Being back in Paris was amazing. I was coming off of three weeks in London, including fashion week and a lot of social adventurism. I was exhausted but still excited. I ‘hit the ground running’, as they say, after arriving on a much-delayed Eurostar (and getting a social media literacy lesson from the BBC), picked up my mail from my Paris bestie Eliza, just a bit too late to catch the first couple shows.
My first show wasn’t my best game, the sketches looked pale and weak. But the second show, Anrealage (below and above), was incredible. Black black clothing on models painted black, wearing weird helmets that looked like alien mega-brains. And spotlights would flash on the fabrics and reveal all these colours and patterns. It was very theatrical, technical and evocative. I was a bit stymied at first to how I would sketch it, but I was inspired so it worked out!
I happened to sit beside an editor and an illustrator for DASH magazine. So this was the other illustrator I had heard of at London Fashion Week! Her name is Megan. She has been doing this for one year with a kind of fearless confidence I don’t recall having at year one. Very open and friendly to me too, a sister in live runway sketching. We ended up having nearly similar schedules, attending most of the same shows. Her presence was an interesting aspect of the week. On one hand, when I see her work I see the way I used to draw, and feel amazed at how much I’ve changed. It’s fascinating to see how differently two artists can see the same show. And yet, we’re both at the same level of access. Eight years in and I’m not really that much further inside than I was at year one. And so I felt a bit stymied, too.
At Sharon Wauchob I stood beside a mirror. The girls had pressed flat hair and wore lots of lace and fur. I’d decided during that show that my tactic with Paper this week would be to take advantage of changing the background. Imagine having every colour of paper at your disposal, on the iPad it’s possible!
Then came a show called Aganovich. This show was incredibly easy to draw, with dramatic white collars and skirts swagged over the hip, over the arm, hands in pockets. Three quick takes:
Megan showed me how the shuttle bus works and we went over to Alexis Mabille. This was one of those shows in a series of salons, where the models walk very slowly. Somehow that seems more of a challenge than when the models are racing by.
I sat behind Megan who was chatting to all of the ladies. I can see her outgoing quality in her drawings, although I never remembered to watch her draw, or maybe it seems rude. Somehow I’m less talkative when I’m in the drawing mindset. I had a conversation with a friend who is a photographer earlier in the week, we were talking about competition, and how we would answer the question “is your field competitive”. They said they would say no, just to be politic, though of course they didn’t believe that, of course photography is competitive. For the drawing game, I would have to say yes, I think it is competitive. It’s good that other artists are there to push me harder. And I do want my portfolio to be the best, I have to try!
The Alexis Mabille girls wore ombre knit toques with eighties shoulder pads and lots of grey.
Every day Eliza got more mail for me, so I’d bring over some pastries for her and do my daily Snoopy dance.
A.F. Vandevorst was the most unusual show, an installation of several salons shrouded in plastic. We were given face masks and footwear covers on entering. In one room there was a live band playing, wearing all black, and getting painted with white paint.
Some of the models seemed to have been touched by the paint too, like this one’s ankles.
I did a watercolour too. Under the hot lights it dried fast. The beauty was very graphic with the black face masks, dramatic brows and centre parted hair. The clothes were wonderfully twisted versions of classic garments. This was a favourite show this season.
It was my second chance to attend an Issey Miyake show. The invitation was amazing – like a map of Paris, all folded up. I chose a look with a lot of colours… it took me almost the whole show to draw. Woops.
By now I think I had reached a saturation point. I had to take a break in the middle of fashion week to work on my column for the Globe Style Advisor. Once I came back it was more difficult to summon the same urgency. I was distracted by a bunch of other things – health, personal, work – and I was getting run down. I lost appetite for everything, becoming skinnier and bitchier by the day. 11 days is a long stretch for attending fashion shows, even with a break. And this portfolio doesn’t even include every show I attended.
These sketches are from agnes b. – and actually there is a spareness that the fatigue allows.
The last show I was able to summon heat and energy for was Valentin Yudashkin. Rich, rich Russian girls with flat-ironed hair. I just kept chanting under my breath – rich girls, rich girls, rich girls. And it worked, this one excellent sketch came out.
There’s this argument I was having inside of myself at this point that made that mantra more meaningful – whether I have to play the rich girl game. Holding out for prestige projects. As an independent artist, I have to make less glamorous choices, because I need to be able to pay my rent and support myself, plus fund my wanderlust and ambition. The game of appearances isn’t so easily played when you’re self-funded. The truth is, that I want to be recognized and have access. And I want it to be on the merit of my work, ideally! So how can I be snobby enough to impress the gatekeepers but accessible enough that I can afford to be that snobby? Is doing good work enough, or is the work not good enough yet? I don’t know, that’s what I’m trying to figure out.
I have to do everything I do for myself. I don’t have an agent or a boss. I have just a couple of advisors, and sometimes I seek advice. One of the best, who I was lucky to sit next to at the Masha Ma show (sketch above), is Professor Valerie Steele, who assured me that she’s a one woman show and I can be too. And to negotiate for myself and trust my own judgement. One thing I’ve realized about advice – where it comes from matters just as much as what it is.
By the last show, YDE, only a small but determined group of European fashion show attendees were left. Everyone’s face looked a little bit familiar. Megan sat by the door so she could run to the Eurostar right after – I found it admirable that she and I were both seeing this thing through to the very end, although by that point it felt quite #DGAFW. I felt like I was drawing in slow motion. This one redheaded model was especially vivid, I drew her in every outfit she wore. I was thinking, every time I draw an expressionless model mouth, it seems to smile slightly, why is that?