When all the fashion world's backstage: Roger Tredre goes behind the scenes at the fashion shows in Paris, where the couture sometimes plays second fiddle to the gossip and the feuds

IT IS supposed to be difficult to get backstage before a Paris fashion show. In truth, it is getting easier every season. The behind-the-scenes preparations, once sacred rituals attended by only a trusted core of people, have become just as much a part of the show as the catwalk itself.

Half an hour before the Chloe show at the spring ready-to-wear collections in Paris last week, the whole fashion world was milling around backstage. Karl Lagerfeld had returned to the house where he made his name in the Seventies, designing his first Chloe collection in nine years. And everyone wanted to be there, sharing the excitement.

Not that the models are always in a sharing mood. At Chloe, Naomi Campbell and Linda Evangelista cocooned themselves in a corner and glared at intruders. Campbell, the girl from Streatham, south London, was playing with a new accessory: a small dog that, unlike the paparazzi, had no interest whatsoever in watching her remove her clothes.

Many of the top models are brandishing small animals this season, usually Yorkies with names like Paco or Gribouille. Those models who cannot afford dogs have a tame man on a short leash, who rarely opens his mouth except to approve his paramour's make-up.

Even her fellow models were unwelcome in the Campbell corner. 'I'm not telling you anything ever again,' she said to one. 'Whatever I say to you goes straight in the papers the next day.'

Evangelista, meanwhile, was concentrating hard on her preparations. Karl Lagerfeld looked her over approvingly. 'She is the new Chloe,' he said. 'You know, Linda can be very aggressive, but there is another side of her that is soft and beautiful, and that is the Chloe side.'

All the designer's favourite models were backstage, happy to do their bit for the master (particularly when he pays them up to dollars 10,000 for a couple of hours' work). Lagerfeld likes to gossip with them, raising his black fan to his face when he has a particularly salacious piece of news to impart.

His favourite, according to those who know him, is Claudia Schiffer, the German Brigitte Bardot look-alike who cannot walk properly but looks heavenly. As Lagerfeld once put it: 'When you look like that, you don't have to walk. You can walk on clouds.'

A few nights later, I went backstage at Vivienne Westwood, who was showing in the Grand Hotel near the Opera. Lagerfeld has armies of people to do his bidding, so he can afford to do TV interviews and gossip with the models before his shows begin. Westwood, by contrast, still runs a very tight ship. Some of her team had paid their own way across the Channel, and many of the models were doing the show at cut-price rates.

Christie, from Stamford Hill, north London, was one of several models repaying a debt to Westwood. 'I gatecrashed her casting in London last year. I just turned up with no agent, and she took me on for London and then to Paris. She's marvellous. I only come to Paris to do Vivienne.'

Someone had opened bottles of champagne backstage, which soothed a few nerves. John Walford, veteran British producer, had lost count of the number of fashion shows he had organised for Westwood. 'Fifty, at least. Do I still get nervous? Feel my pulse]'

Westwood, he said, was a grade-one star. 'You should see her chatting with the models' mothers. She's got no airs and graces. She can be infuriating, but she's always inspirational. She works off gut reaction, but she also has a very strong intellect, and that makes a formidable combination.'

He was called away by a Westwood minion to sort out the next mini-crisis, pushing his way past Campbell and Kate Moss, the wafer-thin new British supermodel who has made a fortune by posing topless in a Calvin Klein advertising campaign.

Yasmin Le Bon was having her hair done and husband Simon was playing with their daughter, Amber. I asked him what he made of the fashion world. 'Well, it ain't rock'n'roll, is it?' Later, he cheered Yasmin every time she appeared on the catwalk, held up Amber and said: 'Wave to Mummy]'

Looking rather out of place backstage was Bertie Hope-Davies, at 64 the oldest model in Paris. 'I was being photographed by Mario Testino for Tatler, and he told me I was a natural. I suppose it makes a change from ordinary life.'

Westwood's clothes looked crazy but were really rather classic, I suggested. He seemed bemused. 'Well, you know, I don't really understand it. But I suppose that's what it's all about because that's what I've been told.'

The dressers checked through their rails over and over again, making sure everything was in position. The jewellery designer arranged and rearranged his precious collection of Perspex orchid accessories. The supermodels stretched their long limbs and checked their faces in the mirrors.

A fashionable 50 minutes late, the lights dimmed and Westwood's models stepped out. Backstage went frontstage, and the show was on the road.

(Photographs omitted)

Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Fashion

    Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

    £40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

    Guru Careers: Software Developer

    £35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

    SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

    £18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

    Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

    £25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

    Day In a Page

    Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

    Sun, sex and an anthropological study

    One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
    From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

    Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

    'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
    'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

    Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

    This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

    Songs from the bell jar

    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
    How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

    One man's day in high heels

    ...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
    The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

    King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

    The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

    End of the Aussie brain drain

    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
    Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

    Can meditation be bad for you?

    Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
    Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

    Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

    Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
    Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

    Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

    Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
    Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

    Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

    Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
    Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

    Join the tequila gold rush

    The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
    12 best statement wallpapers

    12 best statement wallpapers

    Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
    Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

    Paul Scholes column

    Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?