This weekend I got yet another reminder of the accidental Parisienne I am. On Thursday a good friend tipped me off on a wonderful only-in-Paris-and-free-can-you-believe-it event. The Dior, Givenchy, Kenzo, Guerlain, Louis Vuitton workshops and haute couture salons all opened their doors to the public for two days over the weekend. These tours promised rare behind-the-scenes access to these iconic fashion houses and their historic locations. Even if I had the money I would probably never own a Louis Vuitton handbag or a Dior dress (well, maybe a Dior dress). However, the lure of seeing how these works of art are made seemed irresistible.
So on Saturday midmorning, off we went to the suburbs where the LV workshops are located. We felt pretty proud of ourselves for actually leaving the city and buying a metro card that took us out of Zone 1. It felt adventurous that the location of the workshops was off my Paris Moleskin map and that I had to draw a little map to get us there. We had a vague idea that we wouldn’t be the only ones to find this opportunity interesting, but figured this site was out-of-town and was less likely to be as popular as some of the other sites involved in the open day.
Oh dear, I hear you saying. Yes, the innocence of those not in the know. The worst part is that I had enough evidence to point to the inevitable conclusion. I had seen the daily, yes, daily queue of the legions of LV fans outside of the store on the Champs Elysees. I had seen the 41,604+ likes on the open day Facebook page. I read clearly (well, with the help of about 3 translation programmes) that all the free tickets for accessing the workshop had been taken. The website also said something like, “come along anyway, you might get lucky and get in”, or I think that’s what it said. And that’s what I chose to see. You can’t say I’m not an optomist.
I was in denial even when the security guard around the block from the entrance said the wait would be 3 hours. It was a beautiful, sunny autumn day and I’d learned that sometimes when they say 3 hours they didn’t really mean it. In this case he didn’t mean it, after about an hour waiting we heard that it would be another 4 hours, if we were lucky.
Needless to say we left Louis’s long queue when we heard this announcement. However, the other hopefuls, the true fans, were undeterred by this news. This group of diehards were interestingly mostly French and looked, well, kind of boring. They were not fashion-types in all-black. Nor were they LV fetishists, decked head-to-toe in the label and anxious to show anyone and everyone the famous interlocking LV they had tattooed across their butts. No, our fellow queuers were a group of nondescript, casually dressed people of mixed ages.
The closest our fellow queuers got to fanatic was the man who brought out a “look book” of all of LV bags he owned to share with the security guard. He leafed through the small glossy pages of amateur snaps stopping at the of one or two of his favourites: a yellow leather suitcase, a vintage trunk. I suspect he was trying to convince the guard of his allegiance and a possible promotion in the queue. It didn’t work.
Maybe the absence of the fashionistas, fetishists and other stereotypical fans was because they had gotten their act together, reserved tickets and thus, walked right past the want-to-be queue. However, if the want-to-bes were all Johnny-come-latelys like us, they would have left with us. And this crowd looked dug in. A group or two in front of us brought a picnic. The man behind had his Kindle. A rare chance to see behind the scenes of such an iconic place must focus minds. Maybe people who love excellent craftmanship and design come in all shapes and sizes. Of course they do, it’s only the ads for the products that suggest a certain lifestyle. I hope they did eventually see the no-doubt fascinating LV atelier.
After deserting, we nipped off to salvage the beautiful day and go to the Rodin Museum. We got there only to find out that Rodin’s queue was long too. Too long. So eventually we had some food in a cafe in the autumn sun and walked home along the Seine – by accident, another only-in-Paris-and-free-can-you-believe-it day.