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Finding Paris

Zuzu Tadeushuk

This piece was commissioned and featured (in a modified form<<See here) by Vogue. com during Paris Fashion Week. See the original version below:

When you’re in Paris for work it’s often easy to disregard your setting and overlook all that the city offers— especially when your work happens to be fashion week. For fashion week, like a parrot, is a glittering, captivating creature of ever-shifting humors who demands all of your attention and most of your time. Fashion week keeps you up late with midnight fittings and wakes you up early with 6 am call times. Fashion week blisters your feet with extraordinary shoes and fries your hair with flatirons. Fashion week worries you and thrills you and disciplines you, swoops you up to giddy heights and drops you down at the end of a month feeling at once drained and exhilarated. But mostly drained. So why all the bother for a month of shows that leaves you wondering what hit you? Because not only are there practical rewards to be gained from a show season (like exposure and client relationships that may pay off in jobs down the road), but also a huge amount of insight and worldly experience to be gleaned from this month of madness.  Fashion week, and modeling in general, is a window into this most complex of world-wide industries, and provides a view not only of some of the most renowned artists of our modern era, but also of the culture we live in. It is for this view—the privilege of seeing these artists work and this culture evolve, of witnessing the most enchanting and absurd of characters, of experiencing society and experiencing the individual—for this I immerse myself in the frenzy of this month and pursue the unpredictable runway circuit. How’s that for living on the edge of your seat?

This job, however, isn’t entirely about change, and there are in fact some aspects of show season that for a model are quite predictable.

Five Mainstays of the Fashion Week Mechanism:

1. Castings— Sometimes a blast with a bunch of your best friends and other times long and uneventful, castings are the standard way to meet the high and mighty of the fashion industry and (hopefully) book jobs!

2. Fittings— Fittings and sleep deprivation go hand in hand, as fittings usually occur the night before a show and are no instantaneous process— no effort is spared nor detail neglected when the realization of a designer’s vision is at hand. Seams must be altered, shoes insoled, jewelry paired, bags stuffed and belts hole-punched. At the end of the night—sometimes with the first light of dawn— an abstract concept or sketch on paper has been given life. Quirky hours and sleep loss notwithstanding, I find fittings to be consistently wondrous things. 

3. Meeting Interesting People: As a model my itinerant job exposes me to quite a parade of characters, like the dresser at Isabel Marant a few days ago who assured me that dog walking was more lucrative than baby-sitting (not to mention dogs more managable than children); hadn’t I ever tried it?

4. Blistered Feet— Pediatric woe is an inevitable byproduct of show season. You may not imagine that shoes could actually create blisters in such short periods of contact (let alone blisters of such considerable size!), but once you try wearing a few new, cutting-edge (literally) pairs of shoes every day sans socks, you’ll quickly come to understand!

5. Wearing Interesting Clothes— As someone who reveres craftsmanship and beauty, it’s a thrill for me to be able to represent the brands I find myself regularly ogling through store windows. This black chiffon shirt belonged to my retro/punk outfit at Isabel Marant, and take my word for it: it looked much better in real life.

But amidst all this hubbub of work, it is important to occasionally pause and remind yourself that you are in fact standing a few hundred feet from the Eiffel Tower over there, or perhaps around the corner from the granite wonder that is Notre Dame. Because, though shows may change, and trends and tastes fluctuate from season to season, the one circumstance in all of Paris Fashion Week that never, ever alters, is Paris.

Five Ways to Appreciate Paris While in the Thick of Fashion Week:

1. Food: Start your day off like the Parisians— that is, with a delicious, not-exactly-nutritious breakfast. A fresh croissant, crispy on the outside, stretchy on the inside, is the holy marriage of butter and dough…and pairs lamentably well with a hot café creme.

2. Music: Get serenaded by a street musician— it’s not hard to arrange. On nearly every subway at nearly every hour throughout the day and city you can find singers, saxophonists, trumpeters…I even saw one guy playing a harp! When you hear La Vie en Rose warbled by solo trumpet in a near-empty metro car late at night, you can’t help but feel drawn into that magical, heart-warming romance Paris is so famous for.

3. Sweet Meetings: Grabbing hot chocolate with a friend is the best way to break up the stream of castings and remind yourself that in addition to a lot of other things, Paris happens to be capital of sugary treats! Especially when the hot chocolate you're grabbing is no less than “the best hot chocolate in Paris” (according to Coco Chanel), and as far as I can judge rich chocolaty things—which is pretty well— the best hot chocolate ever, at cafe Angelina. Thick as gravy and rich as Trump (but a good deal more palatable), it is just extravagant enough to make a rainy hour in a hectic day feel like a special occasion.

4. Wander the streets: My favorite part of Paris (besides the pastries, of course) is the architecture. If you have time enough to walk somewhere rather than take the metro, go for it— every alley is a feast for the eyes.

5. Get Inspired: Write a poem in a spare moment— it helps evoke the city's abounding literary past. Because it’s sometimes refreshing to shoo that fashion parrot from off your shoulder, and listen a little, taste a little, contribute a little to the indomitable essence of Paris. You see? Life on the edge need not always feel hectic— sometimes it can simply feel French.