Paris Fashion Week: Day 2
The day began where the night left off, separated by less than three hours worth of sleep. Our room had only come with two twin size beds—one of us was stuck on the floor. We tried to get additional pillows or a rollaway cot, but neither of those things existed in France.
“Don’t worry,” I told the girls, “I got this.”
I knew fully well that I’d be returning to New York homeless, so I figured I might as well get used to it now. I dumped all of my clothing on the floor and spread it out into a thinly layered mattress, a half-assed nest on which I could try to sleep. Predictably, my leather jacket would be my blanket.
The girls fell asleep without much effort, but no matter what I tried, I could not pass out. It was less a problem with the bedding as much as a problem with my mind, which was pacing back and forth like a worried father with his daughter out on her first date. I decided to go skate again, this time to a café where I could do some writing. Since I didn’t really know where I was or where I was going, I figured I’d ask the lady sitting at the front desk for recommendations.
“Bonjour Madame,” I said confidently, “Oo es un bon café sil-vous-plait?”
She rolled her eyes at me and said, “Are you English or American?”
“American,” I beamed.
“Ah, you probably want Starbucks. You like coffee like this, yes?” she asked, measuring out a 44 oz. latte with her hands.
“Um, no…more like an espresso,” I said less assured.
“Oh, espresso! Trés bien!”
She pulled out a map and showed me her favorite spot in the neighborhood. I thanked her and took off in that direction, finding it without too much trouble. I sat at the counter and finished some editing, sipping espresso and feeling very ex-pat. When I finished, I headed back to the hotel and waited for the girls to get up so I could lie down. Finally, after days of trying, I managed to fall asleep for five straight hours.
I woke up later in the afternoon, alone in the hotel room. A note on the table informed me that the girls had gone window-shopping and that I should come meet them when I got up. I caught the metro and met them down in the Marais, a district known for its fashion houses and gay bars. Our friend Kelly knew of a presentation at a place called Louis Quatorze, a cool designer shop specializing in handbags. We figured we were in the neighborhood so we might as well check it out.
As soon as we walked through the door, one of the hosts thrust glasses of champagne in our hands.
“You cannot enter unless you first take a drink,” she insisted with a laugh. “Drink, drink!”
Don’t mind if I do. They were serving all sorts of little pastries, and I munched on black fennel macaroons while Hayley socialized and Amanda shot photos. The DJ was playing all sorts of familiar songs, including “Rapper’s Delight”, James Brown, and The Nerves. I noticed the colors of the night tended to be chartreuse, aqua/turquoise, orange and beaming bright red. I vaguely remember double fisting champagne when the girls grabbed me and said we were heading to some exclusive runway show somewhere else. They told me not to worry—I’d be able to get free champagne there too.
We caught a cab that dropped us off in front of a gated mansion in the middle of the city. There were a number of security guards with clipboards out front but we walked past them like we owned the place, mumbling in English about whatever as we crossed the courtyard and entered the building.
The first thing that struck me was the architecture. Places like that simply do not exist in America. It turns out the show was being held in a mansion turned museum.
The place was filled with wild juxtapositions that assaulted me at every angle. Everyone kept handing me champagne and telling me not to touch anything. It was like they were saying, “Don’t get too drunk. Now drink this!” Chocolate golden Euros were spread out across two tables, and they had attendants standing by making sure nobody set their drink down anywhere unsavory.
The scene was the height of fashion. Everywhere we looked we saw the coolest looking people ever, eccentric, breathtakingly beautiful and amazingly confident. I, on the other hand, was wearing a Ramones-esque leather jacket over a Michael Jordan tank top that still had the remnants of a rather nasty wine stain on the front, further accentuating my skateboard and the dark circles under my eyes. People kept staring at me like they were worried I’d stumbled in drunkenly off the street, which of course was half the truth.
I grabbed two glasses of champagne and started introducing myself to people. I noticed a girl with this cool little bag that looked like a book. ‘Good idea,’ I thought to myself. Amanda came up and told me there was a display on the second floor that was blowing people away, but they wouldn’t let me up there until I finished my glasses. I shrugged, knocked them both back, and headed up the stairs.
It was like being in any museum, with roped off displays and antiques piled on top of antiques throughout each rooms. Being a pseudo-literature buff, I noticed a seemingly out of place novel on top of a dresser. I went in for a closer look and realized that it was a purse, just like that one I had noticed downstairs. Turns out the books were part of the collection being debuted by designer Olympia Le-Tan. She had painstakingly hand embroidered each and every handbag to look like books with kitschy cool covers, giving her an opportunity to create a virtual library that anyone might relate to. I wondered if she’d created a copy of “Das Kapital” for the fashionable Marxist looking to turn the bourgeoisie on its head?
I got back downstairs, had another glass, and walked into the kitchen for the highly anticipated runway show. I was watching a repeat, the last of the night, and I made sure to get a front row spot next to the oven. After waiting for a few minutes next to a Turkish princess with blue eyes on her jacket, the show began. Mickey and Silvia’s “Love is Strange” started playing before cutting into P-Diddy’s “More Money”, as these curvy models walked into the room wearing 60s pop outfits that instantly reminded me of a rockabilly France Gall. They strutted into the room in a tight line, walking straight to the back of the kitchen in sassy fashion. Then just like that, they started stripping. I didn’t even have time to look at the outfits before they were thrown ingloriously on a table. Men catcalled and women cheered as the models stripped down to their bras and panties. It was kind of the raddest runway show I’ve ever seen.
After it ended, we walked to a corner bistro with our new friend Ilene, who turned out to be such a wine aficionado that she literally turned down the first bottle of wine after we started drinking the glass, the chardonnay being far too yellow and sweet for her liking. I drink boxed wine, so I didn’t notice the foul flavor. The restaurant was very accommodating, bringing us a bottle that was acceptable enough, which we proceeded to drink over conversation.
Our discussions varied greatly, from fashion to politics, and somehow the topic of Maximum Rock ‘n Roll came up. Ilene asked if I had ever heard of Nobunny, which shocked me greatly because my friend Dan Bush plays drums in the band. How was is that some random fashionista in France was asking me if I’d ever heard of my friend’s band? As you can imagine, I became super animated, laughing and telling her all sorts of crazy stories from tours I’d been on, excited to find someone in the fashion world I could instantly relate with.
The girls decided to head back to the hotel but Kelly and Ilene invited me to go with them to Maxim’s, a famous Parisian bar that had been quite influential back at the end of the 1800’s. I figured I might as well check it out, so I said goodbye to Hayley and Amanda, and caught a cab to the bar. Irene knew the doorman who let us cut the line and enter without a hassle, allowing us to get to the even longer coat check line without waiting. The girls checked their jackets and we all walked out onto the dance floor. The DJs were dancing to electronica, a music that I still haven’t been able to identify with, and the place was so crowded that I could barely move.
Suddenly a security guard grabbed me and said I couldn’t have my skateboard there. I looked at the crowd, listened to the music, looked at my skateboard and said, “Au revoir,” to Maxim’s. I didn’t bother catching the metro, instead opting to tear down the Champs Elysees at a million kilometers per hour. As you might imagine, I got lost a number of times, but made it back to the hotel in one piece. I showered, lay down on my 2012 March wardrobe, and did all I could to fall asleep, again.
–Photos by Amanda Hakan