Back in July-August, you may recall I did a spot of guest blogging for Galeries Lafayette to create their La Modes C'est Vous microsite where the capitals of fashion – New York, London, Milan and Paris were represented. The final fruition of this was a big extravaganza event in Paris where over 700 people chosen through the site were invited to come representing the style of one particular city and walk a red carpeted runway that was erected just outside the Opera building to break the record of
I'll show no fear of potentially getting bollocked for this but in my head, I did think it would be cheesy as hell. I arrived at the rehearsals at Bourse that day where there was an army of make-up and hair artists liberally dousing the participants with eye shadow and hairspray, confirming my petty fears of naffness.
Then I started walking around with my camera and ended up hanging around there for an hour or two. I was struck by the effort, the array of styles and the diversity of people that had shown up, shrieking with excitement in the cases of the younger ones. It dawned on me how misplaced my initial fears/jibes were and I did feel slightly ashamed. Yes, it was a bit cheesy. Yes, it was silly. The event wasn't for my pompous little eyes though. These people were genuinely psyched to participate in a runway show and they had expressed their style with maximum effort. For some, it was about expressing their particular sub cultural style preferences – neon goth? toy punk? – correct me on the specifics. Some had created a specific costume for the event and had even practised a routine for the walk. Some came as they were, and as they were was inspiring for me, as I rarely get to see a real variety and plethora in Parisian style. There were a few lone "characters" who I got really fascinated with – the guy in the cable knit jumper and the purple kilt who didn't crack one single smile, a family who had turned up looking like a 90s Benetton window display, a teensy tiny man in a silver dinner jacket who danced down the runway with a walking stick. Above all, you saw diversity in race, age and sometimes size, something that wasn't a political correctness box to tick by Galeries Lafayette seeing as the participants were picked by public vote.
You're probably wondering why I'm randomly dwelling on an event that happened back in September, that in the scheme of FASHION doesn't bear much consequence at all. It did make me think about the times when the scheme of FASHION didn't matter so much. When the most important thing to me was that fun and expressive element of personal style. I got a little angry at myself for even judging the whole affair as 'naff'. In the six years of blogging, slowly being integrated into the fashion industry and working within its structure, whilst being silently annoyed by its hypocrisies and misgivings has been a strange experience. People often ask me about the blog's tagline of being an "outsider of fashion" when clearly I'm not, but at a tented show of 700 people or in amongst a crowd of champagne and canapes, you can still feel like an isolated fraud and being on the periphery and looking in can be disconcerting.
I don't often vent/rant anymore because I haven't figured out how to action change after the venting/ranting. The industry's love of token diversity in race and size, its fetishisation of youth (something Tavi so eloquently called out), its love of latching on to the digital bandwagon without really thinking about what that actually means, the single-minded promotion of certain designers above others and the constant 'glossing' over of details and specifics – pointing that all out doesn't serve any real purpose. And that's only half the niggles that I have. I'm painting a bleak picture here because clearly I enjoy embracing everything that is good, exciting, silly, fun and awesome in the industry.
What I'm saying however, is that I have to check myself constantly and events like this did surprisingly make me do just that. I rewound and thought about WHY I started Style Bubble in the first place. I reminisced about those early years of discovering and experimenting and holding on to that will be the challenge.
On a lighter and less dramatic note, the winner that I chose to come to Paris from London to also partake in the show turned out to be really lovely. Alice Price-Styles is a hip hop obsessed and works at Mixcloud and she did a fine job of walking the walk…