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Covering What’s Covering The Season’s Top Models

March 28, 1995

PARIS (AP) _ Covering what’s covering the season’s top models might seem like a posh gig: lots of free champagne in your best threads, scintillating chats with top couture minds.

Think again.

The 2000 journalists from 43 countries who went home last week after the Paris ready-to-wear shows may tell a different story.

Pushing, shoving and even fisticuffs marked the 10 days of 100 shows, a behind-the-scenes trend that underscores fashion’s evolution from art to industry.

``I used to wear Sonia Rykiel to a Sonia Rykiel show,″ said Marylou Luther, of the International Fashion Syndicate who has covered clothes since 1969. ``Now you dress for the war.″

It is not for the pampered. Tickets are scarce, tempers are tested and the shows are perpetually late. Last week, a CNN cameraman was punched by a guard outside Claude Montana’s show as reporters pressed to get inside.

Kym Canter, fashion editor of the Washington Post Sunday Magazine, said her passes were stolen by someone who contacted the houses and had them sent to a false address.

Gone are the days when fashion scribes could feign the elegance of the runways. Like the clothes they cover, the reporters have evolved into an eclectic lot more akin to police reporters forever rushing to a new alarm.

Wait! There’s Claudia Schiffer! On cue, the crowd drops coffee cups and leapfrogs over security ropes to get a shot, a word about her engagement to David Copperfield.

``I’ve been here for three seconds. And they’re like vultures. There’s so much pushing and shoving,″ said a frazzled Kathleen Beckett, fashion columnist for the New York Post.

Kristine Heinz, a Swedish journalist who has covered fashion for 30 years, fell wearily into a chair after being strong-armed by a security guard away from Christian Lacroix’s show.

``We’re not used to being treated like this,″ she said, recalling more peaceful times when there was one show a day and Coco Chanel sat on the stairs, offering interviews.

For Heinz, who writes for the Swedish paper Arbetet, the glamour is fading.

``The younger journalists think it’s so easy. They think they can just jump into it. There’s no elegance.″

The new guard, dressed mostly in black, don’t understand their role, Heinz contends.

``You have to be a bit of an artist to understand. It’s in the blood. One has to have the spirit.″

Heinz recently got her moment of glory despite the changing times.

``You know the woman wearing the big leopard-skin hat in the (Altman) film?″ she gushed. ``That was me.″

Colleagues wonder whether today’s toned-down dress reflects the 1990s style of muted elegance or whether there is no longer time to worry about flair and flamboyance.

``I don’t think the ones putting on a show are the ones writing,″ said Meggan Dissly, of Newsweek magazine.

``They hardly have their heads up, they’re writing and drawing pictures so fast.″

Covering fashion is not for the synonym-impaired or those fearful of venturing beyond the Crayola color spectrum.

You must know your reds: from Chinese red to Russian red, to Hermes, fire-engine or cherry red.

``It’s really hard to describe clothes, thinking of a new word to say dress or fashion or skirt,″ explained Patrick McCarthy, executive editor of Women’s Wear Daily. ``You need a fine writer to do it well.″

Constance White, fashion reporter for The New York Times, stressed that she must constantly study trends and key players to stay on top of the job.

``You live it, you breathe it and you come to know it very well,″ White said.

Yet, for all the threats to sanity and health, the same journalists return each year, addicted to a job many say they could not live without.

``When a good talent turns out talent, there’s nothing like it,″ McCarthy said.

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