Paris Fashion Week Opens Under Tight Security

Soldiers at Dior - H 2016
Courtesy of Rhonda Richford

Smaller venues, tighter security and metal detectors at Jacquemus and Saint Laurent marked the opening day shows as Paris stays secure following a year of terror attacks.

PARIS — If someone is checking out your bag in Paris this season, it’s probably a security guard.

Bag checks and hand-held metal detectors when entering fashion season venues have become de rigeur with the increased security following a series of terror attacks in France over the last year and a half.

One curious jogger lingering outside of the Paule Ka show Tuesday was asked to leave by the machine gun-toting gendarmerie that have been stationed in the Jardin des Plantes park. 

There won't be any Gigi Hadid-style anitcs here.

The security forces are part of Operation Sentinelle, which has stationed soldiers across the city at major monuments, and CRS, the handgun-carrying riot police, have also been patrolling public events such as music and food festivals. Cement barriers have been erected in front of venues such as the Grand Palais, where Chanel will show next week.

While French lingerie brand Etam kicked off the week with their 100th birthday celebration with a splashy celebration atop the Pompidou Center, many smaller brands were held in obscure locations away from the official tents.

Coveted fashion week seats are sometimes declined because of a downsize in venue — and this season it may actually be true. Four official first day shows, including Paskal, Neher, Aalto and Y Project, were held in smaller venues in the Marais.

"These smaller spaces are more typical of men's week," noted one London-based editor of the less-populated menswear shows in January and June. "But it’s not feeling like there’s increased security, maybe even none [this season], but there’s a lot less chaos in the streets."
CHECKPOINT: Security check before Chanel's Haute Couture spring 2016 show during Paris Couture Week on Jan. 26, 2016 in Paris, France. (Photo: Peter White/Getty Images)

But while the hidden venues may add a feeling of exclusivity and safety, it’s still a main concern everyone is whispering about.

At Anthony Vacarello’s big Saint Laurent debut show Tuesday night, one editor noted that the Jewish holiday of Rosh Hashanah is next week, but she wasn’t sure if it would be safe to go to a synagogue. (Most Jewish sites across France are now guarded during services by gendarmerie.)

The general sentiment was that nowhere can be presumed safe, noting the recent bombing in New York’s Chelsea. "Hello, 23rd and Sixth," noted one editor, referring to the lone-wolf attack in the Chelsea neighborhood.

For the second season, the French federation didn’t publish show addresses in its guide or website; instead the top secret locations were on printed invitations with a matching photo ID required for entrance.

The fashion federation sent out a statement to editors noting that new security measures "might generate some constraints for the guests attending the shows."

But while organization officials wouldn’t comment on the specifics, they noted that security measures are "about the same as last season."

Still, Parisians have become used to the added security measures as the city has been on high alert since last January. "It’s the new normal," said one Paris-based street style and backstage photographer. "I'm used to seeing [the soldiers] now and, yes, there are more checks and lines, but it doesn’t change the excitement once you’re inside."

What might dampen the fashion week effect? Mayor Anne Hidalgo's plan to pedestrianize the Pompidou expressway were approved by the city council Monday. That means the road that used to Uber editors from the Palais de Tokyo to the Louvre is now permanently closed.