Paris Street Style*

Paris Street Style.

(a ongoing relationship)

I guess it’s no secret that as street style has commodified over the past few years, the way it is both consumed and the way the publication industry has pushed it has forever changed. And if you read that sentence carefully, you might have noticed two things: that I’m placing responsibility on the publication industry, not the fashion industry, and that I’ve made its importance secondary to consumption. I love shooting on the street, that for me has not, and perhaps will never change. I also believe that Paris street style is at the zenith of all Westernised street style in terms of what you’ll find, especially during fashion week.

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paris street style - katya ledneva
paris street style - elena perminova

When I started out a few years ago, street style was a two-fold concept; on one hand you had photographers seeking out and stopping fashionable people on the street and taking portraits of them, and on the other, a growing legion of girls with some amount of capital showcasing their closets through blogs and the photo talents of their parents and boyfriends. Pure street style on one side of fence, personal fashion style on the other. I guess one was less pure than the other, but publishing platforms looked at the readership numbers of the personal style blogs and found ways to commodify that, paying hundreds or thousands of bloggers to push their content. Meanwhile, fashion magazines figured out they’d be more efficient going the other way, handing out exclusive commissions to fewer photographers to handle the photo loads for them over entire weeks or seasons. Whats interesting here is that the amount of money being exchanged through these two avenues had little to do with the fashion industry itself. That is, until fashion brands saw the funnelling of street style into singular avenues, and realised it would behoove them to perhaps dress their bloggers and notables during fashion week. So in reality:

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paris street style - celine bag
paris street style - leather jacket
paris street style
paris street style - keith morrison, julien boudet, victor jones, manuel pallhuber

A brand pays a blogger to wear their clothes to a show. I photograph the blogger at the show. A publisher pays for the photo. Thousands of people see the photo. A few of them by the merchandise. In the perfect world, everyone from the top down is paid. This is street style in 2015. The publishers drive the content and make it worth something, otherwise labels would never pay bloggers to wear clothes.

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paris street style - orange kenzo
paris street style - mother and daughter

In a way, this is why I love going to London Fashion Week so much, and why many photographers hate it—it’s still the Wild West in some capacity; the venues are still overrun with people who haven’t been paid to wear clothes, but who still try very very hard to dress up and get photographed. Five years ago, those photos were worth something in the currency of creativity and inspiration. Today, they are worth substantially less, if anything at all, because it’s not what international magazines want.

What you’ll find in terms of Paris street style is a stark contrast to London. Paris takes itself very seriously on these matters, and it does not mess around. At the Valentino show, so many women wear Valentino; so many women can afford to wear their own Valentino. There’s generally more space to photograph, more places to go… and weather that is generally agreeable during the peak fashion times of the year. There are more photographers shooting street style outside the shows than there are inside on the runway, each of them shooting with their own ideas of glory or hopes of being the next Tommy Ton or Adam Katz Sinding. I mentioned the Wild West, but really, street style during fashion month has become the new gold rush—every photographer abandons reality in hopes of striking rich. Mouths foam at the idea of arriving in Paris to capture the very best.

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paris street style - anna dello russo

I suppose that Paris street style does the opposite for me these days. It remains the very best, and I am the most focused when I’m here. And after travelling from city to city and pressing my shutter thousands of times over the course of three or four weeks, I realise how humbling it can be. If you arrive wanting to jump in on the gold rush, there is a small, finite number of people you will need to find. If you simply do it for the love, or for the desire of being the best at the craft, your aspirations must be different. There isn’t much space to hedge.

paris street style 2
paris street style - models off duty
paris street style - keith morrison