For anyone working in fashion, or passionately interested in it, fashion weeks are periods of excitement. It is as if Christmas were coming several times a year, with gift bags from press services replacing the old red socks that threaten to catch fire on your chimney.
Yes, show are celebrations… Like a Christmas dinner, you encounter faces that are rarely present the rest of the time. This is an opportunity to ask for news you absolutely don’t care about, kiss people you hate, and take pictures you would burn if you bothered to have them developed. In short, fashion is a big family like any other.
The financial people are his patriarchs, the ones who give the traditional envelope. At their side, the feared editors-in-chief. Everyone gathers to applaud the designers’ end-of-year show, while their PR sisters hit a jealousy crisis in their corner. The blogger is the equivalent of the teenage cousin in need of glory; the photographer, her brother in academic failure who had a Nikon on his 15th birthday.
An ode to simplicity, your humble servant would be more than satisfied with the role of the alcoholic uncle with dubious morals, relegated to the children’s table to avoid any embarrassment. After all, there would always be one person left with a worse condition than mine. Persona non grata wherever she goes, as invisible as Casper the ghost, I mean the trainee…
As with many problems in our lives, Hollywood is to blame. I accuse Donna of Beverly Hills of making a whole generation believe that you could get Stella McCartney‘s career without having her dad! I accuse Gossip Girl of pretending you can be in high school and work at a couture house on the weekends! I accuse The Devil Wears Prada for suggesting that wearing Chanel boots is enough to make everything right!
I remember perfectly well my first internship, obtained at a major name on Avenue Montaigne — don’t expect me to give up the identity, I’m too poor to take on a trial. I had prepared for overtime, serving coffee, opening bottles of champagne from which I would not taste a single bubble… However, I will never forget the day I was asked to replace a security agent who was sick. At 60 kilos, I don’t even intimidate my roommate’s cat.
Did I object? Have I campaigned for the recognition of my status? No. I leaned against the wall, then examined the actions of the slightest passers-by, praying Jesus, Allah and Buddha that I wouldn’t have to run. “It’s all right, Zack. Hang on, it’s almost fashion week!”, I naively tried to fool myself… My participation in the event? I sent the look book to agencies from an office that looked like Harry Potter’s room under the stairs.
In another vein, one of my friends still remembers her joy the first time she was asked for at a fashion show. Her mission: to heat the seat reserved for an RnB singer until she arrived — she hates cold, you see. Fortunately, our situations have changed since then, but the trainee’s one remains the same. Letting his friends believe that he is sitting three rows behind Anna Wintour, he will probably just book the Uber allowing his boss to go there. By the way, let’s also think of those recruited in couture, whose little hands embroider and sew day and night. Don’t talk to them about labour codes, it would be cruel…
Yet, the young optimistic in precarious employment is the oil enabling the fashion wheel spins. The one that irons, recalls, books, rectifies, fixes, convinced that ordering his manager’s lunch will bring him closer to being in charge at Fendi. The one who, under the guise of a dream, accepts all requests without reservation.
To you, who spends your time running errands where you thought you’d be hanging out at VOGUE. You, who prepares racks of clothes that worth fifteen times what you’re given. You, to whom we keep asking what your name is. Hang on, the time will come when you’ll be in their position. Just try not to behave like a jerk that day… •
(This article was originally published on March, 17th 2019)