Introducing a new column, Diary of an Anonymous Fashion Assistant, where our contributor, who shall henceforth be known as Blair Mercer, dishes about the daily life of a fashion assistant at a major fashion mag at a major publishing house. She’s hauled sacks of Louboutins through the Sahara, been wrestled by Colonel Gaddafi’s guards at a five star hotel in Paris and was physically scarred by an A-list celeb. She’ll tell you all about it.
It’s a year later, and I’m off to Paris once more….This time with a freelance stylist I’ve never met before, to shoot a well-known European socialite (ES). Turns out said stylist is EXTREMELY chatty, to the point where I am monologued all the way across the Atlantic and several people on our flight complain to the attendants about how loudly she’s talking.
We arrive at our hotel at midnight, and all I can think about is collapsing into bed before our 6am start the next day. No such luck. Stylist strolls in and instructs me to unpack all the suitcases, steam the clothes and lay out all the jewelry while she takes a shower. Oh, and we’re sharing a room. With two twin beds pushed together. So it’s about to get real cozy. Little did I know it would be a lot more than that…. She exits the bathroom, drops her towel, and proceeds to try on all of the samples as a method of styling them into looks. I, more than half asleep, am forced to ‘oooh’ and ‘ahhh’ over each outfit and tell her how wonderful she looks until 2am–me in my pajamas (an unwise choice of sheep print boxers and a high school tshirt) and her in nothing but a thong and a Balmain jacket.
At lunchtime the next day the photographer’s assistants are unpacking salad and sushi lunchboxes on the van. But ES wants McDonalds [Ed. note: awesome]. I am dispatched down the Rue de Rivoli to fetch her three hamburgers, no fries. She proceeds to remove the burgers from the buns, dry them out in a napkin for ten minutes, then nibble them for the next half hour. Between bites she casually tells me she was at dinner the previous night with an A-list rapper and his then-girlfriend. Girlfriend, though D list, has an A-list temper and minutes before dinner had thrown a lamp through the TV in their hotel room.
After lunch we pile in the van, only there are 10 crew members and nine seats. So what does that mean? I’m in the back perched awkwardly on top of the suitcases as we careen through the narrow lanes. And every time we turn a corner I get a piece of lighting equipment to the side of the head.
We shoot in different locations around the city, all leading up to a beautiful hotel penthouse that we only have access to from 5-6 pm. When we arrive, Stylist tells me to leave everything in the van while we check out the suite and decide which look will work best in that location. She names an outfit and I sprint back through the lobby, aware of the short time we have for the last shot of the day.
I take one step outside and feel a solid grip on my shoulder. Next thing I know I am standing on the sidewalk opposite the hotel, yards from where my feet last touched the ground. The street, quiet just minutes before, is now swarming with policemen and armored trucks. My loud protestations of “Il y a une mistake! Je suis une fashion assistant!” don’t help matters and I find myself flanked by two armed guards. Visions of French prisons and ill-fitting orange jumpsuits are now swimming through my head when just minutes before my biggest concern was finding ES the right bra…
After much arm waving and watery eyes, they eventually realize that I am not a security threat but inform me that I am not allowed back in the hotel. A foreign VIP guest is arriving, they tell me. These are his security detail, and the road has been completely sealed off.
Thinking it all seems a little heavy handed for your standard security, I ask the man next to me who it is we’re all so nervously waiting for. “Mais madame, c’etait Colonel Gaddafi, n’est-ce pas?” Brilliant.
I’m now stranded outside, where I will remain for the next 30 minutes (out of the 60 we have for the shot) without the call sheet, anyone’s phone number or any way of communicating with Stylist. And all the clothes are still in the location van, so they can’t start without me.
Like a mirage in my Parisian prison I spot the location van passing down an adjacent street. Heart pounding I bolt to the end of the block to try and catch him, but just miss him as he turns the corner. Pouring with perspiration and unable to catch my breath I run after him, convinced that the stylist and photographer are surely irate in the penthouse. Just when I think I’ve almost caught up to him, he turns another corner and heads back the way I came. We continue this way for some time – me running back and forth and him circling the block, just missing each other, until finally, after what will probably always remain the longest 30 minutes of my life, the trucks, policemen, and Gaddafi speed off and the street’s blockade is lift, allowing the van to meet me.
The best part? Turns out no one at the penthouse shoot had even batted an eye–they were too busy cracking into the Champagne in the minibar, all on the magazine’s tab.
Want more? Read last week’s entry, Diary of an Anonymous Fashion Assistant, Entry One: The Celebrity’s Model Daughter.
Catch Blair’s tweets @blair_mercer or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.