“I am going to Paris to study fashion.” There aren’t many endeavors more romantic, more intimidating, for a young person to take on than this. The French capital is the attractive choice for someone wanting to break into fashion as it is one of the major hubs of the industry. Home to revered fashion brands, haute couture ateliers, artists, musicians, and other promising young talents, it’s easy to feel that at any given time, something amazing is happening somewhere in the city. Here, I present what it’s like to be a fashion student in Paris, not only the highlights, but also the complications, and the inevitable disappointments that comes with living in a big city.
During all four seasons of the year, the international fashion crowd flocks over to Paris for Fashion Week. Last September, despite living in Paris, I saw the looks the same way I saw it back in Manila: by checking the Vogue Runway coverage hours after the show. I realized that my chances of going to a défilé did not elevate significantly just because I was a few Métro stops away from the venue. But that was me being pessimist, hanging around my studio, and waiting for invites to come flying into my mailbox. Simply being in Paris, even as a fashion student, does not guarantee a free pass to the front row, but there are many opportunities present to those who seek them. One classmate scoured the web and spent the week assisting in Mary Kantrantzou’s showroom. Another one got to work at the Joseph showroom, scored from a bill posted at IFA, and actually met Louise Trotter.
That’s Paris. You never know who you’re going to meet, but nonetheless, networking becomes fruitful and interesting when you share a zip code with Carine Roitfeld or Simone Porte Jacquemus. However, it’s not all smooth sailing, at not all the time and definitely not the first few months. Paris is an expensive city and you must always know how to cut corners and up your hustle game to finish the month. A classmate from LA admired the efficiency of public transport but was frustrated with French bureaucracy. “I am not used to the slowness and the amount of paperwork this country requires to do anything,” she says.
Another concern raised was security. Since the recent years, Paris has seen an increase in doubtful elements hovering over the city and preying on tourists. As a foreign student, it’s quite easy to be a target for these people. “I don’t feel safe traveling at night,” one classmate said. Personally, my apartment was broken into, I was mugged, and harassed. “It gets better,” a fellow Filipina student said to me, “after a while, you get this attitude and people can tell that you’re not a tourist, that you’re from here. They would leave you alone.”
It’s true that Paris can be tough. But it’s only logical because so many people come here hoping to make it. The greatest artists and designers that the century has known honed their craft in this city – whether in the dingy hotel rooms of Montmatre, the Chanel atelier in Rue Cambon, or the stage of Palais Garnier. Paris offers so many chances for growth, education, and success. They say if you make it in New York, you can make it anywhere. But if you make it in Paris, you don’t have to make it anywhere else.