PARIS — Paris Fashion Week feels bigger, busier and buzzier than ever.
With K-pop stars taking over front rows — and the throngs of fans that follow flocking to the streets — plus guerrilla invitations geared toward the general public, fashion week is drawing larger crowds each season. Add a national strike called for the final day that aims to “shut down the country,” and organizers are facing unique planning challenges this season.
The sheer scale of the nine-day event firmly establishes Paris as the predominant fashion week, said Emmanuel Heimann, managing director of event planning firm La Mode en Images, which is handling more than 20 shows. “The Paris of today is definitely the capital, the main fashion hub. You can see just by how busy the week is. Post-COVID-19, brands went big again.”
While some smaller labels are being cautious in the current economy, the big shows are getting bigger, according to planners, in terms of both size and budget. They’re looking for social media impact and exposure, bringing in more guests, global press, influencers and celebrities. That adds more coordination challenges, even with months of planning.
“There’s a lot of logistics in terms of security, not just for guests and VIPs,” said Jun Nguyen, partner and project director of Eyesight Group, which is handling eight shows during fashion week. They were behind KidSuper’s men’s fashion week show when the brand plastered the city with posters, drawing a huge crowd outside the venue.
Planners said that once they realized the scale of the event, they added extra security, and that while they discourage the public posting of information, ultimately the brands decide on the invite approach and they adapt.
“There’s a lot of communication and coordination with the brand. We’re not going to invent some numbers, and for fans or an open event, the press department can only guess how many people it will bring. We adapt the security, number of agents and the set up around the building based on the numbers they share with us,” Nguyen said.
Production companies start planning shows six months ahead and refine the security protocol roughly a month out. They must submit a security and logistics plan to the police department at least two weeks ahead in order to obtain authorization for the event, which sometimes also includes traffic flow and VIP drop-off plans.
They emphasize that precision is key and remain in contact with a point person at the police department as plans and guest lists can ebb and flow daily.
The Fédération de la Haute Couture et de la Mode emphasizes they no longer publish locations and also discourage the public posting of information, but noted they have limited control over what brands decide to do. The fashion week organizers also alert the police department of shows that might bring in big crowds and run interference with the mayor’s office, which is “very against these ‘events in the wild,’” said Nicolas Delarue, communications consultant for the Fédération de la Haute Couture et de la Mode.
“It can become dangerous, and this is why we don’t encourage it,” he added.
The Jean Paul Gaultier and Kenzo shows were others where official guests reported being unable to push through crowds until ushered through by brand representatives. This makes having senior staff who know the guests personally all the more important, Delarue added.
But for all the secrecy, TikTok has let the proverbial communication cat out of the bag. Locations, guest lists and call sheets are shared on social channels. “Even for the houses, it’s very difficult to control. You have such a big team involved so the rumor is getting spread, especially when you have K-pop stars or these kinds of big stars arriving,” Delarue said.
“The Korean artists are huge on TikTok, and when you invite them, the fans will follow. So if you want to sell to a younger crowd, you will invite a K-pop or American rapper and they will bring a crowd for sure,” Nguyen said.
Planners said they also keep an eye on social media to track who is coming and the buzz around a show, and keep in close contact with the police department.
“We need to adapt every day, every single second on an event or show when there are so many people involved,” Nguyen added. “Every time we have new intel, we share it with that [point] person, and he is sharing what we would have to do to adapt.” They are particularly sensitive to blocking traffic or access to other private buildings.
Security for the larger shows can be 100 to 150 guards per event, and paid double wages on nights and weekends, but the brands add the cost as part of their strategy. “It’s part of the communication of a brand to have a crowd waiting outside. It’s good for their image. And it’s our job to keep things under control and on time,” Nguyen said.
“It’s always something that we keep in mind for sure, because there are more and more celebrities and visibility on the shows. It’s just a question of coordination between all people involved in the project. Our role is basically to be at the center in order to make sure the information is clear to everyone and that everyone knows what they have to do,” Heimann added.
They keep in mind arrivals, how guests move through a crowd as well as how things will be shared on social media. “It’s part of our job to imagine the path of all the guests during the full event, and it’s through the brand that we get all the information from the PR team, on how they want their clients to be welcomed,” he said. But ultimately, the shows should focus on the clothes and not the chaos outside.
This season will have the added stress of a national strike slated for March 7, the day that will see Chanel and Miu Miu close out the calendar.
The Fédération is working with the police department to get the itinerary of the planned march, street closures and anticipate any possible bottlenecks around the venues. Ujoh changed its venue when the strike was announced to make transport between other shows easier.
The Fédération said it remains in constant contact with the police department, and expects to have the final plan a day or two before the strike. They will transmit the maps to the impacted brands and advise on access points or alternative approach routes to the venues so they can notify their guests.
They’ve also added a second shuttle to carry accredited guests between official events as public transport is expected to be closed.
“We give the houses as much information as possible to make sure that their guests can arrive safely,” Delarue said.
“It’s all about anticipation, and of course being able to calculate in terms of accessibility for the crowd,” added La Mode en Images’ Heimann. “Let’s say, we don’t expect, but we anticipate everything that could happen.”