Saturday, 8 March 2014

How to tackle Paris Fashion Week - a Guide for Newbies

Paris Fashion Week has been and gone and I am finally able to feel my legs again (YAY!). So I thought I would put together a little guide for anyone who is interested in getting to know the ins and outs (based only on what I've learnt of course) of Paris Fashion Week, in case you want to experience it for yourself but don't know where to begin. I had spent hours researching "how to do/get into/sneak into Paris Fashion Week" during its lead up, so I figured why not summarise and disperse? 

So here it is, my 14-step guide on how to tackle Paris Fashion Week (from a complete newbie perspective like myself).  

1. Ask yourself - how much do I want it?
Depending on how much time/energy/pride/patience you have up your sleeve, will determine what lengths you will go to. Following on from my previous post, people come to Paris Fashion Week for a whole host of reasons. Whether you want to come as a blogger/photographer/writer, an aspiring model/designer, a member of the fashion industry/intern/student/client or if you just happen to live in Paris/be in Paris and want to check it out, there is something for everyone in this guide.

2. Spam spam spam!
Okay, so I'll start with the pre-PFW homework. 
If you want to try and land an invite (or at least work towards it), start spamming emailing press agents from about two months beforehand. You can find all their contact details here
Explain who you are, where you are from, if you're a blogger sell it to them, leave your blog address and details of how many thousands of page views your blog receives each minute ;). Don't forget to provide a French address (in case they decide to send a spare pass to you!). 
Make your email enticing and memorable then, go and spam like there's no tomorrow. Also make sure if you're copying and pasting to change the appropriate details ;) 
Now, from what I've read, most of the time you won't get a reply unless you're an up and coming highly influential fashion blogger (in which case you probably wouldn't be spamming them in the first place). Sometimes if you're lucky you might receive a "sorry but we have limited capacity" type reply. Thank them anyway as Frenchies are big on la politesse. I'm a completely unknown blogger but received a lovely reply from Louis Vuitton after I had thanked them for letting me know that they were at full capacity. A couple of brief polite email exchanges later landed me an offer to be placed onto their press contact database. It's not an invitation but it's something that would never have happened if I didn't thank them for their reply. Develop rapport and you never know what might happen a few seasons later when they recognise your name (or that's what I've heard anyway!)

3. Ask around
Ask everyone and anyone for invitations they aren't using/can't use/don't have time to use at the last minute, spare passes, contacts anyone might have in the industry that might be able to get you in or put you on the list. Spam your social media networks. A friend of a friend of mine got in when she came with her photographer friend who had a pass and pretended she was the assistant!

4. Consider volunteering backstage
A lot of websites like Craigslist Paris advertise looking for students/interns/volunteers to work during the week as an "opportunity to experience Paris Fashion Week". If you have the time/energy/patience, why not try and land some backstage work. 
PS Like with everything on Craigslist, keep your wits about you. There are a lot of scammers on Craigslist so always check and double check.

5. Rock up anyway 
Download the the schedule the day before and familiarise yourself with the addresses and exact locations. Even if you don't have an invitation it's still an interesting experience to witness the jungle that is Paris Fashion Week. 

6. Sneak in by insisting your way in
Although I didn't have the guts to try this myself, apparently it is possible if you have the courage to pull it off. There are a lot of anecdotes of people who dress up for the part, confidently insist they are on the list and have forgotten their invitation and make it in. Though it's rare (as I witnessed more people being turned away than being let in after making a fuss), theoretically, if you happen to combine some tired security guards and a nervous PR agent, you can sneak your way in should the PR agent decide they don't want to risk offending a potentially important client. 

7. Sneak in by literally sneaking your way in
This is much harder with the security in Paris depending on the location. You'll need to dress appropriately, carry a notepad/earpiece/clipboard/some kind of prop and channel your inner James Bond. 
The closest I got to this was sneaking into the Leonard Paris show at the end at Palais de Tokyo when the security guards looked away for a bit. I walked in discreetly, grabbed a Leonard Paris folder straight away to carry around and appear like a guest and wandered around checking out the set and the atmosphere inside. 

8. Standing lines and security guards
Depending on the size of the show, there is a chance of getting in after the show has already started. There are two types of invitations, seating and standing. In the big shows, you need an invitation or at least be on the list to be able to stand. In the smaller shows you might be able to be allowed in after everyone is in if it hasn't filled up yet. No catwalk show looks good half empty so the theory is you might be able to get in as a room filler! My friend was able to get in after speaking to a security guard at the Grand Palais one year. We were meant to get in to the Saint Laurent show this time based on the same principle but it fell through at the last minute :(

9. Photographers and Paparazzi 
Okay, so you can't get in, don't fret as there is still a lot to experience on the outside.
If you are interested in seeing what Paris Fashion Week is like from a photographer/paparazzi perspective, there's lots of fun to be had. Arrive early and get to know the venue. Scope out the main entrance and circle the venue to find the secret side entrances. You'll recognise it easily from the crowd of paparazzi with their cigarettes, take away caffeine hits and their sleepless faces. Eavesdrop on their conversations or pick someone that looks friendly and ask away. They have a wealth of knowledge and know who is rumoured to arrive/leave, which entrances they will use and where upcoming shows will be held (that aren't on the schedule). 

10. Get into safari mode 
Use your instincts to assess rumours and potential decoys. Half the paparazzi ran off after a rumour that Rhianna would leave from another exit at the recent Chanel show. We stayed back (using a combination of instinct and the I-really-can't-be-bothered-running-with-the-pack feeling) and ended up seeing Rhianna, Melanie Griffith and Keira Knightley! Needless to say, the paparazzi who bolted off came back thoroughly annoyed.

11. Don't look just snap 
Poise your camera and get those shutters going! If it's your iPhone that you are using (which is what I use), squeeze your way in between the bulky SLRs and keeping snapping! Getting distracted by seeing Melanie Griffiths cost me her photo (and now I don't actually even remember what she looked like). 

12. Be prepared to rough it
If you're going down the paparazzi route, you will get bumped, pushed around and jostled. It's just part of the game. The paparazzi will have no hesitation to push you aside to get to the front of the barricades. Squeeze in between them, put on that thick skin, wear comfortable clothes and shoes and don't forget to bring an umbrella and charger. It really did feel like a police stake out. 

13. Taking it easy
If you aren't going down the paparazzi route, relax and enjoy the main entrances. Wander around, keep an eye out for the eclectic street style of the guests and general fashion conscious public which I found was just as interesting to snap. 

14. Do not delete!
Lastly, when you get home, do not delete those seemingly dud photos. Double check who you've snapped. I just clicked away each time the paparazzi yelled out someone's name. I then realised I had photos of Vanessa Paradis on my camera roll after having a closer look! Ahhh. That's what they meant when they were all yelling "Vanessa, Vanessa, ici, ici!"  

The fashion industry is an interesting one. It was fun to hang out with photographers and paparazzi for a few days, that adrenaline rush when you spotted someone famous is likened to the feeling of what a lion must feel when he spots a gazelle. I had a great time but I'm completely and utterly exhausted. Being on the go, standing on my feet for 15 hours in a day and being on overstimulated meerkat mode for days on end was crazy. I don't know how they do it! 

Owning the photos yourself is a great feeling (and I'm so glad I went all out to experience Paris Fashion Week) but, so is the idea of streaming the live shows online in my PJs and icecream..!


  1. This post is so insightful and funny. Make me wish I was in Paris for fashion week.

    1. It was a very interesting experience although it used up a LOT of my energy!

  2. Is it possible to sneak in the back entrance - with the hair stylists and make up artists do you think? I'd really love to know

    1. Hi Sarah,
      I would love to know as well haha although I would never have the courage to try for myself! I assume there would be a security guard and some form of staff ID to present before entering. I also know this year security was considerably heightened after recent events in January in Paris.
      Let me know when/if you find out ;)

  3. Hi! Thank you for your information! Super fun to read :)
    I am just curious if you are familiar with any ways one can become a volunteer for fashion week~ writing to production crews, or where exactly? Are volunteer positions super difficult to come across?
    Thank you!

    1. Hi Heidi!
      Thanks for your comment I'm glad you found it fun to read haha ;) For volunteering positions, I would start by checking out Craigslist Paris or general listings like that where they look for interns (of course with Craigslist beware of scammers). Otherwise groups like Expatriates in Paris, Jobs in Paris, Wanted etc sometimes list call outs as well. Another option is to go directly to the Paris Fashion Week website and search for the directory of all the fashion houses and contact them. The big ones might not reply, but the smaller fashion houses who are looking for some free help might! Good luck!!

  4. Hi Nhan,

    Just found your blog, and am enjoying your posts! Especially love your food recommendations for Paris and your fashion week posts. Do you find that it is better to make your invite requests in English if you're not sure your French is perfect?

    Looking forward to read more!


    1. Hi Josephina,
      I'm so sorry for the delayed reply - your comment ended up in my spam folder for some reason and I only just found it! To answer your question, yes just write in English - they all understand English in the industry anyway because it's such an international one.
      If you have a press card you can sometimes get into the shows without an invitation, just line up early in the press line! I've done it lots of times and gotten into the shows like that, good luck!! :)