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Self Service: Malgosia Bela: The Beautiful Solipicism Of It All:PH: Katja RahlwesSelf Service: Malgosia Bela:The Beautiful Solipsicism Of It All PH: Katja Rahlwes

I shouldn't presume to speak for another culture, but it feels like when you work in fashion in Paris, you are forgiven a lot of things. Restaraunteurs put up with your party till 3am, strangers can read the label of your coat by cut alone (and treat you accordingly) and hotels...well they seem very willing to accept your natural penchant for unreasonable expectations. I say all this to explain how Paris can bring out the worst in you, but in a sense that behavior can be very pure too. For instance, I was at lunch at Costes today with a very earnest business acquaintance. I couldn't find him in the annoying maze of that place. Central courtyard or flanking corridors, where the hell had they deposited him? While searching I swerved into Catherine Malandrino having lunch with her husband. I got my start casting shows via Catherine Malandrino. Casting was not my great ambition in life (and will never be) but I did it on a lark. Catherine , who I understand a lot better now than I did then, can be very demanding. Discipline, drive, quality control and excellence I love and admire . But not dictates. So I went my way (very happily so) and her ship sailed on beautifully. There was a elegance to that so I think of her fondly, in retrospect . I thought she looked great at Costes. Very chic, but with a great spirit of eccentricity . Her reaction was characteristically dramatic. Her large eyes fluttered in disbelief, but the point of manners is to be impeccable about them so I smiled and waved and left it at that. Costes is very that. After I found my companion , a newly blonde Astrid Munoz drifted in . My associate made sure to wave to her while I cringed. I'm from the school of leaving the boldface types to lunch in peace. Astrid had impeccable manners and kinda geisha walked over to mwah-mwah my friend. Astrid was wearing those crazy shoes from that Dior couture show last summer. I thought, "Now here's a woman who commits" and said as much to her which made her laugh. Most women however, who try to walk in those shoes will want to have John Galliano commited. The waitress were a lot nicer after that tete a tete and I went all Warholian in my mind, thinking "Wow, Astrid must be really famous in France"

And just when you had abandoned hope for extravagant and... cavalier...yes that's the word, cavalier moments from glossy US Mags, comes this steaming hiss that a certain fashion bible has commissoned every major-blue chip-directional designer to come up with an avant-garde outfit for its upcoming issue. Let's say the outfits must be otherworldly and require superhuman effort on the creator's part. Imagine what Galliano is going to do with that challenge!

This week I've learnt that famous in France is its own thing. Later the same day, an agency owner gave me a stern lecture at Cafe Flore, outlining that "In Paris we don't care who else uses which girl. Each designer only cares about the girls they like. They don't give a damn if she did Marc Jacobs or every show in Milan. He likes her, he likes her and she's in!" Its true what he said, not only for runway shows, but for campaigns. ( Of course, 3 hours later one of his rivals alledged that my Flore' friend's agency makes no money and was up for sale with one of the bidders being Ford.) But Mr Flore is smart to celebrate the fact that in Paris there's less of a sense of casting by consensus and more the ideal of a total focus on a specific and individual vision. This smaller point led to his assertion that sameness was killing Milan and that after three solid seasons of immaculate collections,Balenciaga was now tiltting ahead as THE most directional line in all of fashion. But he was French and very happy to claim the power of agenda-setting for the home team. Somehow, though, his point had a bite to it. Balenciaga certainly flaunted some of its good Spanish bones this season and the big party ticket tonight is the McQueen which promises to be the super-extravanaga that is this designer's penchant. Maybe the world has become too modern for "direction" to only come from one city for more than one season at a time. So its off to try to sneak backstage, where I hopefully will get some more good hiss.There's some other good gossip looming on TI, stuff so rich, even I am a little frightened by it.All the wine and champagne is making people spill their enemies' inner most secrets and intrigues. As soon as I can stop running I can start posting what's been gathered. All I have to say, deep inside all the commited dressing up, the incessant drinking, posing, smoking , pouting and kissing and all the studied sang froid, is the true love of a good visual. Everything really is image no?

Taste is a dictatorship.


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