Take the Dries Van Noten show. It was held in the HÃ¿tel de Ville (City Hall) in central Paris, which has been municipally vital to the city since the mid-14th century. Paris Mayor Bertrand DelanoÃ« has his office there these days. But on March 3, a couple of the building's lusciously ornate rooms, accessed by an imposing stone stairwell, were a flurry of fashion-related activity. Hairstylists and makeup artists camped out in two of the vast salons.
To get backstage at some other shows (for brands like Rochas and Nina Ricci) taking place at 7 Place VendÃ¿me in the 1st arrondissement involved entering the building's side door... reachable through a courtyard between the square and the Rue Saint-HonorÃ©. After descending a narrow, steep stairwell, the basement is a massive, open space looking very much like a work in progress. (Picture the ceiling with bits hanging down.) Impressively and in stark contrast, there's a large safe door embedded in one wall, which makes the venue a rather atypical setting for a fashion show setup.
Meanwhile, a host of brands (including Lanvin and Valentino) opted to have their catwalks in Halle Freyssinet, in Paris' 13th arrondissement. It is a large, streamlined building built in 1927 by EugÃ¿ne Freyssinet, a French structural and civil engineer who was a pioneer of prestressed concrete. In the run-up to the shows there, one part of the warehouselike space was devoted to hairstylists and makeup artists.
As stark as the Halle Freyssinet is, the InterContinental Paris-Le Grand HÃ¿tel is -- as its name suggests -- grand. The sumptuous five-star hotel in the 9th arrondissement was the site of the Balmain show. There, backstage activities were relegated to an upstairs room.
A few fashion shows, for brands such as Yohji Yamamoto and Givenchy, were held at the LycÃ©e Carnot, in the 17th arrondissement. The rambling brick structure is home to a prestigious school, whose high-profile alumni reportedly include Jacques Chirac, Pascal Lamy and Guy MÃ¿quet. Models walk the runway there in a glass-covered courtyard. But the hair and makeup activity takes place elsewhere; it's tucked away in none other than classrooms -- replete with chalkboards. (Talk about a blast from the past.)
Covering behind-the-scenes beauty during the show season gives me a peek, if you will, of Paris' very own backstage.