Paris fashion week opens… with slightly bigger models than usual

Paris fashion week began on Monday with all eyes as much on the models as on what they are wearing after two of fashion's biggest players banned ultra thin and underage models from their catwalks.

Paris fashion week opens... with slightly bigger models than usual
Photo: AFP

French fashion's two biggest players, LVMH and Kering, said this month that they were banning ultra thin and underage models from their catwalks.

The two companies — which between them control a raft of storied labels from Christian Dior and Louis Vuitton to Saint Laurent and Balenciaga — have vowed to use only models 16 and older from now on.

The girls must also be at least size 34 (size six in Britain, 0 in the US).

Models must also have a medical certificate proving they are not overly thin and in good health, in keeping with a French law passed in May.

Although the pledge by the two conglomerates, which dominate the global luxury brands market, came in time for fashion weeks in London, New York and Milan — which ends Monday –the sheer scale of Paris will show how much other labels follow suit.

“At the moment Paris is where the most shows are… and I was beginning to feel it was like the Wild West,” James Scully, the American casting director, told AFP in New York.

Scully spoke out about the way models were treated during Paris fashion week last February, when many had to wait hours in a stairwell to try out for a Balenciaga show.

“The main reason I did it was the influx of models that were too young to be doing this and the fact that they were so disposable,” Scully said.

“A lot of people really took notice.”

Models 'won't be messed around'

He said he was cheered by designers who do not work for either Kering or LVMH who also seem to have got the message.

“I did have a few people reach out, designers that were trying to keep that going,” Scully said.

But he said the “most important thing is having seen all the girls, they're not going to be messed around now.”

And he defended the use of Kaia Gerber, daughter of former supermodel Cindy Crawford, who became a star of the New York catwalk despite having only just turned 16.

“A girl like Kaia is already with the best agency in the world and has a mother who has been through this. She'll be very protected,” he said.

Saint Laurent's spring/summer show on Tuesday is likely to come in for particular scrutiny after an outcry in March over its use of very thin models in “porno chic” poses for an publicity campaign which drew the ire of France's advertising authority.

The ban on ultrathin models imposed by its parent company, LVMH, also extends to advertisements.


Paris exhibition celebrates 100 years of French Vogue

A new exhibition in Paris will tell the story of 100 years of French Vogue - from the post-war 'New Look' of Christian Dior through the sexual liberation of the 1960s to the dangling-cigarette waifs of the 2000s.

French Vogue celebrates 100 years
French Vogue celebrates 100 years. Photo: Thomas Olva/AFP

But as well as celebrating the magazine’s storied history, the exhibit comes at a time of turbulence for the publication.

Just last month, it was confirmed that its editor of 10 years, Emmanuelle Alt, was out and wouldn’t be replaced.

She was not alone.

Looking to cut costs, owner Conde Nast International has axed editors across Europe over the past year, and put international Vogue editions under the direct control of global editorial director, Anna Wintour, in New York.

New York-based Anna Wintour now has overall control of French Vogue. Photo by Christophe ARCHAMBAULT / AFP

Like much of the media industry, Vogue is struggling with tumbling sales and ad revenue in the digital era.

But the latest twist is also part of the endless push and pull between New York and Paris going back to its early days.

“The whole history of French Vogue is one of back-and-forth with Conde Nast in New York – growing more independent for a while, then being reined back in,” said Sylvie Lecallier, curator of the new exhibition, “Vogue Paris 1920-2020″, which opened this weekend after a year’s delay due to the pandemic.

The Paris edition was often the loftier, more bohemian sibling to its more hard-nosed New York version.

But it was also the hotbed in which much of 20th century style and womenhood came to be defined.

“Paris was the place to hunt out talent and content and bring it to New York,” said Lecallier.

The exhibition charts the evolution from art deco drawings of the 1920s through the erotic image-making of photographers like Helmut Newton in the 1960s and 1970s.

Its last peak was under editor Carine Roitfeld in the 2000s, who brought back a provocative Gallic identity by ridding the newsroom of foreign staff and becoming a fashion icon in her own right.

Her successor, Alt, was a quieter presence, though she still oversaw key moments including its first transgender cover star, Brazilian Valentina Sampaio, in 2017.

But internet culture has created “a perfect storm” for Vogue, says media expert Douglas McCabe of Enders Analysis.

“The first 80 years of Vogue’s life, it had the market to itself, it was the bible for fashion,” McCabe told AFP.

“But online today, there are so many other ways to get your information. Influencers, Instagram, YouTube — everyone’s a threat.”

In a world where new fashion trends can blow up around the world in seconds, it has become much harder for a monthly magazine to set the pace.

“It’s not that they can’t survive for another 100 years — but they will be differently sized,” McCabe said.

Vogue has tried to branch out into different areas, including events.

“I used to work for a magazine, and today I work for a brand,” Alt said on the eve of French Vogue’s 1,000th issue in 2019.

But the big money was always in print, and Vogue Paris sales are dropping steadily from 98,345 in 2017 to 81,962 to 2020, according to data site ACPM.

It is perhaps unsurprising that the new top job in Paris, redefined as “head of editorial content”, went to Eugenie Trochu, who was key to building the magazine’s online presence.

She declared herself “thrilled to be part of Vogue’s international transformation”.

For the curator of the exhibition, it is ironic timing.

“We had no idea it would end like this when we started work on the exhibition,” said Lecallier.

“Who knows where it will go from here.”

The exhibition Vogue Paris 1920-2020 is at the Palais Galliera in Paris’ 16th arrondissement. The gallery is open 10am to 6pm Tuesday to Sunday and is closed on Mondays. Tickets for the exhibition are €14 (€12 for concessions and under 18s go free) and must be reserved online in advance.