house, and faintly snowing when I got out of the Metro at the Opera stop. Less than ideal weather to be standing outside waiting to see if you’re going to be let into a show. But that was the situation I found myself in outside Chanel. Shivering, numb and stripped of any trace of blagging game. There were to be two shows – the first for buyers and clients, the second for press. Steve had already gone through to the backstage, and I had no foreseeable plan of attack. So I waited. I waited as the cars arrived, as the streetstyle photographers shot the latest season’s shoes and handbags, waited as the crowd grew in case of a celebrity sighting, waited as the guests exited again after the show.
I waited as models in full couture hair and makeup came outside to smoke, as Karl Lagerfeld’s current muse Baptiste Giabiconi strolled around, stopping to smile for fans, as the tinted Mercedes Benzes carted their moneyed passengers away. I waited with fellow bloggers Tommy Ton and Hanne Li, with an Australian musician whose girlfriend was modelling in the show, with the Italian backstage photographers who, like me, weren’t being let in. I waited for an hour and a half in negative-degree temperatures until my fingers were so numbed with cold that I could barely hold my camera without dropping it.
I grew tired of waiting. No fashion show is worth that amount of pain. So I left. From all reports, the show was a good one, with plenty of pastel colours and silver details. That information came to me via Twitter while I enjoyed one of Angelina’s famous L’Africain chocolat chauds.
At the next show, Stephane Rolland, I sat waiting for Steve, who was supposed to be meeting me backstage. There was no sign of him. So I waited. I waited as models practiced their walks in unbelievably high heels. I waited as stylists enjoyed baguettes and coffee, as dressers prepared the gowns, as makeup artists gossiped. I waited with gargantuan French security guards and haughty Eastern European teenagers. Steve never arrived.
I watched as models removed their makeup from the previous shows, then moisturised to minimise irritation. I listened as an American girl had a lengthy conversation with her booker about the intricacies of the W9 tax form, and as two models discussed their late fitting times the night before. One had arrived home at 1:30am, the other at 4:00am.
All of a sudden the room burst into a hot, bustling, noisy hive of activity. A beautiful antithesis to the cold, stark, darkness of the wintry Paris streets. Waiting became fun. Backstage was filled with people – 14 models, seven photographers, eight television films crews, nine makeup artists, 10 hairdressers, four caterers, two security guards, 14 dressers and one male show producer clad head to toe in current season Z Zegna.
The producer called first looks, and within seconds the room was dead once more. I walked out onto the catwalk and took a seat next to an elegant looking 68 or 70 year old lady in a glorious fur coat, with jewels literally dripping from every extremity.
She smiled, and I said hello.
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