On a sunny September Wednesday, holidaymakers embarking upon their Eurostar journey to Paris might have been a little more surprised than usual to see the seasonal well-heeled crowd legging it for the train. It wasn’t just the Paris Fashion Week stragglers mid-week making it in time for the likes of Céline and Balenciaga (Saint Laurent and Dior have already gone), it was a handful of models and industry, and one designer in particular, the mastermind of potentially the first on-board Eurostar show of its kind.
Deborah Lyons Spring/Summer 2019 runway show in the Eurostar train. Photo: Courtesy of PR.
What’s that you say? A fashion show on the Eurostar! Why hadn’t anyone thought of that before? We all go to Paris on the Eurostar. We all never have time to get to everything when we get there. In a time-poor fashion week, surely this should have been done before!
“I think there’s a reason,” laughed Deborah Lyons, the brave designer who took on this challenge, realising that as an emerging brand among a very crowded landscape, she had to get people’s attention. The aisle became her catwalk as the train wobbled under the channel and her floral and sequin-clad models showed off her youthful vintage-inspired wares.
It was a clever idea. A logistical nightmare no doubt. It will have been a social hit and an anecdote over dinner tonight. But it also reaffirmed the ever-increasing pull of Paris. American labels Rodarte and Proenza Schouler have all tried their hand here, Altuzarra the only one who hasn’t gone home, yet. London-based brand Marques’Almeida also made the move to Paris this season. It’s still the proverbial grown-up table and it’s still very hard to get “their” attention. So, what is a designer to do? Hop on board the Eurostar with a game plan.
Marques'Almeida Spring/Summer 2019 show in Paris. Photos by Elizabeth Pantaleo for NOWFASHION.
For Ka Wa Key, a London-born brand which is part of the HKFG initiative (formerly known as Hong Kong Fashion Guerrilla, it launched in 2013 to showcase international talent with a focus on Hong Kong roots and relations) that incorporated a performance piece from the young duo for the Spring/Summer 2019 season.
“The idea came from identities, how we’re not perfect,” explained Jarno Leppanen, joined by Ka Wa Key Chow, a graduate from the Royal College of Art. “The main character is trying to find his reflection, the rest of the models have them and he has a torch, trying to find his.”
The pair cited Florence Foster Jenkins, the American socialite and amateur opera singer who was known more for her flamboyant attire than her vocal talent, as a source for inspiration. “Even if you’re not perfect, you can be the best you can be,” they summarised of the purpose of the piece. And in so doing, potentially hit the nail on the head when it comes to being a young brand or emerging designer, a new name or developing label in Paris. Try. “We just do what we do and what we believe in. Paris pushes us to do better as independent designers,” said Chow.
Backstage at the Ka Wa Key Spring/Summer 2019 presentation in Paris. Photos by Gio Staiano for NOWFASHION.
And in the case of Lyons, it certainly pushed for one of the most testing show productions yet. It wasn’t of Chanel proportions, but it was her doing what she was doing and being able to show that to a captive audience, finally. Which, right now, for designers, just may prove to be the most challenging thing about all of this: bums on seats.