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Training Wheels to High Heels: Paris Fashion Week 2015


 
 
 

 
 
 
 
Well, it’s official. I had to take my first crazy pill since December and the decision has been made that I can never be a model. No, it’s not because I’m only 5’6”. No, it’s not because I have ALS. No, it’s not because I have a weak jawline. No, I can never be a model because I just quite frankly cannot cope with the stress.
Welcome to Paris Fashion Week.
The glamour, the excitement and the fashion equate to stress, near starvation, and a lot of “hurry up and wait.” Normally, I am only half interested in fashion week due to the fact that my obsession usually lies in furniture and antiques. However, living in Paris, you cannot escape fashion week. And I can doubly not escape Paris Fashion Week because I happen to have a petite supermodel in the making as a houseguest. Her name is Kelsey Owens and her mother is my really good friend, Debbie. They could have just as easily stayed in a model apartment but I invited them to stay with me instead for this week in Paris. Now, I have had a firsthand experience of what really goes on during fashion week… And the stress is nearly fucking killing me.
On top of watching Kelsey go through the rigmarole of fashion week, I also have to keep my eye on my other little darlings Gigi and Bella Hadid, my best friend Yolanda’s daughters who are petite supermodels as well. On top of that, I also have my little Gracie working behind the scenes as a fashion styling assistant. My plate is full of worry. That kind of worry that only a mother has. Even though all the girls are doing really well, it is impossible not to stress out a wee tad bit.

Let’s start with Kelsey. Kelsey is almost 5’10” tall and definitely at her fighting weight. Before you get on the Worry Train bound for Anorexia-Ville, this is the life of a runway model. It is what it is. Previously unbeknownst to me, there are different types of models. I just thought you had to be tall and pretty and could go for it. No no no. These runway models are a different breed. These are the super tall girls who are superduper skinny because that’s what the fashion designers call for. These are the girls who are at the height of the game of modeling. At any point of the day, during fashion week, Kelsey needs to be her thinnest physically and her strongest emotionally. At only 17 years old, Kelsey has the balls similar to that of King Abdullah of Jordan. She is a rock. Kelsey wakes at dawn after a good night sleep which is imperative to ward off any unsightly dark circles under her eyes. She forces herself to eat an egg white omelette at breakfast for protein to have the strength to get through the day even if she would really rather have a big stack of pancakes. I offer her a green juice filled with vegetables but that is refused because it could mess with her “fashion week digestive system.” Next, Kelsey scrubs her face clean of any makeup from the prior day. Apparently, when these runway models go to castings they are required to not have a stitch of makeup on their faces. Can you imagine going to a job interview with no makeup! Next up, Kelsey dresses herself in skinny black jeans, black Cashmere sweater, and her military boots. This uniform is required as Kelsey is skipping all over Paris at breakneck speeds, on the Metro, to get to her minimum 11 castings a day. She keeps her high heels in her backpack. She has to organize her schedule to make sure she gets to every casting on time and find the proper location in a city that is not her own. I took one look at her Saturday schedule and threw myself into a full-fledged panic attack and then I laughed out loud thinking, “Oh my God, how do the dumb models get through this week?” As much as this looks like an “easy job,” it is anything but. I dare any of you to try to get through fashion week


Kelsey Editorial
 
Givenchy at 10 AM. Lanvin at noon. Valentino at 2 PM. Balenciaga at 3 PM. St. Laurent at 5 PM… And then wait the rest of the day for callbacks. During these castings, Kelsey is required “to walk.” This means that the designer wants to see how she walks. The verb “walk” becomes a noun in the modeling world. Your “walk” can make or break you. Can you imagine the stress and pressure of walking in front of a room full of people who are judging every move you make. That alone would exile me from the modeling world altogether. I would be like, “Dude! This is how I walk. Take it or leave it.” Then I would cry. I have watched Kelsey “work on her walk” at my apartment. "Shoulders back, no bouncing, wide stride, resting bitch face, don’t swing your arms, be light in your heels.” It’s exhausting!

 

Kelsey Runway Proenza Schouler
 
Some days, Kelsey goes on “fittings.” On these days, Kelsey is required to strip to her skivvies and try on the designer’s collection over and over and over again. All I could think of was, “Oh My God, what to do if it is your “time of the month.” Apparently there is a new birth control pill that basically eradicates periods. Oh, that sounds real healthy. Once again, I would not make it one day in the modeling world.

 

Kelsey Runway Maison Rabih Kayrouz
 
Now, the waiting game arrives. Kelsey gets back to the apartment at about 8 PM every evening and all that she wants to do is eat and sleep. All we want to do is talk to her about her day. The last thing a tired, grumpy, hungry model wants to do is relive the day to her anxious mother and me. But we insist, “What happened at Givenchy? What did they say at Dior? Did they like your walk? What did they say!” Kelsey usually indulges us a little bit and then ignores us and does her own thing. We are left to interpret everything. We start to overanalyze and over think everything.

 

Kelsey A.P.C. Denim
 
The funniest part about this whole week is the polar opposites of my diet and Kelsey’s diet. I am required (to keep my ALS at bay) to basically pig out on a daily basis. Carbohydrates, fats, sugars, cream sauce, chocolates, butter, baguettes, crème fraîche, pastas… I could basically eat an entire ham in one sitting and my doctor would say, “Bravo.” Kelsey on the other hand is required to look like a pencil. She survives on a very specialized super healthy diet. It breaks our hearts that her mother and I dine on four cheese lasagna and homemade peanut butter cookies while Kelsey is extracting the skin from her grilled chicken breast. Kelsey takes it like a champ and keeps her eye on the ball and marches through. She knows that after fashion week is finished she will reward herself with the biggest fattest most delicious dessert on earth. And she will deserve every inch of it.

Now, I also have to worry about my sweet Gigi. Gigi was born to model. It’s in her blood. However, that doesn’t make it any less difficult for her. Sometimes I think she has the added stress of being the very best because that’s what everyone expects from her. The good news is that the only thing Yolanda, her mother, requires from her is to be a good person. Check.

 

Gigi Spanish Vogue March 2015
 
Gigi started officially modeling only a couple years ago after she finished high school. She hit the ground running and has become the “It Girl” of the modeling world. Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue. Check. Tom Ford campaign. Check. Maybelline campaign. Check. Gigi’s reputation precedes her. She is known to be professional, polite, and genuine. I know all of this about her but I also know that she is kind, loving and sensitive. Sometimes when I am out for a walk around Paris, I am bombarded with photos of Gigi. Huge photos on the sides of buildings and on buses. Huge ads in the Gallerie Lafayette. Without fail, I always tear up because I’m so proud of her. I have known and loved this little angel since she was in second grade and now there she is… Bigger than life.

 
 Gigi Runway Dolce & Gabbana
 

Gigi Runway Anna Sui
 
Now, I also have to worry about my little Bella. Gigi’s sister. Bella just started officially modeling this year and it’s a whole different ballgame. While Gigi is definitely the girl next door with her blonde hair and blue eyes, Bella is the mysterious chic model with her smoky eyes and pouty lips. But what people don’t know about Bella is that she is hysterically funny, silly and loves food. I always encourage her to write a food blog because she has a true love and appreciation for the world of cuisine. I love how Bella always brings out the silly side of Gracie.

 

Bella
 
Bella has just started her career and landed the Los Angeles Tom Ford runway show. I watched the show from Paris and when Bella came out onto the stage, I just burst out crying. I spoke to her a few days later and I told her that I was so proud of how confident she was on the runway and she said, “Ellie, I was scared to death.” Well, it definitely did not show and she was the consummate professional and rocked it.

 
 Bella Runway Tom Ford
 

Bella for Louis Vuitton
Lastly, my little Gracie. Gracie has been working her little fashionista butt off behind the scenes as a stylist’s assistant. She has been working on numerous different ad campaigns and is really learning the ropes. Gracie started her styling career when she was just in high school with her first internship at Santa Barbara Magazine. Santa Barbara Magazine is also the magazine that gave Gigi her first cover. Whenever Gracie is at my apartment, she will only take “work calls” in the other room and out of earshot from me. She is a totally different person in her work mode. She is polite, professional and courteous. She is required to call on big fashion houses like Chanel, Balenciaga, and Dior to organize the orders. These clothes are her responsibility and the pressure is enormous to keep track of everything. Grace is going to London for a job next month and I suggested that I meet her in London and we make it a “mommy/daughter girl’s night” in London. She, of course, screamed at me, “Mommy, I am in London for work and I have to get these clothes back to Paris safely. I don’t have time to have tea and “mommy time” with you in London, for God sake!” Well excuse me!

 Gracie in Paris
 
 
 Gracie in France
 

 
Gracie
 

 This evening, all of the girls were over at my apartment for dinner… Gracie, Gigi and Kelsey. We had a delicious dinner of homemade thai chicken spring rolls with peanut sauce. The girls all talked about their upcoming week in Paris. Gigi brought over a friend, the supermodel Karlie Kloss, who was the sweetest, most graceful and affable girl ever. I am looking forward to seeing Bella at the end of the week. If one more supermodel walks through my door, I think my Filipino caregiver is going to have a stroke.

Kelsey, Gigi, and Karlie Kloss at my apartment last night.
(As you can imagine my caregivers were miserable.)
 
 
Gigi and Gracie at my apartment last night.
 
Kelsey, my little nugget caregiver Joel, and Gigi
feasting on Joel's homemade Thai chicken spring rolls with
homemade peanut sauce.
 
 
 
Karlie
 
Karlie
 
All in all, I cannot be more proud of my Kelsey, my Gigi, my Bella, my Gracie and now sweet Karlie. The girls have demonstrated strengths tenfold to what we mothers have and remember, all of these girls are under the age of 20. I am proud of their work ethic, their determination and their ability to smile through a storm with patience and grace. Each of these girls put on a brave face, exhibit positive attitudes, work themselves to the bone, never complain and take the occasional rejection like a champion. It is not easy being in a world where you are judged on a daily basis by your looks and your style. I would crumble straight out of the gate. I would take everything personally, judge myself harshly and then most likely seek revenge.

The reward for all of this hard work is obvious. The fashion world is quite exciting. The clothes, the makeup, the jewelry, working in Paris… This does not suck. Even though the behind-the-scenes of fashion week is grueling, the end result is nothing less than fabulous.

Just for fun, let’s take a break from cooking and decorating, and focus on fashion until next week in honor of Paris Fashion Week. This ought to be interesting… Stay tuned.

21 comments:

  1. Yep, I cried!! You couldn't have articulated or explained Fashion Week any better than this blog!! I must say that every one of these girls are ten times more beautiful on the inside than the outside. That is TRUE BEAUTY!! Love you and love each of them!!! ��

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  2. YOUR Little NUGGET CAREGIVER is the BEST!LOVE that photo and I bet he does too!Enjoy those GIRLS.............all under TWENTY.Don't tell them I just read TODAY that the skin starts to wrinkle at TWENTY!!!That would add to their STRESS..................I sure would like to be a fly on the wall and see what they do EAT when the trials are over!GOOD LUCK GIRLS..............we will all be waiting to hear or SEE the final out come!XOXO

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  3. What wonderful young ladies they are! I know it is Heaven on Earth to be able to come back to you and your wonderful home for some TLC at the end of a hard day. Gracie is your clone and just gorgeous! I love how you make her sound like a badass!!! Guess it's a mother/daughter thing! I had boys! Love your blog!

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  4. What wonderfully chic young women! Loved this post. Doesn't Karlie live with Taylor Swift?!

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  5. I love your post about the girls. At the end of it we all just 'human' aren't we? What great personality shines through in your musings. Lucky girls and lucky mums. Mind you, more like hard work and dedication than luck! :D xx

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  6. God hoe lovely and divine are all those Beauties! All that Glittering Youth!

    You sound happy and proud . Good.

    Did you see my post about the French Film Festival? Choc full of places you'd recognise in a heartbeat. Probably your neighbourhood.

    Take care Darl. xxx

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  7. Another good post! I enjoyed reading it.

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  8. Oh my goodness, I practically fell off my chair as I was so excited to read this post! While it may not show in my sartorial choices these days, well, once a fashion geek, always a fashion geek. So I hope that you will excuse me if I geek out a little bit... :)

    As I grew up in the 80s, I was fascinated by the Super's and the force that their personalities brought to fashion. Karlie Kloss really brought a lot of that glamour and energy back into modeling after a long snoozefest of rather anonymous girls, so it is a joy to read that she is a lovely person too. If models are starting to return to the covers, it is because of her. And thanks to you, I have been following the rise and rise of Gigi (to give you an idea about these two, I stumbled upon an ig post asking "Do you recognize the people in this photo?" and the answer was "I do GG and KK. Don't know the guy though. Prob. some rando", um, that would be Kevin Systrom the CEO of instagram ;) and now Bella and Kelsey. You know for Kelsey, I would have totally been the conductor of that worry train so thank you for writing about her work ethic and determination. Runway seems to me the fashion equivalent that ballet is to dance - hard, hard, hard! These girls are all just so amazing...and of course Gracie included!

    Of course I love the photo with Joel and agree with the comment above that it must have been quite a respite for them to have a home cooked meal and some normal time in the midst of the circus that is: NYFW, London, Milan then Paris!

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  9. These young ladies are gorgeous and obviously have to love what they do! I can tell from your words that they ARE just as beautiful on the inside! Think of all the great connections they are making for life!

    xoxo
    Karena
    The Arts by Karena

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  10. how do you not have paparazzi scaling the exterior of your apartment and sneaking into your hallway?!? what a fun post to read - thank you!!

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  11. Fascinating! I just have two questions.
    1. You referred to Gigi, Bella, and Kelsey as "petite" supermodels. Is that a category, "petite", and if so, does that refer to their height?
    2. You write about Kelsey going on "casting" calls. Do ALL models - even the well established ones - do that or is there a certain level that these young women are hired by their names and reputations? In other words, does Giselle Bundchen have to run around Paris - or New York and London - the same way Kelsey has to?
    Thanks!

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    1. When I say petite supermodels, I just meant that they are young. It's just a term of endearment. And, all models have to pay their dues as they are just beginning. No shortcuts.

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  12. I just enjoyed another interesting slice of life from the world of Ellie O! Wow, those girls are beautiful, skinny, tall and skinny - god bless youth, good genes and determination. Glad you and Joel survived Fashion Week too. Great post.

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  13. Petite Supermodel? Isn't that an oxymoron? ;)
    The first thing I thought, after watching RHOBH last night, was whether Gigi would pay you a visit. So happy to see you're enjoying all the girls - what great energy they bring! I wouldn't mind living vicariously through them for one minute :) Gorgeous!

    P.S. Don't forget to let them know you'll gladly take anything that doesn't fit in their suitcases :)

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    1. Petite supermodel was just a term of endearment by me.

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  14. Ellie I enjoy your blog so much, and have read every inch of it over the last couple of weeks. I just wanted to comment on this post as it is really close to my own reality this week. Well almost. You see I work as a model too but nowhere near the categories of Gigi or Karlie, or even Kelsey, or though I have years ago when I was signed to Women Management. I'm in a different catagorie. I tried, but failed to become "a star", after a couple of seasons my agencies decided to dump me when I didn't make the big bookings, but instead of giving up I adjusted my expectations and are now still working in Paris (where I also live since two years) as a model, but as a fitting model and showroom model, with the occasional editorial shoots and small campaigns. Sometimes we think we know what our dreams are, and some people are lucky to make them come true in the first try, and sometimes you have to realize that your dream has a different shape than what you originally thought. I love that I have the opportunity to live in Paris, have an amazing french boyfriend, work within an industry that I love and finds fascinating (and hate at the same time) and to be happy even though I technically "failed" according to some people (my old agencies). I can't say that it is not hard sometimes to sit at a designers atelier being "just the fit model" while the young stars of tomorrow walks in to be considered for the show, but mostly I am just happy to be there, it is an exciting world to be surrounded by. I guess I just wanted to join the conversation here on the blog, as I have been following for a while. I love how you write I love how truthful your writing is, positive and optimistic some days and dark other days, just as life is. Thank you very much for sharing Ellie! Xx Jenny

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    1. I would rather be a fit model and not to the runway model because I'm always afraid I would fall in front of all those people. It's safer to be behind the scenes, I think. And by the way, fit model translates to… You have the best figure in the entire world. But you are right, sometimes we know what our dreams are but they manifest differently. Thank you for your note, Jenny. XOXO

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  15. Leslie in OregonMarch 5, 2015 at 5:44 PM

    Your observations after a week with runway models, and two of their mothers, is fascinating. It reminds me of what it was like to be the mother of an aspiring dancer from the time he started auditioning for elite training opportunities, paid roles and dance companies, at about age 15, until he became an established dancer in New York City with other creative outlets. It is amazing how fast and beautifully some very young people mature under intense and often denigrating pressure when they are allowed to follow their passion. For other young people who are not as talented in what they are passionate about or as emotionally resililent, trying to become an artist or a runway model is often soul-shattering. Fortunately, my son and the three young women you are writing about fall within the former category. I have a great deal of compassion for young people who do not, and the people who love them. I am also very glad that as my son ages out of his performing arts career (he just turned 30), he will have developed his other creative outlets to the point that they will sustain him.

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  16. What a delightful behind the scenes glimpse into fashion week, seeing such lovely and hardworking young women - Gracie, Kelsey Gigi & Bella. Just as delightful is seeing them with Joel - an adorable photo, plus a peek at your beautiful apartment!
    I've always assumed the fashion industry, like interior design, is business where only a very small portion of the work is actually glamorous, while the rest of it is very hard work to make it seem both effortless AND glamorous.

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  17. Ellis - your Gracie is adorable and looks just like you! Enjoying the insiders glimpse into PFW.

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  18. Leslie in OregonMarch 6, 2015 at 3:44 PM

    P.S. What I wrote in the above comment applies equally to Gracie, as she works toward becoming a stylist in what must be the toughest possible arenas. Bravo to all of them...and may they also have the opportunity to learn from playing and experimenting during their young adulthood.

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