William Huffman’s second chapter of his Paris Chronicles. Read part one here. Photos by Cheryl Rondeau
What happens when you mix a resident metropolitan population of 12 million with an annual visitorship of twice that in tourists? Lots and lots of traffic! A gridlock in which I am currently idling! It certainly doesn’t help that my taxi is also battling throngs of Paris Fashion Week goers and a growing fan presence for the Prix César (which is a French Oscar equivalent). As we pass the historic Théâtre du Châtelet, venue of the awards show since 2002, I’m not nearly lucky enough to catch sight of César d’Honneur laureate Scarlett Johansson or the favoured nominee for Meilleur Acteur, Guillaume Gallienne. Sigh.
We eventually arrive at our destination: Palais Galliera, the city’s musée de la mode. Bien sûr, of course Paris has a former palace that’s dedicated to showcasing fashion. Tonight it’s hosting a vernissage for Papier glacé, un siècle de photographie de mode chez Condé Nast. It’s not my usual artful fare, but when in Rome, er, Paris! The exhibition comprises about 150 mostly original photographic prints dating from 1918 to the present day. These fashion plates are pulled from the vast Condé Nast publishing archive which includes the holdings of Vogue, Vanity Fair, Glamour and W, among others. It’s something of an extra special occasion since the photos are accompanied by 15 actual couture items from the collection of Palais Galliera–the museum is judicious about displaying its collection because the items are extremely fragile.
As one might imagine, it’s a very chic cowd. Who am I wearing, you ask? Trying hard to pull off a Canuck combination of Hudson’s Bay stripes and Roots ruggedness. Who knows! Aside from the fashionista factor, there are some definite gems in the exhibition, particularly the very early stuff and the material from the 70s which, by composition and innovation standards, remain au courant. But I’m partial to the ones from the late 80s and 90s–especially those depicting Linda Evangelista. She and I briefly shared a high school. How’s that for fashion forward!
Although not earthshattering, the exhibition is an entertaining glimpse into this lux industry. And a ideal way to spend a Fashion Week evening–especially if for those of us who didn’t get a personal invitation to that Lagerfeld, Armani, Miu Miu, Ford, Westwood, or any, after party. Sigh, again.
The Papier glacé exhibition at Palais Galliera continues until 25 May.
William Huffman is an arts administrator, curator, educator, and writer with a history of extensive involvement on both local and international cultural fronts. Follow @williamhuffman on Twitter.