The Paris Report
Words and Images By Alisha Trimble
Day One: Arrival
I binge-watch episodes of Girls on the Delta seat back monitor, hoping no one will recognize me and notice that secretly I am a Girls-watcher. It’s an overnight flight, and I manage to close my eyes for about two hours of it. Detecting others in the fashion flock, the fast track line through customs has its equal amounts of smiling and profiling. I arrive to the Montmartre neighborhood two hours earlier than planned (forgetting that customs is a breeze when entering France), much to the disdain of my airbnb host.
With a giant suitcase filled with a fashion season’s worth of ready to wear, reams of line sheets, and $5,000 worth of solid gold jewelry in a mini safe (more on that later) my host and I exchange angry messages. A couple hours later I hand a bouquet of buttercups to her. She has to clean the apartment, so I go wandering the Pigalle area like a doe-eyed zombie. I think to myself, “Paris is like a very good-looking girlfriend who behaves quite badly.”
Wi-Fi has not caught on in France’s public spaces, however, the selfie stick is in full force for those visiting the site of historic nightclub The Moulin Rouge. Giving into the zeitgeist of the moment, I begrudgingly pose for my phone, thinking of the chorus to the popular song from the movie soundtrack, “Voulez-vous coucher avec moi?” which translates to “Would you like to sleep with me?” Je voudrais coucher en face du Moulin, I think to myself trying not to fall asleep, taking the selfie.
Day Two: Air BnBebé
I wake up to the cries of a two year old, and my host forcefully announcing that it’s 10:00 AM. Now I’m regretting my hastily made decision to grab the cheapest lodgment, meant to balance the cost of the hotel where I’m staying later. Sore from the strange bed, carrying bags and walking endlessly the previous day, I can’t help but wish this baby had a snooze button.
I walk to Capsule Trade Show at Tapis Rouge, a venue whose name translates to “Red Carpet” in English. It’s a gorgeous four story building with architecture that must be the usual for France; however, it’s totally fancy to my American eyes. I notice a few familiar faces exhibiting from New York, as well as talent from Scotland, France, Shanghai and other regions. Serious international business goes down at this event, and I observe a group of guys passionately discussing the textiles of a pair of mens trousers in French as though it were a life and death situation.
Stopping to pick up a pack of Galoises cigarettes, I take several coffee and tea breaks throughout the day. I know it’s supposed to be a relaxing and leisurely activity, but a couple of teenage French girls eating pommes frites at the table across from me are laughing way too loud and it’s kind of stressing me out.
My would-be intern calls in sick for the second day in a row, and I mentally prepare myself to drop by solo to a few boutiques around the city. Determined to tackle my checklist, I find the first few are closed. I think, presumably Colette will be open on a Sunday. Nope. The note on the window explains they have something better to do. 40 minutes later I am smoking a Galoise at the Tulières where the major shows are being held, trying to grab Wi-Fi signal to see what my friends are doing. No luck. Time for another tea break.
Sipping a cup of tea, I feel my teeth with my tongue as I pull on the cigarette filter. Feeling very French, I begin to understand my teeth as bones, and the rest of my body, which will inevitably end up being a pile of bones. Anyway, when I return for the evening, my host and I share a bottle of chianti, and I understand the baby talking, comparing my knowledge of the French language with that of a two year old. I write a million emails and then sleep like une bebé.
Day Three: Dangerous
My host lectures me for 20 minutes at breakfast about how I bought the wrong kind of pastries for her the night before. I couldn’t be more like whatever, putting on my lipstick. She is unsympathetic to the fact that I have to commit to this look for the next five hours until my room is ready at the Hotel Amour.
Side note: also, at this point, I think my intern is punking me.
The shiny black car arrives (thank goodness for uber!) and at the hotel, the concierge says she will let me know when the room is ready. The PR for the Paris shows all insist on sending invitations by mail, and apparently, none have been saved for me at the hotel. Oh well, it’s not important. I glance around the restaurant within the hotel lobby and see a flurry of pretty girls made up with matte red lipstick floating gently to and fro. I inhale an air of sophistication, and exhale out my frustration at things not going as planned.
I decide to walk around Montmartre followed by strange men everywhere I go. In front of the cathedral, a man tries to put a red and white string on my right arm. I tell him no. He grabs my wrist hard, and I snap at him, “let go of my wrist.”
“It’s for the church,” he says with an unrelenting clench.
“Let go of my wrist.” I say again with firmness. I look around and another man to my left is aiding him along.
“Be happy,” he commands, still violently holding on as I try to shake my hand away.
I bare my teeth and say, “I am happy! Let go of my wrist.” He lets me go and I watch them pursue a man. Resisting the urge to flip them the middle finger, I think what a crucial mistake it was to come to Paris without a Hood by Air grill. It would have made all the difference.
Skipping lunch because of a dinner reservation, in shock about what just happened, my room is not ready yet so I hold back tears at the hotel bar over a glass of red wine. Donning my Chanel sunglasses, I stay on track by writing emails in my best translated French via iPad to Parisian buyers. I try my best to be cool, thinking how cool it is at the bottom of the Seine. Just go with the flow of the river. Soaking up the wifi service, my friends cheer me up with messages of “Don’t jump into the river, unless there’s a photo of you and I styled it.”
Once the room is ready, I am so grateful for the crisp linens of the duvet, the shine of the turquoise lacquered walls, and I am in utter disbelief as windows open to a private terrace with four tables, eight chairs, and two heat lamps, climbing with flowered vines.
My dinner reservations are thwarted by a sweeping mass hysteria that goes by the name of Saint Laurent Paris. I thank my fickle friends, but attempting to crash an event is not my style so I take experimental self portraits in the mirrored wall of my room for a while to ease my disappointment. Afterwards I unpack a few things I picked up on my walk. There is bottled beer, but no bottle opener, so I open the bottle with the corner of my mini safe. I drink and smoke on the private patio, and eat an entire baguette with fromage and mortadella.
Night Three: It Gets Better
I am dressed and ready, admittedly still exhausted and traumatized but putting on a good face. I wear Saint Laurent Paris platform heels, and a long black silk charmeuse dress with a scalloped neckline. Clusters of well-dressed ladies smoke outside the Hotel Amour and we eye each other, waiting for taxis to pick us up. My uber driver chats with me eagerly in English, bright-eyed about the virtues of capitalism. He is disappointed when I tell him how American production has declined, and everything sold in the US is produced in China. “That is really bad. Why is this?” He asks.
“Because we are cheap.” I answer.
Petite Meller meets me at Raspoutine for a party hosted by Tommy Saleh and the Misshapes. Nodding my head to Aretha Franklin’s R-E-S-P-E-C-T, I think, “It’s about time I had a little, Ahem…fun.” I gift Petite with a gold TARA 4779 midi ring, she hugs and thanks me. Next, she steps out into the center of the room and as if by magic she is instantly circled by photographers, their flashes unmissable in the dark atmosphere of the night club. The rest of the night is a blur.
Thankfully tomorrow’s Agnès B invitations were sent to Petite’s apartment. I try walking home, but two men chase after me, calling, out in French, “Are you married?” And, here comes a taxi. Not bad.
Day Four: Pas Mal
I wake up to more hotel room than I know what to do with. I can’t stop inviting friends to come see it, like anything good I always want to give it to someone else. It feels like a waste to me, having good things and keeping them to myself. Is that weird? Maybe. Because nobody comes to see me in my room.
Having finished a black and white Polaroid pack, I refill my vintage camera with color film. Heads turn as I rush through the hotel lobby and descend into the Metro to The Palais de Tokyo. Not finding Petite who has the invitations, I tell them in French that I am on the list. I have to call out to the woman managing the list as she’s behind the bouncers. I feel vulgar behaving this way in public.
Once inside, the spectacle has already begun. Agnès b’s show is entertaining: French Cuban twin singers Ibeyi are performing live on the runway. The photographers, press and buyers stare closely as music blares and one by one we take in the parade, mainly consisting of basic grunge style.
I find Petite and Asaf in line for the replay of the show. Asaf has my invitation in his hand. “That’s my invitation,” I say. “You can have it.” He asks me about my concept store, I Love You Bedford, while the Japanese press conduct a video interview with Petite.
My look is a black long-sleeve silk/cotton voile dress with velvet cuffs and a pink macramé appliqué of a peace sign on the front. Crossing the street on my way to lunch, a man on a motorcycle flashes me the peace sign. I return the gesture. As I continue down the block, a group of photojournalists flock to me, snapping photos of the outfit. I smile.
I enjoy a relaxing lunch by Alain Ducasse at the palatial Meurice Hotel, where I meet a charming couple of ladies who own Tasoni, a resort boutique in Switzerland. They ask me about my designs and we chat about fashion and literature. I go back to my room to write. Dead tired, I still wonder, “Why am I not partying at Le Baron tonight?”
Day Five: Fermé
I head the Marais, a chic neighborhood in Paris, with lunch reservations at a hidden restaurant. The first door I pass is open, then I turn around, but when I pass it again, I hear a woman laughing as it closes. I ring the doorbell. Nothing happens, then I circle around to a patio, hearing a French woman speaking English within earshot. “There is a nice girl here and she is dressed very nice.” She says this twice. Now I know I am definitely being punked, and I play along.
As I approach her, I say politely, “Sorry to disturb you, but I am looking for a restaurant.”
“It’s over there,” she says, pointing further into the courtyard, with a burning cigarette between her fingers. I thank her and enter through another closed door. Helping myself to a second glass of sancerre, I see the host refuse to seat a group of Americans, presumably because the girl is wearing a tee shirt and jeans. I’m really liking it here!
After lunch, I continue down the list of about 20 independent stores in Paris which sell multiple brands in my price range. I discover that half of them in The Marais are now vacant, one called Shine is just empty racks and a lone mannequin standing, still dressed. Two are now single brand stores owned by Chinese designers. Three of them are still open for business.
Stepping lightly into an austere two-level shop, The Broken Arm, I pick up a copy of CR Fashion Book, High Fashion’s holy book du jour published twice yearly by Carine Roitfield. The shop girl gives me the buyer’s business card and I exit. Noticing a piece of street art, I decide it’s time to head back.
Walking to the metro, I puff on my last Galoise when an old man gives me a very enthusiastic thumbs-up, complimenting my outfit in French. Smiling at him, I think, “I guess I found my target market.” Totally slacking on hydration, I proceed to binge on fresh fruits and study the thoughtfully glamorous lifestyle of Carine Roitfield, now very much liking my solitary terrace. I pick a cluster of blossoms from the overgrown vines, placing them into a handmade glass on the nightstand.
Night Five: Ouvert
“Why, tell me, if what you seek does not exist in any place,
Do you propose to travel there on foot?
The road your self must journey on lies in polishing the mirror of your heart.”
– The Walled Garden of Truth by Hakim Sanai.
After an evening of work-related correspondences, I decide to try my luck as the lone girl at the hotel bar. Making small talk, I nervously try the wine and the house champagne. The night air feels like spring. The night air feels like spring: electric and slightly humid, with palpable anticipation to it. I’m impressed by the look of a likeable press agent from Belgium whose clothes are divine, beautifully constructed from black wool. A rather friendly Swedish couple sit on the stools nearby and feel the textile of my vest.”It must be expensive to produce in New York,” the woman says.
“It is, but I work with some very talented people.” I say. We mostly talk fashion and I listen as she tells me about the European brands she likes to wear. I finish my third drink, a strawberry champagne concoction called Le Baron Deluxe. My head is spinning and I probably should not talk to strangers in a hotel bar in this state, so I go upstairs and pack. I realize I have a habit of maintaining barriers between others and myself, for notably good reasons I might add. Thankfully, I found a few folks with whom I was glad to share, and understood the value of my treasured gifts.