WE'LL ALWAYS HAVE PARIS
Updated: May 6
Now that the Paris 2024 Summer Olympics is officialy on the horizon, the capital of couture will take on a new role as the capital of sport, once again, after exactly 100 years.
Being the global epicenter of culture isn't a new thing for the city. In fact, that's what defines the city today. For instance, the heritage of the 1900 Exposition Universelle still stand up to this day. One of the structures built for the event has become one of the most recognizable manmade structures in the world; the Eiffel Tower.
As Paris became the ultimate place-to-be for haute couture; a one-of-a-kind dressing made with the highest craftsmanship available, Paris automatically gained its status as a fashion capital. Since the system of 'fashion week' established, there you have Paris as one of the places where newest creations are introduced to the press and buyers every season, along with New York, London, and Milan.
[Christian Dior's couture presentation in the old days, at the house's historic building at Avenue Montaigne]
But instead of being the mecca for thriving young, fresh designers, Paris Fashion Week has placed itself as the place where the heritage of fashion is celebrated. It should makes sense especially that Paris has been the birthplace of some of the world's oldest and biggest fashion houses such as Chanel, Christian Dior, Lanvin, and Balmain. Other brands like Hermes and Louis Vuitton have expanded into a global luxury lifestyle brand of their own.
But gone were the days of couture presentations in salons. Today, fashion shows are meant to make a bigger impact beyond just 'presenting a garment'. If not extravagant decorations, then locations are highly important.
And when it comes to locations, Paris might just be the best. I might be biased here as i live in that city as i wrote this article, but location wise, i think Paris Fashion Week has the dopest shows in the whole fashion calendar!
[Kenzo men spring 2015 show on the Pont Alexandre III by the Seine river/ Thibault Camus/AP]
The city of Paris is decorated by centuries-old architectural wonders, one of the reasons millions of tourists flocked in every year. Thanks to this factor, the city has been able to provide spectacular setting in the most iconic landmarks. Paris-based luxury conglomerates like LVMH and Kering (who owns Louis Vuitton and Saint Laurent, respectively) can surely afford them, as some of them don't come cheap (and easy).
Smaller brands and young designers can still benefit from the dramatic architecture of Parisian buildings, even if its lesser known. Because you know, there are...alot.
As someone who appreciates performance art, I do love a certain theatrical spice of a fashion show. Well that's what makes it a 'show' rather than a 'presentation'. And today, a 'show' aspect is beyond important with the rise of the digital world. More and more brands invested to set up an 'instagrammable' atmosphere, as it stands as a communication tool by itself. Social media helps spread out the buzz and the message the designer tries to convey through the show. The show itself might last around 15 minutes, but the footage stays forever on YouTube (or Vimeo, or you name it), and that is pretty significant for the sake of brand awareness.
Paris' opulent buildings with historical and cultural values are seemingly enough to impress audience both those who are physically present and online. This means that in most cases it isn't so necessary to set up an elaborated set and stage. An advantage that other fashion capitals are lacking.
Paris 2024 summer olympics will do the same approach.
That is to use existing locations (both sport and non-sport venues) to show off the beauty of the host city. According to their program, we can expect to see beach volleyball game right on the park by the Eiffel Tower, marathon swimming on the Seine river, and equastrian on the glorious park of the Versailles castle. It is interesting that some of these venues are no stranger in hosting fashion week shows.
Sounds fabulous already, but let's take a look back on some of the most beautiful Parisian locations ever used for fashion shows.
One of the most iconic buildings in Paris constructed for the Universal Exposition in 1900. The multi-purpose building is known for its glass vault, mixture of classical and art-nouveau architecture and has had many lives. From being a military hospital during the World War I, host of equatrian events and countless expositions.
But it is also the host of the biggest fashion show during Paris Fashion Week; the house of Chanel's. Recently, lingerie giant Victoria's Secret also held its annual televised fashion show under the glass vault of Grand Palais.
In 2024, it is planned to host the fencing tournament.
[A giant golden lion for Chanel fall 2010-11 show at the Grand Palais]
[Scantily clad models on the runway of Victoria's Secret 2016 show/ Fracois Mori/AP]
[A fencing tournament held at the Grand Palais /Gregory Lenormand/Dppi]
The Gardens of Versailles
Built for the king who was all about living the fab life, the palace of Versailles is legendary for its beauty and has been an inspiration for other palaces around the world. The gardens of Versailles, though, has its own splendour that is just as impressive as the castle. So much so that as a tourist, you can buy a ticket ONLY to visit the garden.
Masterminded by the Da Vinci of garden designs, Andre Le Notre, the gardens are decorated by dreamy labirynths, fountains, and green space so vast it is designed to seem endless. A location so inspiring that Chanel (Because they can) held its very own resort 2013 collection fashion show here.
According to the plan, the gardens of Versailles will also be hosting the equastrian portion of the 2024 summer Olympic games.
[Chanel Resort 2013 fashion show at the gardens of Versailles /Getty]
[Bosquet des Trois Fontaines in a less busy day]
[Proposed equastrian venue for the 2024 summer Olympics games /Paris 2024]
Banks of the Seine River
The banks of the Seine is so romantic it has been featured in countless films and series, and even music videos. It made into the list of protected UNESCO world heritage sites. What a magnificent title for a drunken Parisian summer picnic spot.
However, the Seine wouldn't be as beautiful without its bridges, and Pont Alexandre III is like the king of all Parisian bridges. Kenzo took the spot to show its menswear 2015 spring summer collection here; over the bridge, and on the river banks. Not bad!
In the 2024 Olympics, the city mayor promised to clean up the water and make sure it is safe for swimming. So much so that it is planned to be the venue for swimming marathon and triathlon open swim.
[A male model stutting down the river bank, with the Pont Alexandre bridge in the background]
[Models on the edge of the Pont Alexandre III bridge, with the Eiffel tower in the background]
The Louvre Museum
What is Paris without the Louvre? Well, a slightly less-touristy Paris that is. The museum is the home of some of the greatest art masterpieces in the world, including that famous bitch the Mona Lisa. A historic monument by itself, it was a former royal palace that has been modified and extended multiple times to be what it is today. It is undoubtedly the most visited art museum in the world with 7.4 million visitors in 2016. Did i just mention 'touristy'?
It was of course, the power of a giant luxury conglomerate, that can shut down a portion of a national landmark for a fashion show. Louis Vuitton's fall-winter 2017 collection was shown in one of the most majestic spots at the museum; Cour Marly. Well, LVMH might have a continuous partnership with the Louvre as they have been installing fashion show venues at the museum's outdoor courtyard every season. However, it was the first time that a fashion show was held inside the museum. Forcing the part of the museum to be shut down for preparation.
The move was considered as a collaboration between Louis Vuitton and the museum. Citing that both Louis Vuitton and the Louvre are both national heritages of France. Therefore it shouldn't be a coincidence the luxury giant hosted a dinner at the Museum as they launched an exclusive Jeff Koons-signed handbags collection directly integrated the paintings that (some of them) belongs to the Louvre (such as the Mona Lisa). The museum and the luxury house, are suuurely good friends.
[Louvre Museum's indoor courtyard: Cour Marly]
[Louis Vuitton fall 2017 show at Cour Marly inside the Louvre/ Peter White/Getty]
Known simply as the Paris Opera house, or just Opéra by the Parisians. The building is another iconic landmark of the city. Named after its architect, it is officially called Palais Garnier (or Garnier Palace) due to its opulence fit for a palace. It's so beautiful it has inspired the model of other Opera houses from Warsaw to Rio de Janeiro.
This might be the place to showcase performance art, but it has also been the source of inspiration itself for artists; from painters to costume designers and writers. The most notable one of course, was the 1910 novel Le Fantôme de L’Opéra by Gaston Leroux, which was adapted into the longest-running Broadway musical that we all love today The Phantom of the Opera, and its film adaptations.
It is only appropriate that fashion designers use this building as the background of their shows.
Stella McCartney is a regular, hosting her fashion show in its Grand Foyer almost every season, while other designers chose to showcase their collection in other stunning parts of the building.
[Opera Garnier's main staircase]
[Christian Dior 1998 haute couture show by John Galliano at the grand staircase]
[The Grand Foyer]
[Stella McCartney show at the Grand Foyer/ AP]
[Auditorium of the Opera Garnier]
[Dries Van Noten menswear fall/winter 2016-17 on the stage of the auditorium/ WWD/Shuttershock]
Bibliothèque National de France - Richelieu
Even a library could be a perfect fashion show spot in Paris. That was the case for the newly renovated Richelieu site of the National Library of France.
The library has a rather stunning reading room that has been transformed a couple of times (so far) into a fashion temple where models stomped their way. Rihanna's Fenty x Puma collaboration collection was probably one of the first to use this location, taking full advantage of the library decor and changed the context into a badass college library, where models strutted on the reading tables as their runway. French fashion house Givenchy chose a rather demeure and mystical approach to their show, yet still taking advantage of the oval shape of the room.
[Oval reading room - Richelieu site of BNF]
[Top model Joan Smalls walking on the runway/ reading table for Fenty x Puma fashion show]
[A different look of the room for Givenchy menswear fall-winter 2017-18 show]
There are some designers who chose rather unconventional locations for fashion shows; such as a high school or a church. However, these places are beautiful AND available so hey, why not!.
[The stunning rooftop courtyard of Lycee Saint-Louis-de-Gonzague was used for Balenciaga men show]
[Balenciaga men spring 2017 show by Demna Gvasalia]
[Pascal Millet spring 2014 show at Temple Protestant Oratoire de Louvre /Charles Platiau/Reuters]
[Harry Halim spring 2011 fashion show, notice the text on the wall that is supposed to remind us who normally runs the show in the location]
Paris will always be Paris. The history, the beauty and the atmosphere have and will continue to inspire.
As for the 2024 summer Olympics, it might just be its chic-est game ever!
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