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What It’s Like to Go to Paris Fashion Week on a Budget

Spoiler alert: It’s still really fun.
My first coffee on this trip to Paris. 

My first coffee on this trip to Paris. 

A couple of years ago, I wrote a piece for this site that calculated what it costs for an editor at a major publication to attend Paris Fashion Week. The average bill – when considering everything from food to flights to hotels – was nearly $20,000.

That hasn’t changed. Many publishers still drop thousands of dollars on fancy accommodations, car services and dinner at Caviar Kaspia. But there’s a whole contingent of us who don't do it like that.

In the past six years, I’ve covered Paris Fashion Week roughly eight times — honestly, it’s very blurry — and I’ve done it mostly while working for Fashionista. The site has been around for eight years, but you’ve got to remember that it's still independently run, which means there aren’t buckets of money lying around for me to stay at the Bristol. When I first went to PFW, I tried staying at business hotels with rates hovering around $250 or so a night. Turns out, the term “business hotel” does not equal competency when it comes to things like Internet and cleanliness, and as Airbnb’s popularity rose, so did the appeal of staying at an apartment that costs about the same.

At some point, Leah — Fashionista’s former editor — found this great place in the North Marais. I’ve stayed there with her a bunch of times, and sometimes we have another friend who sleeps on the pull-out couch in the living room.

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It’s not glamorous in the way a hotel is glamorous, but it’s liberating. We “live” on one of the greatest streets in Paris, just down the road from Nanashi — a delicious, hip Japanese restaurant — and across the street from 0FR, a bookstore where people like Juergen Teller throw parties. Though we get our coffee-snob espresso every morning at Fondation Café, we stock our fridge with goodies from Monoprix, a wonderful department store-meets-grocery store that sells things like tomato caviar and impressively cute baby clothes.

I take the Métro everywhere. It’s almost never better to take a cab in Paris. The only times I’ve nearly missed a show have been when I was in a cab, or when someone had generously offered me a ride in their car. The Métro may not be luxurious, but it gives you the luxury of time.

As for food that I don’t cook at home, I still get the chance to go out to plenty of great restaurants. There are brand dinners and group outings and I’m lucky that my friends who attend Fashion Week also like to hang out in our neighborhood, which can be scene-y but not in the same way as some of the other fashion-people-heavy spots in Paris. (I heart the steak au poivre at the bistro Café Charlot, even if it’s a cliché filled with American editors like me.)

Oh, and I obviously fly coach. Except for this time, when I used 25,000 of my own airline miles and paid $350 out of my own pocket to upgrade to business on the way there. It was worth every penny.

What a budget doesn’t change is that you’re in one of the most beautiful cities in the world, witnessing major moments in the industry. A bigger budget does not making interviewing Delphine Arnault, or taking in Karl Lagerfeld’s latest set, or watching Zoolander and Hansel strut down the runway any more interesting or joyful. So while I can’t order room service at 4 a.m. and there is no maid to clean up my trail of invites every morning, I can attest that attending Paris Fashion Week on a tight budget is still fucking fantastic.