Written and photographed by Walter Grio.
I don’t really have storylike words to describe how it was like to cover Paris Fashion Week or how everything about the trip, from start to finish, was more amazing than I could have ever imagined. So instead of writing down paragraphs and paragraphs of text, I’ll just go with a few observations and feelings. Bear with me here.
* Before we talk about fashion shows, runways, and Paris, I just have to say that flying First Class on an international flight is more challenging than you think. For one thing, it’s difficult to sleep when they keep bothering you with food and drinks and desserts. You’re trying to watch a movie and they instead want to interrupt you with details like making your bed, asking you if you want to wear pajamas, if you want more champagne, or if you want to be woken up for breakfast or sleep til 15 minutes before the plane lands. Don’t even get me started on the fact that your seat has the ability to swivel. For the record, I seriously tried to do all of these things at once: watch a movie, eat ice cream, sleep, drink champagne, and swivel my chair — while wearing my flannel American Airlines issued pajamas. Yes, they have them. And yes, I wore them. I ended up sleeping so much that when I finally woke up, I thought I had missed my stop and we were headed back to the US.
* Fashion shows are all “offsite” meaning that there is not one central location or tent (like in New York). This means you have to take a taxi or the subway to get from one place to the next. There is absolutely no way that you can cover every show because they are scheduled right after the other.
* As you come in, they will manually check your names on a printed spreadsheet. However, there are a thousand pages of these sheets and it takes a minimum of two minutes to find your name. And let’s not even talk about the moment when they accidentally drop the sheets and have to start over. iPads s’il vous plaît?
* The photographer’s pit (or “podium” as they say in French) was pretty open and spacious in one show, but completely packed in another. Considering that you can’t cover every show because of the distance between the locations, there is definitely a plan or strategy for media companies to decide who’s covering which show. I’m assuming that’s why some shows were more open than others. I also noticed that there were significantly more Nikon cameras vs Canon, which is ironic considering that Canon is one of the major sponsors.
* Renting an apartment in Paris is the way to go. Aside from the convenience of having a kitchen, even though I will never use it, the thought that there is a kitchen is great. Plus, you feel local when you have your own real key and carrying grocery bags (that’s not true, but still a nice thought).
* I have to point out that one show, Maison Rabih Kayrouz, had a sandbox as their runway. They spent an excruciating amount of time making sure that the sand was perfectly smooth and as soon as the show started, the models walked out and trampled all over it. Yes, that’s how they roll in Paris. This may sound snotty, but aside from a handful of shows, there was really nothing spectacular in terms of the scene, the background, or the runway.
* Speaking of a handful of shows, walking inside the Grand Palais and seeing the Chanel runway was BEYOND AMAZING. Even the photographer’s pit was Chanel — all white, smooth, and classy. Angels could be heard singing, despite the fact that the show started 80 minutes late. When the show started, I felt myself getting more and more nervous. To use a sports analogy, I felt like a starting quarterback in their first SuperBowl. I was totally amped. I had to force myself to think that this was just like any other show and try to forget the fact that not only am I in Paris, but I am inside the Grand Palais about to photograph Chanel. “See model, take picture. Repeat.” I was using a 70-200mm so I can zoom in on the models, but during the finale, I switched to a 35mm (wider lens) so I can get the models and the Grand Palais in one frame. It was exactly the shot I wanted. However, when I saw Lagerfeld walking on the runway, I panicked and didn’t know if I should switch back to the zoom. Before I could figure out what to do, Lagerfeld walked off the stage to where I happened to be and I got a good shot of him staring up at the photographer’s podium. Had I switched lenses, I would not have gotten that shot. Let’s just call that beginner’s luck and icing on the Chanel cake.
* When you’re in Paris photographing a runway show like Akris at the Palais de Chaillot and there are large windows to your left facing the Eiffel Tower… (thinking)… exactly, there are no words.
This was my first Paris Fashion Week and it was an absolute honor and privilege to be approved by the Fédération Française de la Couture. That said, this trip would not have been possible without the support, kindness, and generosity by friends, family, and even “strangers”.
For them, I am truly grateful.