Security on High Alert at Paris Fashion Week

Soldiers at Dior - H 2016
Courtesy of Rhonda Richford

Military patrol outside major shows (Dior and Lanvin, included) as Paris is still under a state of emergency following the November terror attacks.

When invitations to Thursday’s Lanvin show arrived with an insert warning guests that the current state of emergency, a stopgap security measure that grants French police special powers, would lead to extra bag and ID checks at the entrance of the show, it was just the latest in a series of stepped-up security measures to impact fashion week.

The city has been under a terror alert since the dual attacks of last January and November, which killed 12 and 129 civilians, respectively. And while the protocol of bag checks and metal detectors was instituted during Haute Couture week last year, which fell just days after the Charlie Hebdo attacks, an increased military presence is very visible this week.

Several soldiers were patrolling in front of the Dior show on Friday, armed with automatic weapons, as were two jeeps and six soldiers outside Lanvin’s Thursday night show. They are just some of the 5,000 soldiers currently stationed in the city as part of Operation Sentinelle that have become commonplace patrolling in groups around major tourist areas such as the Eiffel Tower.

National CRS officers, the tough crowd control and riot police that carry handguns, also maintained a line outside of Wednesday’s H&M show.

The visible military presence shook up some fashion-week regulars. "It actually has the opposite effect for me," said street style photographer Brandie Raasch. "They’re meant to make us feel safe, but seeing these huge guns makes me feel more unsafe."

They’re certainly an intimidating sight, as they mingle in the crowds of attendees and wannabes alike.

ID checks have noticeably cut down on gatecrashers as PRs are becoming stricter about having a hard invite and matching name — none of the last minute switcheroo that has happened in past seasons. It was visible at Andrew Gn’s Friday evening show, where people trying to talk their way into the show with a colleague or friend’s name on the list were turned away quickly.

"It’s made it a bit more professional and calm, not to be disturbed by a circus of people clamoring to get in," said Anna Barr, editor-in-chief of London-based fashion magazine Eclectic.

Since the first round of attacks, the French Fashion Federation has noticeably removed locations from their website so as to deter crowds. Still, the scenes outside the bigger shows like Dior and Chanel continue to draw fans who are hoping for selfies with celebs or to get street-style shot themselves.

Security guards at Dior assured Pret-a-Reporter that the bag and hand-held metal detector checks were in line with the current Vigipirate protocol (France's national security alert system) that has been put in place by the government for a range of public spaces from museums to movie theaters, and largely extended to stores in popular areas, and not specific for fashion week.

Still some noted the bag checks are cursory, little more than opening the top and someone glancing inside. One show attendee on Thursday, who declined to give their name, said a friend was carrying pot in his bag at another event and the bag was not checked thoroughly. Or perhaps they just turned a blind eye, because while weed is illegal in France, "he ended up smoking it right inside [the venue] and no one said anything."

Photos courtesy of Rhonda Richford