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Paris Fashion Week: A Day in the Life of our Fashion Director Jeffrey Kalinsky and Company

If someone made a reality show about Nordstrom Fashion Director Jeffrey Kalinsky with David Rubenstein and Oskar Moguel, the crew from his own NYC/Atlanta namesake shop, you would totally watch it. First of all, the characters are on point; there’s the fashion industry’s favorite transplanted Southerner, the chic seasoned New Yorker and the young Cali-born new guard. They’re each an entire walk-in closet of industry wisdom and killer taste, and as a unit (here’s the surefire primetime draw), their lives are pretty fabulous.

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On a single day in Paris I joined them as they went from the Chanel show to the Balenciaga showroom to the Valentino show to a Carven appointment, and then to the Lanvin showroom and the Kenzo runway show. I think I probably missed something in there; it was all I could do to keep up.

These are just a few highlights—complete with audio clips and lots of images.

— 10:30a.m. —

The scene outside the Chanel show at Palais Royal was as per usual for Karl and his crew: a complete street style, super dressed, pearl- and tweek-spotted spectacle. But Jeffrey and David sailed right out and got into the black Benz like they had just been to the grocery store or something.

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Oh, remember that? The Chanel grocery store? No such big concept or sound-stage set-up for fall 2016. The quiet, old-school, salon-like show was sort of a return to earlier elegance; the press has been saying the lack of concept and set actually allowed you to really see the clothes—although to hear Jeffrey and David talk about it, the choreography of it all was still visually complex.

To hear Jeffrey and David talk about it, it was more like an anticipated first night of a great film at your local cineplex. It’s tricky to understand, but to fashion people like Jeffrey and David, that analogy is pretty correct. They see two seasonal ready-to-wear collections per year as well as couture and mens collections. In their world, it’s almost never not Fashion Week and Chanel is, well, an every day occurrence. That doesn’t mean they aren’t still emotional about it all. They are. They absolutely are. But they’re analytical, too. They have to be. And when you get inside a showroom with a buying team, you understand that the runway is like a cabaret, and the showroom is a dressing room. Your dressing room.

The images here are David showing me the contents of his show note envelope; in this audio clip you’ll hear him, and eventually Jeffrey, talking about the production and the look and feel of the collection.

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David also noted the handbags—in particular, the tech cases. Check that jacket pocket; perfectly sized for your iPhone 6.

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Did you know that Jeffrey is famous for his Hermès bags?

— 11:30a.m. —

Just as the Chanel download was complete, we arrived at Balenciaga World Headquarters, where recently installed Vetements founder Demna Gvasalia just wowed the world with his first collection for the legendary house. Because literally everyone in fashion is talking about his floral collage dresses and streetwear parkas, security at the brand is extra-tight. Meaning, photographs were not allowed. That was a hard rule to live by, because the building itself is stunningly grand, and the looks—right down to the bracelet cuffs and stockings—are just off the chain.

Most of the two hour appointment is about Jeffrey and his team moving through story-like racks of clothing straight off the runway. These racks also have apres-runway additions; an all-black version of an eccentrically patterned dress, for example. But mostly the racks tell stories: those collaged floral dresses are together telling one story, the quietly edgy A-line skirts and shaped jackets are together on another, telling another tale. Watching the trio move through the racks and stories to note which items they need and want is a lesson is impulse tempered by wisdom.

At one point, Jeffrey comments to the Balenciaga staff, “It’s the most exciting thing I’ve seen in Paris in a long time.” He also uses the term “molto chic” once or twice, which I just find almost adorable—”molto” being, of course, the Italian word for “very.” Jeffrey says no to some things I can tell he’d love to have, and he says yes to things he can tell David and Oskar would love to have. There make concessions and indulgences, just like we all do.

We offer, as a sort of apologetic condolence for not showing you the whole appointment, a run-of-show pic I grabbed in good faith that it’d be okay to show this tiny sliver, and Jeffrey’s first-row snap from the show.

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And anyway, soon enough, we were off again.

— 2p.m. —

Next stop: Valentino. Actually, David and Jeffrey go to Valentino and Oskar zips over to Place Vendome for a conversation with his sales reps at Comme des Garçons. Oskar finishes just in time to jump back in the car and catch up with David and Jeffrey as they exit the Tuileries.

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Oskar’s white sneaks

Remember that scene in European Vacation where Chevy Chase can’t seem to figure out the un-American system of roundabouts? Nothing like that happened. Not even close. Their Parisian driver is an ace, but if this were a reality show you’d have to consider writing that kind of punchline in—if only to convey how crazy and tangled the average Fashion Week day can be.

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David Rubenstein

— 3p.m. —

And then it’s another 20 minute drive in the dark-windowed black car—just enough time to debrief on the most recent scene. And they’re on to the next—which, again, is not to say they disregard the experience in any way. On the contrary, as I talk to them I can actually see them cataloguing what they saw on the runway and getting ready to see it again in person—and touch and feel it—and weigh all those things together, and make important decisions for their business and your wardrobe.

Here’s what Jeffrey and David had to say about Valentino’s fall 2016 presentation, and some of their gorgeous front-row views.

 

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Valentino still and video via Jeffrey Kalinsky’s Instagram

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Our man Jeffrey Kalinsky

— 3:30p.m. —

I jumped off as Jeffery and company went into their Carven appointment, but as I left I felt very seriously that I would absolutely watch a television series based on these guys and the work they do. You learn quickly enough that what seems fabulous is actually really hard work—but it is pretty fabulous hard work after all.

See all of our Fashion Week coverage, shop the trends and get inspired on our Designer Collections Fashion Week hub. 

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—Laura Cassidy