A young and vibrant Paris crowd, on Sunday and Monday 4-5 July 2010, witnessed the première ‘Paris Fashion Days’ event under the beautiful frescos of the Palais Brongniart.
The impressive location was spectacularly lit – the painted ceiling picked out by clever spotlighting – with the grand hall providing the ideal location for a fashion show, and classical contrast to the ready-to-wear styles that were to parade in front of the carefully tiered seating upon a fit-for-purpose catwalk.
Taking place during Haute Couture week is a bold move by the promoters of Paris Fashion Days, but it is one which met with much success owing to the significantly different audiences that such pret a porter fare attracts. A more laid-back feel reverberated around the Palais aided by a more access-all-areas vibe than that which usually flows through a fashion venue.
Certainly the fashion PR establishment has had its thinking cap on regarding seating – there was none of the A, B and C lines, instead the more continental general gathering at the entrance to the catwalk was met with individual guides to take one to one’s seat, with little fuss, and plenty of room – and a good view – for everyone invited.
Celebrities, public, press and bloggers, too, were able to coexist peacefully during the show, and there was little cause for the pet lips and pushy press passes so often present at major fashion shows: perhaps the major success of the show was this carefully fostered – and oft overlooked – comfortable environment.
Even those not accustomed to the usual protocol at a fashion show might have felt that this was a well-run event. For those who have sat, and waited, and waited, and waited for the front rows to fill at other major fashion events, Paris Fashion Days was an entirely refreshing experience: catwalks started on time; had sufficient gaps between for newcomers to get in; and provided for everyone to have a drink or enjoy the post-show buzz with a glass or two of wine in the private BrandAlley sponsored lounge area or the public space.
The event is put on by IMG, the company responsible for London Fashion Week, in partnership with Pret a Porter Paris. It is good to see that the event organisers have built upon London’s successes, but, in contrast to LFW, have managed to create a classily two-tiered system, with a very French feel. Invitations were subtly marked, bars and sponsored free drinks were provided for all, but, importantly, nobody was made to feel second-rate.
This opening event must be considered a success – as an experience to take in, Paris Fashion Days come highly recommended. As if to highlight all that was good about the event, the next day back at haute couture saw scores of people sitting in un-air-conditioned rooms fanning themselves while waiting – for as long as an hour – for a fifteen minute show. Such experiences are part-and-parcel of fashion shows. Perhaps they are even part of the fun. But, importantly, as Paris Fashion Days has helped to point out, discomfort is not a requisite feature of a successful fashion event.
Running up and down from show to show, only to be made to wait 45 minutes beyond the advertised start time is always something that feels a little uncouth. That there was none of that at this event was certainly most pleasant. An afternoon could be spent here at a leisurely pace, taking in three (Sunday) or four (Monday) shows, without walking more than 100 metres in the process.
But what of the designers, and their clothes?
Each day saw Spring/Summer 2011 events for professionals and Autumn/Winter 2010/2011 events for the public – including a number of the brightest and best of French society.
Sunday started at 5PM with A Friend by A. F. Vandevorst, which was followed by AVH by Anne Valerie Hash before the event peaked in the evening with Vivienne Westwood’s Anglomania – an appropriate selection for this edgy event, and one which is entirely suited to this format.
Monday saw an earlier start, at three thirty in the afternoon – still allowing time for even the longest déjourner – before the crowd settled to see Ventcouvert, the breathtaking Camomilla Milano collection, Pablo de Gérard Darel before en ethereally lit, snow themed, Chemins Blancs collection.
In particular, Camomilla Milano produced a number of stunning pieces, including a show-stopping blue dress, and Chemins Blancs displayed some excellent – and thoroughly buyable – jackets.
The focus was on wearable clothing, primarily geared towards the young audience that filled the seating: many of the party pieces will be seen in the more exclusive European nightclubs next winter, while much of the daywear displayed would not look out of place in a chic office of London or Paris.
If there is to be a complaint it might be that some of the designers did not allow themselves the indulgence of one purely opulent pièce de résistance. This event does, after all, take place in Paris – there is certainly a case to be made for sending something over-the-top out onto the catwalk, to make the audience gasp.
That being said, there were one or two briefly sparking electric moments. Certainly, there was enough here to keep the audience, already comfortable, entirely happy with an afternoon well-spent.
That most of these clothes will sell, there is no doubt, and that is the whole point of pret a porter. The important thing, therefore, is to put on a good show. This mission was well accomplished.
Anyone wondering, after several recent misfiring events, whether it is possible to do collections (or pre-collections) of young, ready-to-wear fashion that both entertain and delight the public as well as professionals in comfortable surroundings should mark the 2011 Paris Fashion Days out in their calendar now – this event has set a new standard.
London take note.