Runway News

Backstage Diaries: Paris Fashion Week with Wilhelmina’s Damien Neva

PARIS, March 3 — A lot happened on Sunday, but for me, Céline proved the most abiding of all the day's events. Russell Marsh cast the show, which included Manon Leloup and gave me a reason (as if any were needed) to attend. I had previously seen Phoebe Philo's show before she became a mother, so it was pleasant returning to Sunday's show venue, Tennis Club de Paris, despite it being way, way out in the 16th arrondissement compared to where I am lodging for the week in the 9th. The spaciousness of the site gave everyone from hair and makeup artists to the on-site tailors a bit more room to breathe. Active tennis matches were little more than an ad and deuce court away from first looks! 

Backstage Diaries: Paris Fashion Week with Wilhelmina’s Damien Neva

The statement prints of this collection immediately called to mind Chinatown laundry bags. Having seen and photographed the garments up close, however I can assure readers that Philo's prints were no Canal Street specials. Paired with unforgettable heels and leather leggings, the combination of which I simply cannot get out of my head, the prints sprang to life once the models lined up backstage in the show's order. 

Backstage Diaries: Paris Fashion Week with Wilhelmina’s Damien Neva

Manon's look consisted of an ivory T-shirt in short sleeves, green skirt, green curly wool coat and matching green mohair clutch. The monochromatic uniformity of Manon's look was signature Céline and yet the earthy tone gave it warmth for the colder months. I have a weakness for minimalism and Phoebe Philo's collection once again had me trembling in the knees.

Backstage Diaries: Paris Fashion Week with Wilhelmina’s Damien Neva

The finale soundtrack was a variation on "Walk On By" by Isaac Hayes off Hot Buttered Soul (1969). The track has been memorably sampled by Public Enemy ("Black Steel in the Hour of Chaos") and, wait for it, Portishead ("All Mine"). The Bristol group is proving something of a common denominator for the week.

Backstage Diaries: Paris Fashion Week with Wilhelmina’s Damien Neva

I concluded Sunday at an intimate restaurant on the Left Bank with my agency colleagues and models. Coco Rocha, Ava Smith, Alexandra Richards, Marike Le Roux, Soo Joo, Sung Hee, Victoria Anderson, all were there to toast a brilliant week in Paris. Chin chin!


PARIS, March 2 — Saturday I spent the morning into early afternoon backstage at Viktor & Rolf Fall 2013. This was my first show of the season staged in the Jardin des Tuileries, which from Paris to New York is easily my favorite of all the "tents." Despite the venue's tent status, designers Viktor Horsting and Rolf Snoeren never fail to transform the runway into something other than a temporary structure fashioned out of stretched vinyl over an aluminum skeleton. Saturday's show was no exception. A herringbone woodgrain graphic (below, left) in grayscale covered the surface of the runway and flowers and leaves (below, right) in the same color scheme climbed the wall at the runway's base.  

Backstage Diaries: Paris Fashion Week with Wilhelmina’s Damien NevaBackstage Diaries: Paris Fashion Week with Wilhelmina’s Damien Neva

Backstage there were familiar faces in casting director Andrew Weir, Pat McGrath and Luigi Murenu. During first looks, Academy Award nominee Jessica Chastain popped up for a public relations photo moment with designers Viktor and Rolf. I am unashamed to admit that even I was taken by that moment and duly shuttered an Instagram.

Backstage Diaries: Paris Fashion Week with Wilhelmina’s Damien Neva

In early evening I made a backstage rendezvous with Manon Leloup and Soo Joo at Loewe Fall 2013. The show was staged at the Galerie de Minéralogie du Museum d'Histoire Naturelle on the Left Bank. The narrowness of the show gallery made possible the illusion of a nearly endless runway (below). And it stretched for miles! During runway rehearsal I situated myself nearly two thirds of the way toward end near the photo riser, which meant that when the models entered the runway they were but tiny points of light in my camera's iris. During my two previous seasons in Paris, Loewe held its shows at 12 Rue de l'École de Médecine, which made for a circuitous runway with all manner of twists and turns. Portishead provided the finale score for the second time this week. Saturday night it was the Bristol group's 12" single, "Chase the Tear." 

Backstage Diaries: Paris Fashion Week with Wilhelmina’s Damien Neva

Guido and Pat McGrath took hair and makeup honors respectively Saturday night at Loewe, which cranked beauty levels to 11. There was one picture in particular that I snapped of Manon moments before she took to the runway. She is pictured wearing her sunnies and exudes an effortless cool, something straight from a lost film from a bygone era. Soo Joo also had a breathtaking look. Guido and Pat have an uncanny mastery of their crafts. How they transform naturally beautiful girls into even more beautiful models is akin to to achieving immediate acceleration in a Ferrari that is already doing 150 miles per hour. 

Backstage Diaries: Paris Fashion Week with Wilhelmina’s Damien NevaBackstage Diaries: Paris Fashion Week with Wilhelmina’s Damien Neva

I drink a lot of espresso and take Instagrams of coffee like some do of cupcakes. The coffee last night at Loewe might have been dire, but at least it was served in a proper cup with a saucer. I will never weary of this continental presentation, the insistence on doing things properly. That said, if the French brought the same level of attention to their coffee that they do for its presentation, then this would be Milan, not Paris.

 

 


PARIS, March 1 — I spent a few hours backstage with Manon Leloup and Elisabeth Erm at Dior, Raf's Dior, and the show, the collection, the impeccable details all continue to reverberate. That the Belgian designer selected musical works by Brian Eno and Laurie Anderson for pre-show and show respectively, speaks volumes about the subtlety and nuance of his second prêt-à-porter collection for Dior. 

Backstage Diaries: Paris Fashion Week with Wilhelmina’s Damien Neva

The staging of the show proved a masterstroke by setting the runway way, way up in the clouds. The runway itself followed a meandering path overtop a powder blue surface replete with puffy white clouds. Mirrored walls extended the space to infinity whilst enormous inflatable spheres with shiny silver surfaces did their parabolic best to warp said endlessness. Once all 48 looks of Dior Fall 2013 were uploaded to the interweb, they would appear suspended in the open skies. You don't need a degree in semiotics to apprehend the meaning of the symbols used — Dior is above everything else.

Backstage Diaries: Paris Fashion Week with Wilhelmina’s Damien Neva

The Andy Warhol heel illustration that appeared on the collection handbags has rightly been the talk of the critics — it is another deft choice, not wholly obvious from the late artist's extensive oeuvre. The Warhol heel, though wasn't what caught my eye. No, no, no. It was the Dior heel by Raf Simons that still has me rapt. Backstage I snapped Instagrams of the heels worn by Elisabeth and Manon and my only regret is that I didn't shoot more!

Backstage Diaries: Paris Fashion Week with Wilhelmina’s Damien Neva

Immediately following Dior I made my way to the Vanessa Bruno at the Grand Palais, where I once again met up with Estonian model Elisabeth Erm. She is enjoying a fantastic season and yesterday was no exception. I captured several moments with her backstage in hair and makeup and during first looks that appear in the video I produced. She is really coming into her own and with every successive video becomes more personable.

Vanessa Bruno chose the Portishead song "The Rip" off the album Third (2008) as the finale music, a selection I duly mentioned to Portishead's Geoff Barrow on Twitter. The uncertainty this in turn stirred up in the English musician was endearing. "I'm confused," Barrow tweeted, "is that good or bad?" Good, Geoff, very good.

 

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