Did somebody at Disney HQ get wind of the fact that I'm a not-so-closet Disney fanatic? Indeed, did the Blue Fairy, Merryweather, Flora and Fauna and Fairy Godmother combined, decide to grant me my one true wish after weeks of fashion-show vaulting? Affirmative to both as I've just returned from a weekend of magic, courtesy of Disneyland Paris and the extended fun of their 20th year anniversary, a birthday I remember for all the wrong reasons.
Just under twenty years ago, aged 11, me and my family toddled off to Disneyland Paris, not long after it had opened, thinking that my Disney dreams would come true and then discovering that a sick baby sister, freezing cold weather and 45 minute queues at every ride made for a hellish holiday. I didn't even get to meet a Disney character.
I've more than made up for that holiday gaff with a weekend that was admittedly planned to perfection – a shameless perk of being "press". We were there to see Disneyland Paris play host to their first fashion show featuring Minnie Mouse' and Lanvin dress collaboration as well as some interpretations of Disney characters by eight designers from Europe, most notably Sister by Sibling from the UK. Whilst I was obviously there to wave the flag for London's madcap knittist trio, it was definitely an opportunity to soak up the world of Disney at its most saturated level. I am after all that annoying girl, who sings Colours of the Wind in the shower in cartoonish falsetto. I am that girlfriend who had to indoctrinate her boyfriend on all the Disney classics because he was brutally deprived as a child. I am that person, who sometimes sees animated bluebirds and rabbits popping up around mundane real life because it looks so much better in my head.
Therefore this post is a little bit out of turn although, I could make a vague fashion connection here, as you're assaulted by Technicolour pastels, surreal imagery and idealised brushstrokes, which have all definitely played their part in fashion inspiration (even if designers don't want to admit their sources‚Ä¶). As if by magic, a fashion student from Paris, who came up to me for a picture, was in the theme park doing a spot of sketching and research field work. No doubt her resulting collections will be right up my sartorial street.
A glimpse of Sleeping Beauty's Castle and I'm guaranteed to let out a squeal. A surprise package from Australian label Something Else contained a head to toe outfit of cloudy pastels, which was made for going loopy in It's a Small World and wandering around the candy-hued Fantasyland.
Disneyland isn't Disneyland without the staff doing their bit to prop up the dream from swashbuckling pirates (very Vivienne Westwood) and a Disney fairy godmother of sorts called Ilaria, who basically was our shadow for the weekend, taking us through secret paths and special entrances to skip the queues. Didn't I say there was a shameless perk to being "press"?
At the Disney Magic on Parade, I came face to face with my first childhood Disney fairy memory, as my parents invested in one solid Disney VHS of Sleeping Beauty and never bothered with any others until i was about 8 (bootleg Beauty and the Beast video was my 8th birthday pressie). I was always Flora and my sister pretended to be Merryweather. Fauna was deemed dull by both of us. I wasn't keen on hearing any "real" stories concerning the cast members who play the Disney characters but apparently Mary Poppins has to also be Ariel and Cinderella, sometimes all in one day. I pity her skin, having seen the caked on make-up but am in awe of her Disney heroine range.
What made meal times extra special other than the fact that Disneyland is big on buffets is that Disney characters are at the ready for photo opps. You're not even embarrassed to ask for multiple device pics. They've seen it all before.
The next day, I was having a Mickey/Minnie hybrid moment with those iconic hand gloves and some Minnie-esque polka dots from Meadham Kirchhoff. My Maison Michel ears were a mere nod to Mickey and Minnie whilst Steve also got in on the ear action with the real shebang. We were fired up to meet Mickey in his dapper tail coat ensemble. Steve and I even managed to get him to cover his right eye i-D style (where Steve works now). I got not one but two opportunities to pose it up with Mickey as we took to a special stage for a wee promenade before the fashion show. Come to think of it, Mickey seems to have an awful lot of outfit changes in a day. I'm assured that he never doubles up though, to avoid ruining the fantasy.
Then came the main event. An unlikely fashion show in an land, far far away from the rides and the hum drum of the theme park. Minnie took to the stage and introduced the designers, wearing a Lanvin creation, which was sculpted and bejewelled to perfection. Alber Elbaz remarked after the show that Minnie was a delight to fit but surprisingly short, even next to his relatively diminutive height.
Then came the eight designers from Europe, who were tasked to interpret a Disney character – a brief that I doubt few would turn down. Without *ahem* a hint of bias, I can safely say that UK representatives Sister by Sibling did us proud with their inspired ensemble, not of CInderella but her three mice friends Jack, Gus and Mary, who made that initial ball gown for Cinderella. Cozette McCreery, Joe Bates and Sid Bryan, felt an affinity with the mice but thankfully their fruits of labour didn't get torn up by evil stepsisters. They injected a bit of wit into 11:59 jumper (hand-embroidered by Laura Lees) and powder puff pom pom miniskirt, complete not with glass slippers but a pair of sparkly Katie Grand Hogans.
From the other parts of Europe Jean Paul Knott brought the apple from Snow White and the Seven Dwarves to structured life. Michalsky from Germany gave Cindrella a more conventional gown and Alexandre Terekhov from Russia ensured Alice wouldn't be late for her very important date. Luisa Beccaria from Italy had Jasmine from Aladdin in purple plisse and Custo Barcelona vamped Maleficent from Sleeping Beauty up in purple leather. Finally Phillip Treacy gave Peter Pan a new hat to don.
Disneyland Paris Hotel, where we were staying, is the sort of place with plush carpeted staircases and peach-hued velvet curtains. No wonder princesses aged 2 to 12 roam around in Disney Princess costumes. Never have I seen so much tulle, taffeta and organza floating about in one space. Therefore for our "ball" (gala dinner), I too donned a spot of tulle since Disney Princess costumes to go beyond aged 12 sizing.
Mo&Co. lilac faux fur jacket, Jonathan Saunders top, Lesya Paramonova tulle shirt dress, John Rocha culottes, Miista shoes, Christopher Kane purse, Comme des Garcons Tricot collar
No boring set menu or naff entertainment at the fun-fun-fun dinner. We got pastel cold soups in tubes, face-painting and of course, Disney characters in snazzy outfits, outdoing pretty much everyone in the room. Goofy was particularly into my lilac furriness.
To end the weekend, we had our spines tingled by a show that sums up what Disney means to me – that iconic shudder of anticipation when you hear those first notes of "When You Wish Upon a Star", the lilting perfect cadences of so many Disney songs accompanied by colour, jolliness and emotive gazes and early memories of understanding themes of love, death and life. Disney Dreams was premiered last year at Disneyland Paris in celebrate of their 20th anniversary and it's an all-singing, all-dancing, water n'fire 4-D mapped projection spectacle, which plays out at the Sleeping Beauty castle.
The show has gotten a 2013 uplift with two new scenes added in from the films Lion King and Brave,which debuted last night. We were also the first to don a set of Disney Light Ears. These Mickey ears that light up were an intrinsic part of the show as the lights were programmed to complement the sequences, syncing up in colour and beat. We were all instruments to the show for one special night, and the ears will be available to the public later on this summer to accompany the nightly show spectacular.
I dare any Disney naysayer to come away from this show and not be impressed because even a few hardened blokes around me were making "WOW" faces. Beyond the theme parks, the merchandise and the live action movie empire, Disney Dreams underlines what is at the heart of Disney for most people, which is the many many well-loved characters that are like childhood friends you've grown up with.