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


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

PARIS, February 27 — My flight from JFK landed early Wednesday morning, which meant I would by design have to hit the ground running. The footprint Paris Fashion Week leaves on the calendar is considerable (a full nine days) compared to its counterparts in New York (eight), London (five), and Milan (six). That I am loath to live out of a hotel room in even a purportedly brilliant city like Paris any longer than absolutely necessary means I am not afforded the luxury of an extra day before the shows start. As first days in France's fashion capital go, Wednesday was not an inauspicious beginning and put me backstage at Rochas and H&M.

I began my role as the Director of Social Media at Wilhelmina Models in New York in December 2012, and it's what makes my stay in Paris and coverage of the shows possible. In January, I traveled to Milan in the same manner to cover the menswear collections. The set-up is straightforward: I travel to where my agency's models are at important times during the fashion calendar. I first started traveling to Milan and Paris for men's and women's shows during my tenure as News Editor at Ford Models. I spent the Spring 2013 season "in-house" as the Public Relations Director — Digital Media at Calvin Klein, Inc. The Fall 2013 season, however, is my first at Wilhelmina and has already proven to be gratifying. Working with an impressive group of models that include the likes of Ava Smith, Manon Leloup, Marike Le Roux, Soo Joo (below, right), Matt Hitt, RJ King, Sung Jin Park and Yannick Abrath (to name but a few) has made my job all the more enjoyable — and my Wednesday in Paris was no exception. 

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

The scale of fashion show production in Paris and Milan compared to New York is higher across the board. Sure, New York has outliers like Marc Jacobs, but it also stages a fair few identikit shows at Lincoln Center. In Paris and Milan, where there are an abundance of comparatively grandiose venues built over the centuries, the shows reflect their locations. Take, for example, the two shows I had the fortune of attending on Wednesday, Rochas and H&M. The former took place at the Espace Cambon at 46 rue Cambon, which boasts a lengthy runway that spans the considerable distance of a roughly 7500 square foot room (top image). The base of the runway is a massive staircase that leads down from a mezzanine. At show time, the models gracefully descended that staircase in a collection by Marco Zanini, the brand's creative designer, replete with impossibly tall heels that recalled the streamlined 1950s. 

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

I concluded my first day at the H&M show across La Seine at Musée Rodin (above). The show itself took place in a tent on the grounds that gave the impression of endlessness. The set for the show was meant to evoke a 15,000 square foot townhouse apartment with room after room after differently-themed room through which to catwalk designer looks on a budget by the brand's designer Ann-Sofie Johansson. That these "fast-fashion" looks are seemingly at odds with the dizzying budget no doubt underwriting the immense production of Wednesday night's H&M runway show is beside the point — fashion is artifice and the moment it stops being so is the moment it risks becoming as dull as the actuarial sciences. The complexity of the runway route reflected the scale of the show's production and that the models pulled it off is a credit to their professionalism. 


All images courtesy Damien Neva for Wilhelmina Models