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.
I’ve interned at Major Magazine for seven months, and Fashion Director has chosen to take me with her to Paris for a shoot, leaving understandably disgruntled Fashion Assistant in London. It’s all very awkward and Devil Wears Prada, especially as her contract is coming to an end and I have been offered the job. Oh, and did I mention we’re friends? Anyway, Fashion Director will already be in Paris for the couture shows, and I’m to meet her out there for a huge story featuring Celebrity’s Model Daughter (CMD).
Arrive at hotel lugging four “coffin trunks,” rail, and endless hatboxes, sweating and flustered, all windswept hair in my face and boiling in my huge fur coat. Not quite the entrance I had imagined, as Fashion Director and photographer sit effortlessly chic in the lobby, sipping cappuccinos all leggy in leather pants and Chanel T-shirt (her not him). Am greeted by over-excited hotel PR who personally escorts me to my room. Am slightly surprised by the grand welcome, especially when she throws the door open to my enormous ornate bedroom with a huge dressing room, even bigger bathroom, and balcony overlooking the Place Vendome.
Apparently the hotel will trust me with a 1,000 square foot gilded suite but not an iron, lest I burn the place to the ground. Without a steamer to de-crease 4 trunks worth of crushed clothing I settle on the lazy fashion assistant’s trick of wheeling the rail into the bathroom and turning the shower on full blast. Fall asleep. Wake up an hour later with steam seeping out the bathroom door. Run in, slip on the sopping wet floor and find myself flat on my back looking up at the several-hundred year old wall paper peeling off the walls and all the shirts dripping wet.
Next morning, shoot. 5am call time. Open the door to find hair, makeup, CMD, model’s boyfriend, agent, photographer, two photographer’s assistants, lighting equipment and room service breakfast for 10 people all awkwardly crammed in tiny room that clearly should have been mine and has been given to Fashion Director by mistake. Oops.
Am instructed by Fashion Director to take CMD and first look into the bathroom for a quick try-on before hair and makeup get started. Squeeze her into the Dior trousers, but the jacket is meant to fasten down the side and it barely even meets in the middle. After much heaving from me, bind her into Super Mesh, which I, having foreseen the size issue, had purchased at great expense from the Royal Opera House costume department. CMD’s boyfriend squeezes her rib cage and I frantically wrap her in the tightest binding known to man, usually used to fit actresses into corsets for period dramas. Face the awkward task of informing Fashion Director and crew waiting for us that the only look for the first shot ain’t happening. It’s 5am, CMD is already grumpy and Fashion Director is on the verge of a nervous breakdown. Leaving me to deal with the drama, she sprints to the Dior press office and hammers on the door until they hand her a gown that can be left open at the back.
The next few shots go without a hitch unless you count me chasing 70 balloons around the courtyard of the Louvre much to the amusement of a busload of Japanese tourists.
It’s now 10pm, last shot of the day, a decidedly freezing stone staircase on the bank of the Seine, and CMD has had ENOUGH. After five frames she stomps her heel so hard it nearly breaks, and whirls around to run up the stairs and back to the warm van. I bolt after her as fast as I can to grab the train of the Gaultier gown, but not before she has trodden all over it and put a rip the size of Texas in the hem.
Seeing that her skin has actually turned blue, am feeling vaguely sympathetic until she starts screaming at me to get the $5,000,000 Boucheron necklace “OFF OF HER NECK RIGHT FUCKING NOW” and strips down until she is standing there in just her underwear, Celebrity mother’s old Stella McCartney cardigan, and the biggest diamond necklace you’ve ever laid eyes on. Hands shaking from my now-shot nerves and the freezing Paris cold, I can’t exactly get the complicated catch undone with her screaming in my ear. Drag the three security guards that accompanied the necklace onto the van to get it off her neck while she stands there screaming, in her underwear.
Long day finally over, all we have to do now is deliver the looks back to the ateliers. After a final check that the van is empty I sprint to our tiny Parisian taxi and find that Fashion Director has piled one side of the backseat to the ceiling with garment bags, shoes, and hat boxes. I nervously squash in the middle seat under the weight of the day’s gowns, she jams her tiny frame in next to me and just manages to close the door. As we pull up to Chanel I motion for Fashion Director to move and let me out the middle seat, but she’s on her Blackberry. Consider my options, and decide I’m going to have to climb out over the mound to my left. Cue me opening taxi door, and tipping headfirst on to the pavement outside Chanel, as hats, shoes, and their famous pearls spill out along side me and all over the street. Not my finest moment, but quite a fitting way to end my first trip abroad.
Catch Blair's tweets @blair_mercer or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.