PARIS — Gloom and defiance reigned among members of the French fashion industry on Friday, two days after the terrorist attack on satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo that killed 12 people on Wednesday.
In a dramatic development, the suspects in the massacre, two French brothers with close links to Islamist movements, were killed in a battle with an elite special operations unit of the French armed forces, according to local media reports.
This story first appeared in the January 9, 2015 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
Said Kouachi and Cherif Kouachi, both in their 30s, had been holed up with a hostage in a printing press north of Paris and said they were ready to die as martyrs. The hostage escaped unscathed.
The country’s eyes were riveted on the Internet as the story unfolded, while another drama took place across town.
Police stormed a kosher grocery store in the city’s Vincennes neighborhood, where a man suspected in the shooting of a policewoman in Paris on Thursday, himself linked to the Kouachis, had taken hostages.
The gunman, who had threatened to murder hostages if the brothers were harmed, was killed. The standoff left four other people dead.
A third suspect in the Charlie Hebdo killings had already surrendered to police and a total of nine people have been arrested in connection with the murders.
As the surreal scenes unfolded, security was maintained at the highest levels across the Paris region, including at department stores, airports and other public venues.
Designers and fashion titans alike have taken to social media to express their solidarity with journalists and uphold the principle of freedom of speech.
“Freedom of expression is sacred. Stand united!” François-Henri Pinault, Kering’s chairman and chief executive officer, declared on the French firm’s Instagram, Twitter and Facebook accounts.
Riccardo Tisci, Carine Roitfeld and Kris Van Assche were among those who posted a quote by 18th century French philosopher Voltaire: “I do not agree with what you have to say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it.”
Van Assche, who has his own label and is the creative director of Dior Homme, told WWD: “Freedom of expression is a core value of our civilization and is central to any kind of creation, from comics to fashion. Beyond the horror and the shock of [Wednesday’s] dreadful news, freedom is at stake. As a citizen, as well as a creative director, I shall stand for it.”
Jean Paul Gaultier and his team posed for a group picture holding signs bearing the “Je suis Charlie” (“I am Charlie”) slogan that has swept across social media and become the nation’s unofficial rallying cry in the wake of the attack. Maxime Simoëns and Julien David published variations of the black, white and gray logo.
“It’s horrible. I’ve been physically sick since [Wednesday],” said a rueful Karl Lagerfeld. “I think it’s very bad for the image of Paris, though I’m very much against French bashing.”
He noted that his collaborator, Lady Amanda Harlech, was blocked for 90 minutes at the Gare du Nord, where the Eurostar alights from London, because of heightened security — a bad omen for the upcoming round of shows.
“Perhaps we all do like Galliano and do something else,” he mused, alluding to the fact that John Galliano is slated to make his couture comeback at the helm of Maison Martin Margiela in London on Monday, rather than in Paris, despite strict rules governing high fashion that require new designs to be unveiled in the French capital.
Lagerfeld said government officials must address the fact that Paris is seen as an increasingly dangerous place. “Tourists might not like it,” he said.
A fan of satirical cartoons, and a contributor of politically charged sketches to newspapers including Germany’s Frankfurter Allgemeine, Lagerfeld bemoaned the deaths of Charlie Hebdo’s acclaimed French cartoonists Cabu (Jean Cabut), Georges Wolinski, Charb (Stéphane Charbonnier) and Tignous (Bernard Verlhac).
“They were very gifted people they killed,” Lagerfeld said. “Cabu, he was incredible.”
Olivier Rousteing, who has more than 900,000 followers on Instagram, is urging his followers to express themselves, insisting that, “all good art is political.”
Among images he uploaded was “Liberty Leading the People,” a painting by Eugène Delacroix commemorating the July Revolution of 1830, and France’s tricolor with a splatter of blood representing the red stripe. His caption for the latter: “No words to describe the pain.”
“As a French person, I was not expecting this in my country. It’s a really scary situation,” he said. “I would never want to see my country divided by extremism.”
He lamented that Paris’ reputation as the dreamy, romantic City of Light may be tarnished. “Today, there are some fears and a lot of sadness, but at the same time this tragedy has united people around the importance of being able to express yourself freely.
“I’m a French citizen. I love my country, and I never would want to see my countrymen afraid to express themselves. I am proud to see my fellow citizens affirm this basic right and happy to join with them,” he added.
The terror strike also puts into context the typical worries of designers preparing for the shows in March.
“It really puts your feet on the ground,” he said. “You realize fashion is a beautiful bubble in the world.”
Later this month, Paris will host the twice-yearly couture and men’s wear shows and Stéphane Wargnier, executive president of the Fédération Française de la Couture, du Prêt-à-Porter des Couturiers et des Créateurs de Mode, noted that it was likely that security would be reinforced at the entrance to the respective venues.
“The best response to…these disgusting murders is international solidarity and the determination to show that life must go on and that these mad men’s actions will have no further impact,” he said.
“As you know, the French authorities have raised the terror threat level to the highest level. We are in constant touch with the authorities,” said Wargnier, adding that the federation has not received any orders to take specific security measures.
“This is up to the [fashion] houses to decide, and they will not shout it from the rooftops,” he observed.
The two main production companies charged with the shows’ organization, Bureau Betak and Villa Eugenie, could not be reached for comment.
Thursday, a day of mourning in France, was full of reflection for many, as parliament, public transport, schools, supermarkets and offices nationwide came to a standstill at midday for a minute of silence in memory of the victims. Pinault, for one, gathered with all staff at Kering’s Avenue Hoche headquarters for the silent vigil.
At 8 p.m., the lights of the Eiffel Tower were switched off for one minute as a mark of respect.
Sirens could be heard across Paris as rain pelted shoppers out taking advantage of the semiannual sales campaign amid a heightened police presence. However, major department stores including Galeries Lafayette and Le Bon Marché reported that foot traffic was stable versus the same period last year.
Despite concerns over the potential threat of more violence, the CAC 40 rose steeply Thursday on expectations of economic stimulus in Europe and oil price stabilization. Europe’s markets were all down in trading on Friday morning, as an unexpected fall in Germany’s industrial production in November affected investor sentiment.
On Wednesday night, Pierre Bergé, Inès de la Fressange and Felipe Oliveira Baptista were among the 35,000 people who gathered spontaneously on Place de la République in Paris for a candlelit vigil.
De la Fressange said she went with her daughters, Nine and Violette, overcoming her initial misgivings about security.
The fashion icon and Roger Vivier brand ambassador noted that her partner, Denis Olivennes, is head of the French magazine publisher Lagardère Active, and they knew Georges Wolinski and his daughter Elsa Wolinski, a journalist at Point de Vue magazine.
“The whole family was in shock. We felt we had to do something — it was hard to just stay at home,” she said. “It was a calm and respectful crowd. From time to time, people shouted, ‘Charlie, Charlie’ or clapped.”
De la Fressange, who once served as the model for a bust of Marianne, the symbol of the French Republic, said she was concerned that media commentary on the attack would foster a backlash against the country’s Muslim community, the largest in Europe at around 6 million people.
“France’s identity is to live together and live well. That is what constitutes the wealth of this country. In terms of fashion, which is the standard-bearer of France worldwide, it is made by people like Alber Elbaz, who is Israeli, or Karl Lagerfeld, who is German. It was made by Yves Saint Laurent, who came from Oran [in Algeria.] And that’s what makes it great,” she insisted.
De la Fressange added wryly that the terrorists had propelled Charlie Hebdo to worldwide fame. The struggling weekly, which was on the brink of bankruptcy, is gearing up to print a million copies next week, up from its usual circulation of 60,000, with other media pledging their help. Work on the issue begins today.
“They could have attacked Islamophobes like the French extreme right parties, for example. Instead, they attacked tolerance and humor — everything that symbolizes non-totalitarian countries,” she said.
Media groups Radio France, Le Monde and France Télévisions issued a joint statement promising logistical support for the remaining Charlie Hebdo editorial staff, an initiative that rapidly garnered the support of other major publishing groups, which were due to gather on Thursday to work out the details.
Bergé, co-owner of Le Monde with Matthieu Pigasse and Xavier Niel, said it was essential for the whole country to rally behind freedom of speech.
“As a citizen, I am profoundly shocked, and as a democrat, profoundly shaken since it is an attack on democracy. It is an attack on freedom, and freedom of the press is essential, no matter what kind of press, or what sort of criticism it levels,” he said.
“I know that caricatures can be very harsh, because I have been their target on occasion, so I know it’s not easy, but you must accept them because that is freedom of the press. We must glorify the spirit of Voltaire in France,” he said.
“It is obvious that Le Monde cannot remain indifferent and that this newspaper, which is at the forefront of democracy and which is the biggest French newspaper, has to stand unequivocally with the Charlie Hebdo staff,” Bergé said.
The longtime business partner of Saint Laurent also said it was important to avoid a backlash against Muslims who do not support religious extremism, even as local media reported gun and grenade attacks on mosques and Muslim places of worship in several French cities. Nobody was injured in the incidents.
“What happened is absolutely vile, but it’s important not to confuse things. We must not tar everyone with the same brush,” said Bergé, who has had holiday homes in Morocco since the Sixties.
Baptista, the creative director of Lacoste, returned from the rally to post several sketches on his Instagram feed, one reading: “Why?” “When I came back, I drew almost all night long,” he said. “There are no words to describe what happened. I am devastated.”
Images of the gathering on Place de la République spread across borders, appearing on the Instagram feeds of Natalie Massenet, Leandra Medine and Mario Sorrenti, among others.
“The pen is mightier than the sword #Freedomofspeech #JeSuisCharlie,” Sorrenti wrote alongside a photo of a demonstrator symbolically brandishing a pen.
Most French newspapers draped their front pages in black on Thursday in memory of their murdered colleagues.
Libération’s full-page headline read “Nous Sommes Tous Charlie” (“We Are All Charlie”), and the entire issue was dedicated to the tragedy. Le Figaro switched its logo background color from blue to black. Fashion magazines also mourned the attack.
“The heavy toll that the Charlie Hebdo team has taken reminds us that to express one’s opinion is an essential value,” Xavier Romatet, president of Condé Nast France, said in a joint statement with the seven editors of the group’s publications, including Vogue, Vanity Fair, Glamour and GQ, whose Web sites also carried tributes to Charlie Hebdo. “More than ever we have to defend it, without giving in,” Romatet insisted.
Elle.fr and parismatch.com, published by Lagardère Active, switched to black backgrounds on their homepages.
“Lagardère Active brings its support to Charlie Hebdo teams and joins the victims’ families’ grief,” Olivennes, chairman and ceo of the group, said. “No action, as appalling as it is, can prevent the press from exercising its freedom.” Wolinski and Cabu contributed to Lagardère titles.
Elle France posted a photo of its staff on its Web site holding “I Am Charlie” signs.
“We are all shocked. Our photo team did this ‘tribute wall’ with all the visuals of support they gathered from social networks,” Elle editorial director Françoise-Marie Santucci said. This week’s Elle issue, which hit newsstands today, isn’t dedicated to the attack as the issue was already closed.
“We are advancing the publication date of next week’s issue from Friday to Wednesday. We’ll have contributions from designers, actresses, artists, writers and so forth. A women’s magazine has to report the news. It’s our role as citizens and as women,” she said.
Santucci rubbed shoulders with Charlie Hebdo’s staff during her stint at daily newspaper Libération, which hosted the editorial team in its offices when Charlie Hebdo’s headquarters were firebombed after it ran a caricature of the prophet Muhammad in 2011.
In the coming days, Libération will once again provide a temporary home for the Charlie Hebdo staffers, who revealed they plan to pull together a “survivors’ issue” of eight pages, versus the usual 16.
Since the attack, the weekly has received multiple offers of financial assistance, subscriptions or material support. Meanwhile, dozens of copies of this week’s issue, which sold out within hours of the attack, are appearing for sale on eBay.