How to be a Parisian

Why Paris remains the fashion capital

With some of the most memorable moments in fashion happening in the French capital, there is no wonder it is the epicentre of the fashion world. It is where Coco Chanel created the iconic “Little Black Dress” and where Marie Antoinette lived and died for her affinity to la mode. Designers old and new gravitate to Paris and continue to revolutionise the fashion world.

Paris retains a very influential fashion trade union known as the Fédération Française de la Couture created in 1973. The Federation is devoted to safeguarding French fashion and consists of three entities – the trade union of high fashion, the trade union of men’s fashion, and the trade union of women’s fashion.

This is why the world’s best fashion designers have always operated from Paris. It is currently home to the headquarters of Balenciaga, Céline, Chanel, Chloe, Dior, Givenchy, Hermes, Jean-Paul Gaultier, Lanvin and Yves Saint Laurent.

The concept of haute couture (high dressmaking’ or ‘high fashion’) was invented in Paris and is something that the world’s most prestigious fashion school, “Ecole de la chambre syndicale de la couture parisienne”, teach its pupils.

Among the school’s alumni are Yves Saint Laurent, Valentino and André Courreges. Each have been nurtured and taught design and technique. There they gained an understanding of the importance of both creativity and craftsmanship and this is predominant in their works.

Paris is beautiful and full of beautiful people, the avenues and boulevards serve as the perfect catwalk for the “Parisian Woman”. These effortlessly, classy women oose freedom and have captivated people world over. The book How To Be Parisian by Audrey Diwan, Caroline de Maiggret and Sophie Mas brilliantly deconstructs the French woman’s views on culture, fashion and attitude. Parisian women, have what the French call a certain “je ne sais quoi” and this is most prevalent during Paris Fashion Week.

The arrival of celebrities, bloggers and those fortunate enough to be invited to shows at grand venues, is a mesmerising spectacle in itself. Despite not having an invitation to a show, many people still dress to the nines in the hope of being papped by one of the countless street style bloggers that flock to fashion week in the hope of capturing the trend innovators off the catwalk.

Many of the celebrities attending shows, are already wearing clothes that will be presented at that show. Designers send their brand ambassadors pieces that will be unveiled at the show, in “avant-premiere”, which just adds to the whole spectacle. Nobody makes an entrance like the street style legend and editor of Vogue Japan, Anna Dello Russo. With her eccentric, head turning ensembles she always outdoes herself she has confidence in what she wears and so it isn’t questioned.

The Paris Fashion Week is the finale of the big four fashion weeks – the others being Milan Fashion Week, London Fashion Week, and New York Fashion Week. Held predominantly in the Carrousel du Louvre, Paris fashion week helps dictate what the world will be wearing next season. Everyone who is anyone wants to be seen in the “front row” of shows.

This is because the real heavy weights of the global fashion industry both commercially and creatively come together to create. People who would not normally be directly associated with fashion are drawn to the city.

An example of this was Karl Lagerfeld’s Brasserie Chanel which was totally charming, but the show stopper of the week was Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson, making a surprise appearance in the Valentino show. The actors who star in cult film: Zoolander, took to the catwalk for the show finale. It was something that the audience did not expect.

This is why Paris remains the fashion capital of the world. You have to be ready to encounter the unexpected yet undoubtedly authentic. From John Galliano’s vulnerable debut ready-to-wear collection for Maison Margiela to Rei Kawabuko’s thought provoking, Comme des Garçons show, there was something real on the runway in Paris that wasn’t as prevalent in the other fashion weeks.

Although there are those who try to state otherwise; magazines and designers in Paris have an amazing ability to be flexible and understanding of the rapidly evolving fashion landscape. The term “Paris Original” used to thrill women and it is clear that people do still respond to innovative, interesting and yet wearable clothes. More young aspiring designers go to Paris to learn and show their work than the other “fashion capitals”.