Paris Fashion Week! The Good, Bad and Everything Else

Paris Fashion Week! France! Europe! Three firsts for me! I’ve been wanting to go to France for years. And now, a way to see it in a way that your average person won’t see it!

My big concern for covering street fashion at the shows this year was this: none of the shows were going to be publicized! The French organization that runs and organizes the shows thought this was a good idea. As you’ll read further on, I think it was a horrible idea. No doubt.

Since this was all on my own dime, I needed to make this as frugal a trip as possible. Now, frugal doesn’t mean cheap. Just the minimum to get me there and be comfortable enough to get rest and work done. I’ve travelled throughout Mexico on a motorcycle and camping gear. So I don’t need much.

Airport terminal in Istanbul. Very swank!

Airport terminal in Istanbul. Very swank!

I booked my flight through justfly.com. Useless. The least expensive, there were errors. I paid extra for a specific seat. A window seat. Didn’t happen. Since the connecting flight was in Turkey, I didn’t know if I would need a VISA as it’s a country that requires one if you’re an American. The call center person I spoke didn’t know. If they are providing flights to that country, how can they not know? It took me a 30-second Google search to find out that as long as you don’t leave the Airport lobby area, you don’t need a VISA. Pretty obvious when I was entering France and you can go to any airline gate without going through passport/customs.

Turkish Airlines. It’s a state-run airlines and was very hesitant about them. I was expecting a very mediocre experience with the minimum to get you from A – B. I was wrong. I’d probably give them a rating of 8 from 1 – 10. The flight to France was excellent with plenty of media to keep you entertained and food was very good. Professional staff. The way back wasn’t so great and the reason for the 2-point drop in rating. Staff needs a little more training and they ran out of a specific meal so everyone else had to have the same meal. Not major snafus. After all they still ranked an 8. I would be fine with using them again. Without a connecting flight that added 50% of the necessary time that is.

My French home for the next week!

My French home for the next week!

I stayed in St. Denis, about a 30-minute easy train ride north of Paris. I booked the room through Airbnb.com. I tell ya, that really saved me. Hotels have their place. If I was holding meeting with high-level professionals, a hotel would be a little easier. Though really, you need a very big and expensive hotel room with a living room and such. So unless you’re in the top 10% or so, just meet in a hotel lobby or anywhere else appropriate. A little tip: Unless it’s a group, telling someone to meet in your hotel room may give the wrong impression.

So, I’m happy with what I have for now. It’s a cozy, good-sized room where I can get work done at the end of the day.  It’s not far from any of the locations where Paris Fashion Week may be held. And it’s a real home. If you’ve traveled enough, you know that hotels can be a bit on the cold side. This Airbnb spot isn’t perfect. But there is a comfort level you don’t get in a hotel.

Amazing locations for almost any kind of photography! Couple especially.

Amazing locations for almost any kind of photography! Couple especially.

So, the bad news: fashion show locations are not publicized. I searched the web high and low hoping that someone leaked a schedule. No go. I got to France before any of the shows started so I did my best to at least find previous locations where shows were held. Really, what’s the chance of Paris Fashion Week drastically moving locations for the shows? I was right. But since show schedule is from 9am to 9pm, it could be hours before or after I arrive at a location. If there is one being held there that day. I can miss it and waste the rest of the day waiting for a show.

I decided to just go from location to location and see if anything was happening. I would also do street style along the way as well. It’s Paris after all. There should be plenty of stylish people. Right?

Lara Mullen at Palais de Tokyo. Before or after one of the shows?

Lara Mullen at Palais de Tokyo. Before or after one of the shows?

As I said earlier, I got to France a couple of days before so I explored Paris. Compared to New York, I thought the train system to be incredibly simple to follow. By day 3, I was completely comfortable with it. It took 2 months for New York! Trains are cleaner, run much better, stations have both those qualities. Both subway systems of Paris and New York are within 3 years the same age. I wonder why New York is so inferior to Paris.

As I mentioned, I didn’t know when shows would start at certain locations. The best I was able to do was get to the Palais de Tokyo where it looked like I was there hours before a start. I first saw what looked to be makeup/hair artists. Models started trickling in. I’m so lucky I got a pick of the super-talented model Lara Mullen. Then it looked like other industry professionals started trickling in. It looked like the show was going to start or close to it.

I wish this were everywhere in Paris. Unfortunately a photo shoot was happening. But lucky nonetheless.

I wish this were everywhere in Paris. Unfortunately a photo shoot was happening. But lucky nonetheless.

But you know what? There was no energy. No excitement. I had a hard time believing there was an actual show happening. Honestly, at this show, I took pictures of about 3 – 4 models and really only one of them I decided to use for my Instagram/blog. That would be Lara Mullen whose classic style and sweater/blouse I loved. I didn’t know who it was at first until I was going through Models.com and saw someone with the exact haircut and sunglasses. It had to be her.

The first day I ended up at the Grand Palais which is an enormous palace. I saw a video from Vogue a couple of days later that showed Day 1 at the same exact location! I didn’t see any sign of a show taking place so I don’t know if I was there too early or too late. All the biggies were there too! It would’ve been so amazing!

Impeccably dressed French men. On a uniwheel!

Impeccably dressed French men. On a uniwheel!

The big show I wanted and absolutely wanted to catch was Christian Dior. I tried every way to find that show. I tried looking for previous locations where the show was held. It was at the Musee de Louvre the previous year. I checked. Nothing. Went to Grand Palais. I just couldn’t believe it would be at Palais de Tokyo. It’s too small a venue it looked like. I didn’t have any other locations I could try. Tried searching the web. Couldn’t find it.

I was really tired of the all black and biker jacket looks I saw everywhere. But this model made it different and cute enough to make it fresh.

I was really tired of the all black and biker jacket looks I saw everywhere. But this model made it different and cute enough to make it fresh.

That was a big letdown. Honestly, I was upset. But I always try to remember: when served lemons, make lemonade. So what I did was go around and photographing street style and what I call street fashion (people who are obvious fashion professionals). This should keep me busy in addition to seeing different parts of Paris. And that I did!

One of the new things I was trying was my new camera: The Panasonic DMC-GX8. I bought the camera about a week before leaving for Paris. As much as I love my Canon 50D and Zeiss 50mm f1.4, it’s a hassle to carry for hours on end. It gets heavy too especially when you’re carrying other gear. I love the GX8! Look for a report on it on a separate blog article.

Fantastic street style! She even gave me a cute smirk as she passed me. Some people know how to have fun!

Fantastic street style! She even gave me a cute smirk as she passed me. Some people know how to have fun!

Street style? Almost non-existent. If I saw another woman wearing all black and a faux biker jacket… I was beginning to think that it was some secret club. Or that women wore that outfit to tell people “I’m not wearing anything interesting. Don’t look at me”. It was very strange. Really, this is one of the fashion capitals of the world? I see more great fashion in a day in Manhattan than I did in a week in Paris. Though I have to say the men were impeccably dressed. But it was all business attire.

So what did I think of Paris Fashion Week? Unless I’m getting paid to cover it or they are publicizing the show locations and times, I won’t be back. I spoke to one of my Airbnb roommates who was close to another Paris Fashion Week location: He thought there was no energy or excitement either. I was in France only a week but the vibe pretty much told me why they kept locations secret: Because it’s such a serious event and they didn’t want vendors, advertisers and other people who aren’t directly related to the shows to cause any hassles or be involved. You know what? These ‘outsiders’ rarely cause a problem at New York Fashion Week and usually make the events more fun. They haven’t been jaded by the industry and totally enthusiastic to be a part of the event in some way.

I’m glad I went to Paris. To do a photo shoot there would be fantastic! The architecture and landscapes are stunning. You can almost blindly pick a spot in Paris and you can do a really beautiful shoot. To do a campaign with locations in France could be really amazing. But I have to wonder if Paris Fashion Week was this difficult, how would it be to do business there?

About the author

Ricardo Gomez is a Fashion Photographer based in New York City.

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