I hope this email finds you well.
I know it’s been a while, but I just have a few things to say. I don’t want to offend you my dear, but after almost three centuries of inspiring, making the crowds dance, and sing, and drunk with a dangerous sense of greatness, you’re lost. For three centuries, you’ve not only been the incubator of the greatest fashion houses, you’ve been the cradle. Their hype man. So how come Paris in the 21st century does not echo the same reverence? Could your sister cities, more contemporary, but only half as pretty, steal the show?
17th century. Versailles. Louis XIV. Your legend started here. The madness of your king’s grandeur and his desire to assert his supremacy creates what we call today fashion. I mean all those “influencers” with their chai lattes and inflated bubble lips, and think that fashion is so different. But also, Louis XIV paraded with white leggings and wooden block heels, so maybe it’s not so different.
Rose Bertin and Charles Frederick Worth opened the field of possibilities to couturiers, who have become creators. They no longer execute the requests of their customers but imagine real worlds peopled with tall, slender giants in appliqued dresses as seen in the défilés.
Paris, you were haute couture. You were luxury. You were fashion. In the 19th century, the whole world would meet in the rue de la Paix, to discover and copy what the French capital had to offer. London, New York, and even Tokyo are hot on your heels but, they never equal you. Your child prodigies, Coco Chanel, Christian Dior, Yves Saint Laurent, and many others will only increase and accentuate your legitimacy. Their names are echoed in all corners of the world, and you are the punctuation.
But today is different. You are a bit tired, no? The makeup that used to cling to your features like a veil now creases on the wrinkles of your face. No one wears couture anymore. The democratization of fashion, “mass-produced” clothing, ready-to-wear have passed by. In contrast to haute couture, ready-to-wear is a question of industry and no longer of know-how. The economic crisis of 2008, which shook the economy, created this breach in which brands also had to reinvent themselves. Our way we understand fashion has changed, and so is the way we consume it. The 2017 ranking of the fashion capitals of Global Language Monitor is also without appeal: New York takes the first place. The bold American proves to be more innovative and seductive. Her young designers have imposed a new style, a new breath. Fashion does not come from above but from below. In the same vein, your critics cite your lack of originality, too shy or fearful to change your habits. Very franco-français, you would tell me. But come on, you made Gaultier, Margiela, Lacroix and all of their flamboyant theatricalities that everyone lived for. You are running a bit low on life lately. Low on youth. Show us something new.
Okay. J’abuse. You did try. You plucked Jacquemus from the young ones, you wrestled for the LVMH Prize for all your young fashion students breaking their backs on sewing machines night after night. I see you some nights, you know, in your warehouse parties thrown by your cool indie magazines.
Let’s face it, in the fashion big four, you were never the extravagant one. You are tradition. You are culture. You are unchallenged. The one everybody keeps coming back to. I always bet on you because you are sure value. Your past speaks for you. Of course, you keep the same dusty names on your table, but is this not your strength? Longevity, life expectancy? No other city guards fashion empires like you. Your reputation dominates and seduces all designers. Paris is Paris. You are still an institution. Nevertheless, a relationship requires give and take. Don’t be afraid of change, embrace it. Keep your soul, but show to your skeptics your brightness and how you can add fantasy to your universe. Welcome your new talents even if they’re different from your norm and let them stand tall in front of the world. You will only be more beautiful. You were the beginning, prove that you are still the one and only.
I have your back.
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