Paris Fashion Week

Words & Images: François Guilllaume

February 12 2016

More and more, the excitement surrounding fashion week is tempered by the reality of a business that seems to be taking itself a bit too seriously. While we wouldn’t want to proclaim that fashion week is dead, it is perhaps time to re-examine the intent of it all. In light of recent attacks in Paris, our friend and longtime Paris Fashion Week photographer François Guilllaume takes pause to reflect on the new paradigm of fashion week alongside his images of the event. 

Taking pictures tends to be a way for me to avoid talking or writing. Yet looking at the pictures I’ve put together for this article, and having documented Parisian fashion weeks for a while now, I felt it might be interesting to write a few words on the changes I’ve seen. Fashion has indeed evolved, and our daily life in Paris too, since the 2015 attacks.

Fashion weeks have been multiplying these last years, probably driven by the fact that they’re supposed to bring millions to the city which host them. So, how can an old capital like Paris can manage to stay in the game? In menswear, London seems like the latest hot place to show, with hip names like J.W. Anderson, Christophe Raeburn, Moschino’s Jeremy Scott or Christopher Kane. In the meantime, Pitti Uomo in Florence is trying to hold its ground while New York is just coming to the scene. No doubt it will gain a lot a traction in the seasons to come.

Paris will stay a fashion capital, surely, because of its unescapable history, but one could ask himself if she’s not getting a little bit too old, and if she’s not bound to be eclipsed by New-York or a complete newcomer like Hong-Kong for instance. It might be so, even if her golden palaces would probably keep attracting luxury powerhouses in need of some old-world prestige.

Preoccupied by these questions, I tried to find some answers, asking the street style photographers around me if there was something which was making the city’s fashion crowd unique. You could say that each of the fashion weeks has a distinct style signature, yet in Paris things seem a little bit more complex, with varied and even contradictory influences.

It’s a very curious thing to watch, it’s not so much like the city’s trying to be avant-garde, but more like it’s trying to be a part of all of avant-gardes. I feel it’s very much a French fantasy, coming from the same place as the one that makes us sit in front of a cup of coffee all day, dreaming a lot but not really getting anywhere. Still, I think it may be one of most defining characteristic of modern French fashion, an energy to do, redo or even start over, whatever happens.

Obviously the tragic events of 2015 have cast a dark veil on the city’s vitality. It took numerous weeks for Paris to somehow get back on her feet. Retail was dramatically slow and it’s still hard. Yes, we hear the sirens with a new apprehension, we sit in quieter restaurants and on rather empty terraces, despite  balmy temperatures that would make a Marseillais feel at home. Yes, some buyers didn’t come or went elsewhere and yes I found myself thinking that security at certain show were a bit on the light side. Yet, in the end, what did not change during these few days was the influx of young and smiling faces, the spectacle of the multiple fashion clans and this handful of shows brilliantly “haut en couleur”.

François Guilllaume is a freelance editor living in Paris. You can see more of his work online or on instagram.