By: Southern Femme Director of Special Events, Matthew Yarborough
Bonjour Southern Femmes!
I am fortunate enough to be spending this semester studying abroad in Paris and that means I was able to experience Paris Fashion Week. Every season, Paris Fashion Week is the grand finale of what insiders in the fashion industry refer to as “fashion month,” which begins at the end of January with the menswear shows and concludes at the beginning of March with pret-a-porter. As the Paris shows are always the most exclusive, and I was working around a busy class schedule, I was only actually able to attend one show; however, that doesn’t mean my experience was short of excitement, which I am glad to share with all of you!
Southern Femme Director of Special Events, Matt posing on the Valentino runway
My story begins at the end of haute couture week because, unfortunately, I was sick for all of menswear week and most of haute couture. I knew I had to try and make it to at least one couture show, so as soon as I was feeling well enough to brave the frigid Paris weather, I bundled up and headed to one of the crown jewels of the Paris couture shows – Valentino. The SS13 Valentino Haute Couture show was held at the famous Hotel Salomon de Rothschild near the Champs-Elysees. The Valentino show is always one of the most exclusive events of couture week and the frenzy of the press made that extremely evident to me as I arrived at the venue. Being the starving college student that I am, I was not lucky enough to be part of the elite crowd of invitees, so I knew it was going to take some determination and creativity to get in to see the show.
The gorgeous Valentino invitation
Mr. Valentino Garavani
I would like to pause the story there to just point out something about attending fashion shows – just because you don’t have an invitation does not mean that you can’t necessarily get in. The level of security at shows varies depending on the media status of the brand or designer, which is usually the first indicator of whether or not one has a chance of attending uninvited. A lot of the shows, regardless of how prestigious, usually have a line for standing room and will let in a certain amount of people based on how much space the venue allows or if there are no-shows and free seats are available. It is highly advised – out of respect for the designer – to wait in line for standing. That being said, a little white lie coupled with shear bravery and a little ingenuity here and there never hurt anyone
Ms. Anna Wintour, Editor-in-Chief of American Vogue
So, like I was saying, security presence at Valentino was heavy and the Hotel de Rothschild is a small venue so I knew that there would be no room for standing. Two of my friends from my study abroad program met me at the venue and for a while, we just watched industry members whom we idolize enter the show, but we decided that wasn’t going to be good enough for us. Here comes the exciting part of the story. One of the friends that I was with noticed a side door on the outside wall of the courtyard surrounding the hotel that was marked “Photo/Video,” and we decided to try our luck at getting in as “members of the press.” Three fashionable, American twenty-somethings in Paris can easily pass as members of MTV right? Wrong. The man waiting on the other side of the door said that all the press was already inside and no one else would be allowed in. Not wanting to take no for an answer, we decided to wait by the door for our moment to strike. Good things always come to those who wait. About five minutes after we had been denied, the man behind the door left his post and didn’t show signs of returning, as the show was only a few minutes away from starting. Of course we immediately tried the door but it was locked from the inside; however, a woman soon exited and we caught the door behind her. This was it, we were actually going to try and sneak in to Valentino. A quick breath and a few seconds to compose ourselves, and we slipped in through the door and emerged into the courtyard of the hotel.
Super Model Natalia Vodianova
Vanessa Axente with VIVA models
I’m not sure I breathed once as we bee-lined across the courtyard towards the backstage entrance of the hotel. Once we finally made it inside the hotel I knew the rest would be cake as long as we acted like we were meant to be there. Almost as soon as I had let that feeling of relief wash over me, a man appeared from behind a corner and demanded what we were doing. Without missing a beat, all three of us practically shouted at the man that we were press and we had arrived late to the show and were now lost backstage. To my utter disbelief, the nice security man believed us and led us up to the grand salon. Unfortunately the show had already started and the doors were closed so we could not enter. After about ten minutes the final notes of the music played and we could hear the audience erupt into applause. The doors soon flung open and while people began to leave the hotel, we made our way onto the runway and then backstage to the reception area.
Valentino Inspiration Board
Backstage at Valentino
If I was in disbelief that we had made into the venue, you can imagine how I felt as I found myself backstage and inches from the man himself – Mr. Valentino Garavani. Mr. Valentino no longer designs for his namesake label, but he still has part ownership in his company and attends every show. I fumbled with my camera to hurriedly capture a few shots without him noticing or setting the flash off in his face (this explains the terrible picture quality, but at least I have photographic evidence). Being in his presence can only be likened to a religious experience. I still can’t even properly express it in words. After my brief encounter with Mr. Valentino I turned my attention to the clothes, which were finding their way off of the models’ bodies and back onto the clothing racks that surrounded the room. The dresses were absolutely exquisite. The Valentino couture show this season was critically acclaimed across the board and considered the best of the season. Pier Paolo Piccioli and Maria Grazia Chiuri infused astounding technical detail with airy romanticism to create a truly noteworthy collection. Each piece left me speechless – though not speechless enough to exchange a few words with Vogue Italia’s editor-in-chief, Franca Sozzani (another unbelievable moment). When we decided that it was time to go, I made my way over to Ms. Grazia Chiuri to congratulate her on a beautiful collection.
Maria Grazia Chiuri (far left) & Pier Paolo (right)
Naturally we posed for pictures on the runway and picked up invitations off the seats as keepsakes of a night that I will never forget.
To see the entire Valentino SS13 Haute Couture collection, click HERE.
Yours in Style,