Fodor’s European Correspondent, Pepita Diamand, is a creative consultant and blogger based in Paris. Her blog can be found at www.pepitastylefile.com.
Or should I say, Paris Fashion Month. Nearly all of September finds Paris in a fashion frenzy, with a succession of glam events generating an über-stylish atmosphere that’s palpable throughout the city. Keeping up with it requires an aptitude for sipping champagne and a wardrobe that can meet every occasion. Thankfully, my champagne coiffing skills are well rehearsed and years of crafty accumulation have finally rewarded me with a wardrobe capable of handling a month of fashion-fuelled soirées—although any longer would have induced a true What should I wear?! nervous breakdown.
The month started with Fashion’s Night Out, an annual Vogue-sponsored ‘happening’ that occurs simultaneously in various fashion capitals around the world. This year, the Paris event was set on the city’s best shopping street, rue Saint Honoré, where luxury retailers like Hermes and Colette and more accessible brands like Zara hosted cocktail parties that spilled onto the rue for a full-on street-party effect. This was followed a few nights later by Les Vendanges de l’Avenue Montaigne, another annual event which similarly sees boutiques open until midnight, plying their clients with booze in a not-too-subtle bid to part them from their cash. Les Vendanges, however, takes a more sophisticated approach by tenuously linking fashion to the grape harvest season, pairing Avenue Montaigne’s exclusive boutiques with fine vintages, the way a sommelier will match a wine to your main course. (In case you were wondering, Chateau Canon One is meant to go well with Chanel.)
As it happens, the next morning I was invited to see Coco Chanel’s private apartment above her shop and atelier on 31 rue Cambon. Were it a museum, Chanel’s apartment would probably attract a queue of pearl-clad and quilted-hand-bagged visitors long enough to rival the lines at the Louvre. The house of Chanel has therefore strictly limited access but invitations can be acquired with a little prayer and lots of luck. Lucky is exactly how I felt for the privilege of seeing her eclectic Chinese-panelled decor and sitting on the very stair from which Madame would watch her own fashion shows. I even got to try on her prescription sunglasses (very strong) which were left on her desk.
Wrangling an invite to a fashion show during Paris Fashion Week is also a challenge, unless you’re a famous fashion journalist or a big-spender at a flagship store. (If you drop a few grand at your local Dior every other month, a coveted invitation may one day make its way into your hands.) Otherwise, you can try loitering outside a show and begging for a spare ticket, but success is hardly guaranteed. What is guaranteed is a people-watching extravaganza, whether you get in to the show or not. In fact, you’ll probably be more entertained by the fashion scene outside the venue than on the catwalk itself.
Tickets to some of the exhibitions that coincide with the month’s madness for la mode are your safest bet. This year, Chloe fans flocked to Chloe Attitudes, a chic retrospective at the the Palais de Tokyo, while jewellery aficionados were beguiled by the outstanding Van Cleef & Arpels Art of High Jewellery show at the Musee des Arts Decoratifs. And every year, the renowned Biennale des Antiquaires sees the glass-domed Grand Palais transformed into what is essentially the world’s most eye-wateringly expensive mall, housing temporary outposts of famed art galleries and the world’s greatest jewellers, Van Cleef & Arpels included. Even if you can’t afford what’s on offer (and let’s be honest, chances are, you can’t) you won’t want to miss the elaborate displays or the sartorial savvy of the Biennale’s extremely well-heeled clientele.
If style is your scene, leave April in Paris to the soppy set and come in September instead. It’s the fashion capital of the world at its buzziest best and the ultimate excuse for grown-ups to have fun playing dress-up.
Notes: Chloe Attitudes runs until November 18th 2012. Van Cleef & Arpels Art of High Jewellery show runs until February 10th 2013.
Photos courtesy of Pepita Diamand