For anyone who knew me my Freshman Year of high school, it’s safe to say they never thought I’d end up working in the Fashion Industry. Though I’ve tried to delete most of the photographic evidence, an uncomfortable number of my friends are still in possession of serious blackmail material—I’m talking monochromatic pink outfits (complete with pink sequined high tops and an oversized pink bow), Hot Topic tutus, and a wide variety of unflatteringly colored tights. How I ended up winning “Best Dressed” in High School, I’ll never know.
Safe to say, it took me quite a while to find a style that truly felt like my own, and it’s still constantly evolving as I adjust to fit the city or season or mood that I’m in. My interest in fashion beyond my personal style blossomed my Senior Year of High School: I graduated a semester early and moved to NYC to intern with a fashion production company called AO Production. I worked with them on the Fall 2012 shows for designers Tibi and Carolina Herrera, with my tasks ranging from calling editors at Vogue to confirm Anna Wintour’s attendance, to bringing food and water to models on the verge of fainting. Even if I was just labeling seating charts for the shows, I felt like an integral part of the team and was absolutely enthralled by the world I’d been immersed into.
When New York Fashion Week was over and the company began to prepare for their next big show—Nina Ricci in Paris—I dreamed of what it would be like to go with them (literally, I dreamed about it for months). As cheesy as it sounds, I never expected that those dreams would turn into reality.
And never did I expect that my reality would land me here, in Paris, where the streets themselves function as runways for those sporting Chanel boots and Céline bags. But, as Paris Fashion Week approached this season, I emailed my boss on a spur of the moment decision and inquired about the possibilities of helping out with the Nina Ricci show. I was sure she already had help lined up, but I had to check. In some beautiful twist of fate, she responded that her usual Collection Coordinator was unable to work that season and that my help would definitely be useful. Magically, the dates that she needed me lined up perfectly with my Spring Break, and just like that, I was on board.
Fast forward two weeks and I’m walking up the gilded stairs of the Nina Ricci offices off of Avenue Montaigne, frantically checking that there are no pulls in my sweater or runs in my tights. Ready or not, my first day was a whirlwind of introductions, instructions, ogling the collection, and trying to pretend like I wasn’t ogling the collection. I was prepared to have a “The Devil Wears Prada” experience; I didn’t expect anyone to pay attention to me, least of all to learn my name. I couldn’t have pictured anything further from the truth—the entire Nina Ricci staff was warm and welcoming, generously encouraging me to practice my French with them and to feel like a part of the team. I felt at home immediately, and as the day wore on I began to get the hang of the flow there. Models would be ushered in and out for casting photos, much time would be spent waiting around and gossiping in Franglish with the stylists and designers, and eventually—hallelujah—we’d take a lunch break.
Since the homestay families for the Arts & Business program aren’t expected to provide meals during vacation time (although mine happily offered to), it was a serious bonus that food was taken care of for the week. And when I say taken care of, I mean taken care of. On my first day, the PR team and I hopped across the street from the Ricci offices to Cafe de la Mode, where I was treated to some wonderful people watching and a salad that cost the same as my food budget for the week. Seriously.
But the glory of that lunch break was short lived; as the show was fast approaching, all further meals were catered to the office (not that I’m complaining). It was hard not to laugh as we all crowded into the stairwell or cramped kitchen to refuel, preparing ourselves for yet another ten hours of work. After spending our days dressing and undressing models, you’d be surprised by how quickly we devoured the pizzas.
Though I’d been forewarned that the hours were long, I didn’t fully anticipate sleep deprivation’s capacity to effect me. Working between seventeen and twenty two hours a day for the entire week, it was honestly just my excitement to have an opportunity as incredible as this (and roughly ten cups of coffee) that was keeping me awake. The night (morning) before the show, I got home from work at five a.m. and took a two hour nap before heading back out to get everything set up at the tent in the Tuileries. It was a crazy day, to say the least.
While my Spring Break wasn’t spent exploring new countries or cultures like the rest of the people on my program, I couldn’t have asked for a better adventure. Being around such visionary and artistic minds—not to mention the celebrities and clothes—made for one of the most thrilling weeks of my life, and served as a reminder that the line between dreaming and reality is only what you make it.