Sofia Coppola has one of those faces where you don’t know when the sneer begins and the shy girl starts, and right now, inside the Galeries nationales du Grand Palais in Paris, I can only flip a coin to tell the diff.
Reporters babble like extras in The Marriage of Figaro and the cameras make like flies as the famous daughter-director tries to get to her seat at the early-morning Chanel fashion show.
“Excuse me. What is your idea of beauty?”
A journo who sounds like a Bond Girl from an indefinable ex-Eastern European bloc is poking at Coppola to give her a bite. But a shrug is the only thing she’s jabbing back. So-fee-aa – dreamy, dark-lashed So-fee-aa – looks like she’d rather be at home reading a graphic novel and eating licorice.
“Oh, I just woke up,” Coppola mumbles apologetically. “I don’t have an answer for you.”
What is my idea of beauty? It goes something like this: There’s the precious filing in of celebs and fashion mafia into a majestic, blindingly white meat-freezer-cold space, all of whom are jazzed by the knowledge that they were chosen and all of whom never tire of designer Karl Lagerfeld’s virtuoso tailoring or the spectacle of supermodel midriffs. They’re ushered in by seat escorts who look like male models themselves and carry the whiff of student loans. The din is incredible, and the conversation-hopping happens as easily as yachting between islands in the Grenadines.
Under the soaring glass dome, not far from the Champs-Élysées, is Canadian cutie Rachel McAdams, sitting three seats away from Victoria Beckham. There’s also a Rolling Stones ex, Marianne Faithfull, lolling not far from the son of a Beatle, Sean Lennon. And there’s a totally rockin’ royal too, in the form of Monaco’s Charlotte Casiraghi.
Considering that a Chanel show during Couture Week is already the runway equivalent of the Masters in golf, the Booker Prize dinner in literature and any invitation to the White House, the ripe hour (9:30, my cellphone reads) helps to reinforce this as an event, although I do catch actress Kate Bosworth letting out the littlest of yawns. (Yes, it’s true! Even her yawns are skinny!)
But the bulk of the Beautiful People, usually so jaded even at the best of hours, are as perky as the alarm clocks that got them there. Not that there aren’t some challenges when fashion comes as an Early Bird Special. Backstage, where the primping began at 7 a.m., there is an incident involving Canadian supermodel Shalom Harlow.
As Shalom is having her “face” applied, Fashion Television pro Jeanne Beker hovers with her cameraman. Though the TV personality has been at it for over 20 years now, the waiting is a game that never ends, and she stands with the patience of a birdwatcher. Shalom doesn’t make eye contact once but then, 20 minutes later, splendidly rises.
“Can we get an interview?” asks Beker, stating the obvious.
“I can’t do anything until I’ve had a cup of coffee,” counters the model.
Beker isn’t going to take this one lying down, so she follows up with “Can I get you one?” Hell hath no fury like a supermodel deprived of her morning joe, so Shalom declines again and goes on to fetch her own.
Meanwhile, catwalk’s It girl Jessica Stam – another model, another Canadian – sits with her own cup of coffee in the next room while long, long extensions are applied to her hair. It’s a Starbucks cup she’s cradling. A matter that stands out because (a) even though this is Paris, Starbucks is, seemingly, the lingua franca of coffee; and (b) more significantly, Jessica was famously discovered some years ago in a whole other coffee context – at a Tim Hortons near Toronto.
Meanwhile, outside the hall near the craft table, a different scene is taking place: a meeting between famed Vogue editor Anna Wintour and the surrealistic German couturier Lagerfeld. While he and his “people” and she and her “people” exchange pleasantries, I look on. Stuck between a fan on one end, a table full of berries on the other and a massive bodyguard directly in front, I catch a scene that plays out like the fashion equivalent of a summit between Bush and Putin.
Two reflections in each other’s fabulous shades. Two fashion deities – both of whom look like they’ve had a full eight hours – exploding in a not-so-spontaneous burst of Zoolander.
It’s a scene I’d wake up early to see any morning, any time. And it upstages even the runway show that follows, just like clockwork, later.
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Shinan Govani is the Scene columnist for the National Post and frequently appears on television commenting on celebrities and the social whirl. firstname.lastname@example.org