As many of you know, I traveled to Paris for the month of July to participate in a Couture Techniques Workshop through the Paris American Academy. Clearly, I didn’t blog about it while I was there and now it feels almost impossible to sum up what a amazing experience it was! So I’m going to take a few posts to hit some of the highlights of my trip: Paris Fashion Week, hat making, shibori dying and felting, and finally, the culmination of the trip, my couture gown.
During our first few days in Paris, before I even was acclimated to the 9 hour time difference, we were thrown into working behind the scenes at Paris Fashion Week. Our group of students worked as “dressers”, dressing the models in haute couture gowns and garments, for 5 different shows: Galia Lahav, Georges Hobeika, Tony Ward, Alexandre Vauthier, and Zaid Nakad.
Dressing a model seems like a simple task, but it’s actually not that easy! First, you must not put any garments over the head–after hours in hair and make-up, that’s rule #1. Therefore, the [couture, handmade, crazy expensive with hundreds of hours of work] dresses have to be put on the ground and manipulated to create a “hole” so that the model can just step into them. Likely, they are wearing heels, so it’s critical that they don’t catch their Louboutins on the fragile fabric. Then, zip corsets, latch hook and eyes, button buttons, buckle belts, etc. etc., all in the smallest span of time imaginable. While everyone is sweaty and stressed out.
Above are some photos from behind the scenes at Galia Lahav, our first show. For this show, I only had to dress two models before the show, so there were no quick changes. In the photo below, I dressed the model in the mini-dress, as well as another not in the shot.
However, for the second show (Georges Hobeika), I had one model with two looks. How it works is this: after the model walks the runway in the first look, we have to change out her gown, buckled high heels and 6 pieces of jewelry in the span of 2 minutes for her next walk. It’s nuts! In the end, it was more like a wheel-change at a car race–we all descended on any model that walked back, stripped her down and suited up, ready to walk out again. My model was the gorgeous Mili from Serbia:
And miniature me next to her! Notice she was kind enough to scooch down to minimize the height difference 🙂
This purple gown, below, was Mili’s first look. Each garment was meticulously hand-beaded and just flat out gorgeous. Georges Hobeika’s work was amazing.
And the pile of shoes after the show.
The third show was Tony Ward and we had the opportunity to watch the walk-through before the show at the L’Oratoire de Louvre. Initially, the models walk the runway in just their heels (and whatever they walked in wearing), but we saw the wedding dress finale in full effect to check the lighting.
Gathering of models after the show, with some of us students (dressed in black) looking on:
Photo with one of the principal sewists–in my opinion, the stars of the show since they actually do all the fabulous work!
My model in her second look.
Georges Hobeika and Tony Ward were the same day, and at about 4-5 hours each, it was a long day!
Alexandre Vauthier was our 4th show and I didn’t take any photos of the garments (here is the Swarovski-encrusted garment I put on my model, though.) The picture, above, is inside the Grand Palais with a glimpse of the partial “Eiffel Tower” that Chanel used for their show. In some cases, designers don’t permit photos behind the scenes until after the show, but in this case, I didn’t take photos because it was outrageously hot in the Grand Palais and I was hungry and thirsty and on my feet for 5 hours. I wasn’t happy enough to document the event!
Zaid Nakad was our last show and I had three garment changes for one model. It was all kinds of crazy. The backstage area was tiny and the gowns were enormous, so it was a true task to get all the garments on and off 30 models in a timely manner. The first gown for my model must have weighed 40 pounds between the crinoline and the beaded dress–I could barely lift it! Here I am trying to hold up the crinoline (which was about 20 lbs by itself!):
Here the models are surrounding the designer, Zaid Nakad, below. His work was also brilliant and gorgeous.
Below is a photo of another model, doing what the models do quite a bit; taking a selfie. However, what is even more interesting in this picture is the pile of haute couture dresses on the left; after a dress comes off a model, there isn’t time to hang it up until after the show, so we just throw all the amazing, handmade, outrageously expensive dresses in a heap. That’s the final wedding dress on top. It’s staggering.