Where to start? Shall I watch Nicolas Ghesquiere’s show at the Frank Gehry-designed Foundation Louis Vuitton, or take in Dior at the Cour Carrée du Louvre? I don’t have an invite, but my browser will do.

Paris has drawn Fashion Month to a close. A month of anniversaries and farewells, where hemlines spoke of nostalgia and faces from fashions past trod old ground. A month where performance met with sensuality, from informing Rik Owens sartorial re-imagining of “The Afternoon of Faun,” to man-sized Orchids by artist Marc Quinn unfurling white petals and swollen stamen at Alexander McQueen – a month of folklore embroidery and frayed denim, quiet Woodstock landscapes and political protests on Boulevard Chanel. A month that, for the most part, and like many, I watched unfold in Twitter and Instagram.

Fashion shows happening miles away in fabric and flesh can be condensed and compressed into character limits jpegs and live streams. The collective thoughts of those in attendance informing how the show will be remembered; that colour, that feeling which prevailed more than most, immortalised in code and data. And from this digital archive, it is possible to imagine you too were present, and to write as though you are. Pixels and hash tags building up the physical landscape of a show when the physical body cannot be present, the limitation of not being able to see the thing you need/want to see in the flesh opening up other, investigative and rewarding paths. Following that Tumblr trail of breadcrumbs to find a song that clarifies a vision, a detail photographed and shared more than most; elements dissected that take on new relevance once isolated from the whole. The language of social media perhaps telling a different story to the one told in real time and the real world, sartorial Chinese whispers that may often stray from the intended truth, but can stray somewhere wonderful and strange, and worthy of review.

And so, in three mediums and three shows, this is Paris Fashion Week – as seen and written on an iPhone 4 (Thank you Notes, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube)

 

Jean Paul Gaultier Jean Paul Gaultier SS15

My first show, I visit Twitter and Jean Paul Gaultier RTW to say, not Goodbye, but farewell until Couture. #jeanpaulgaultier shows me a flurry of confetti, elegant wrestlers and fashions doppelgängers. A familiar pout under a familiar fold of hair, Luche Libre heroines with blue shadowed eyes under ornate masks and red lips cut into wide brim hats; a nod perhaps to identity and succession within this final show as all greats one day make way for new blood.
In words, ‘bowing out’, ‘paying tribute’ and ‘memories’ colour the show as one of bittersweet celebration. And with them, again and again, the same image of glittered rain and white teeth grins, the moment when there was nothing but celebration to be had. The best of Jean Paul Gaultier tied up in a Madonna bow and sent giddy down the catwalk one final time.

 

Givenchy SS15
Givenchy SS15

I find Givenchy on Video and Instagram. Clicking the top right hand corner and the moments unfrozen, but for just that – a moment, and then everything stops. The models final walk smeared across the screen, hazy and blurred, as though a mirror under running water reflecting a distorted world back to me, one where colours melt like bleeding wax and oil paint into one another, one I could fall into.
Buffered. Lurching back into play, my thoughts forever shaped by this stop start judder that gave pause for reflection. Models walk in front of house lights, creating a pulsating haze of clarity then burnt out brightness the camera focus struggles to make sense of; music pulsates with it, the percussion of human hands its constant accompaniment. Clothes are regal, the light making them appear faded and undone, strange relics from another time and place. Velvet blacks emerging from brightness to fade away back into their own velvet night, and embellishment, watery and twinkling, as though looking at shooting stars thousands of years away. Several seconds and it’s over. I press the camera icon again and again, falling back into this darkly enchanted world of bleeding wax and oil paint spill.

 


Hermès SS15Hermès SS15

The final day, the final show. I turn to YouTube and Julien Pujol.Strands of dark hair reflect caramel tones and white lights overhead, pushed behind shoulders to fall over dusky silks and billowing shirts. Behind, exposed brick shows scars of time, rippled and dipped as though sand underfoot. Close up shots betray the location and transport models to warmer climes, where they lay against sand dunes in first morning light, wearing alligator print and loose cotton in all shades of earth and  endless skies.
Within that quiet space, where time slowed and wavered and in the merging of before and after came not to matter, the simplicity and completeness of the collection was realised.

 

It is difficult to envision a future where social media will form opinion above first hand experience, where information drip fed from servers to smartphones could replace the theatre of fashion shows: that energy, that anticipation, that feeling of being present when the discovery is made. The way light catches iridescent thread and hemlines swim in movement with the body, and the way in which the body itself is free to move, the rustle of fabric, the intricacies of buttons and stitch, the precision of layering – details that perhaps can be lost in digital translation.

Yet if we didn’t have these platforms we might have nothing at all. Social media for all its faults has proved instrumental in democratising fashion, allowing the eventual, intended audience to be a part of the process.  From consumerism to conversation, collaborations between digital media and fashion offer up new brand experience away from the catwalk – Hunter and Graybo tailored live stream looks to local climes, while House of Holland and Metail allowed consumers to virtually try on the SS15 collection, gathering information on preferred looks before editors had time to put pen to paper. Considered steps into the digital world that offer new ways to be involved, to fall in love and form opinion, for those with browsers, not invites.

The emotion, the seduction, the jostling crowds and the spilt champagne, and the clothes – oh the clothes, in the flesh and achingly close. The drama of Fashion Week escapes you whilst drinking tea on your living room floor, and knowing it’s all over for everyone but you; yet, I found there was something freeing in this private discovery, in fitting together a jigsaw from pieces others have carved out for you.

Paris Fashion Week – All collages courtesy of Anna Sanders

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