An American in Paris

Greg Kessler
Rodarte S/S 2018 Paris Haute Couture Week July 2017

Looking back on Paris Fashion Week 2018, it is fun to reflect on the undeniable allure of Paris. Maybe it is the Parisian lights. Maybe it is because it is the City of Love. But there is something that attracts Francophiles from all over the world. A long-time fashion hub, Paris has been winning the hearts of more and more American fashion designers. Traditionally, New York Fashion Week is the reference mark for American design. Yet in just the past year, American designers Rodarte, Proenza Schouler, Thom Browne, and Joseph Altuzarra have opted to show their collections in Paris instead.

All of the Americans in Paris cited creativity as the major reason for relocating their spring and fall shows to Paris. Prior to Rodarte’s Paris Haute Couture Week debut last summer, co-founder Laura Mulleavy told The New York Times’s Elizabeth Paton: “I like being part of a new situation.” Co-founder Kate Mulleavy expanded:

“Ultimately a process should fuel creativity…France treats fashion as art; it just isn’t like that in America. Just spending time in [Paris], being part of it, is a reminder that enjoying new experiences fuels your best ideas and designs. Your imagination can totally come alive.”

Nevertheless, new opportunities also bring new legal issues. The initial question regarding work in France often is: Will I need visas or work permits for my American staff in order to show my collection in Paris? The good news: since 2016, if you are working in France for three months or less for the purpose of putting on a trade show, an art exhibition, or a fashion show, you need neither visas nor work permits.

Also, keeping in mind that French law emphasizes employee well-being, France requires its foreign employers to have documentation on file with the French counterpart to the United States Social Security Administration.

France and the United States have a reciprocal agreement whereby time spent working in France is considered eligible for social security and future benefits, like retirement, disability, and survivor’s insurance, in the United States. US employers must file a social security form for each employee working abroad. However, those benefits (as with so many others) do not apply to independent contractors. Therefore, those make-up artists, hairstylists, and public relations personnel employed by others but who are “hired out” by designers for shows must have their own full-time employers file social security forms for them.

Before starting work in France, an American employer transferring employees temporarily must file a declaration of workplace safety with the office for the International Posting of Workers in France, also known as Prestation de Services Internationales en France (SIPSI). Upon such filing, SIPSI will alert the French authorities responsible for inspecting the posting locations of foreign employees to examine the proposed fashion show site. Unlike the multiple social security forms required by an employer in the US, only one SIPSI filing is needed per employer, per location.

Much as in the critically acclaimed movie, as an American in Paris you will want to spend your free time eating baguettes, sightseeing, taking pictures, creating memories, and perhaps falling in love. It therefore would be wise to consult counsel and to address the business and legal issues in advance so that, once the fashion show has been completed, you will be able devote your time to drinking wine, eating cheese, and indulging in the many facets of French culture.

Greg Kessler
Rodarte S/S 2018 Paris Haute Couture Week July 2017

Credit: Candace R. Arrington

Photo Credit: Greg Kessler


Three Americans in Paris–a Tale of Heroism and Fashion

Francois Hollande, Alek Skarlatos, Jane Hartley, Spencer Stone and Anthony Sadler - French President, Francois Hollande receives US-France Ambassador, Jane Hartley and honorees attend a reception at Elysee Palace on August 24, 2015 in Paris, France. Spencer Stone, Anthony Sadler, Alek Skarlatos and Chris Norman are being awarded the Legion d'Honneur after overpowering the gunman, 25-year-old Moroccan, Ayoub El-Khazzani, on board a high-speed train after he opened fire on a Thalys train travelling from Amsterdam to Paris. El-Khazzani, who had a Kalashnikov, an automatic pistol and a box cutter, was arrested when the train stopped at the French town of Arras./picture alliance Photo by: Gisele Tellier/Geisler-Fotopress/picture-alliance/dpa/AP Images

Among all the words written about the three young Americans who charged and subdued a heavily armed terrorist aboard a high-speed train in France, preventing what could have been a massive loss of life, was the fact that each received the Legion of Honor, the highest decoration given by France, while wearing polo shirts and khakis. (The British businessman who assisted them put on a suit to accept his award and spoke to his hosts in French.) Even the country club casual attire (built on “basics,” as retailers explain it to us) had to be scrounged up on the quick for the young heroes by friends and associates. Their detour from the Netherlands to Paris having been a spur-of-the-moment decision, their luggage had contained the usual assortment of shorts and T-shirts of young American travelers going just about everywhere. In light of their selfless heroism, much of the sartorial commentary about the ceremony has been along the lines of charmed recognition of the informality of the heroes in contrast to the great formality usually present at such events, particularly at the Élysée Palace.

We should first put aside the obvious: when a guy in his twenties packs for a summer vacation with his pals, he does not typically fret whether he should stuff into his backpack clothes suitable to get married in, on the off chance that he might either (a) find a bride or (b) receive the Légion d’honneur from the president of France. Those are three brave young men, but even they do not claim to be omniscient.

The more important point is that fashion is indeed everywhere. There is no way to avoid it. Even those who insist they do not care about fashion or style and dress how they please in order to be as anti-fashion and anti-style as they can are making fashion and style choices by so doing. That is, choosing to show that you are not keeping up with fashion is, in itself, a fashion choice. The fact that the two uninjured Americans (one of the men had been badly cut up by the attacker) did not first sprint down the Rue Saint-Honoré and throw themselves at the mercy of the head fitter at the Hermès flagship, begging to be form-fitted into business suits in time to get their medals pinned to their chests by President François Hollande, was itself a fashion statement. It said, “Given what we managed to do, we just didn’t think anyone cared how we looked as long as we showed the courtesy of making an effort appropriate to the moment and behaved respectfully.” And that is exactly what they did.

If there are fashion rules to draw from what happened at the Élysée Palace, it is this:

  1. Military heroes wear uniforms.
  2. Superheroes wear costumes strange enough to remind and assure us that they are the stuff of fantasy and nonsense.
  3. Ordinary citizens who do acts of heroism can wear whatever the hell they please.

And bravo to our three brave young men for making that fashion statement for all the world to see.

Credit: Alan Behr

Photo Credit: Used by Permission – Gisele Tellier/Geisler-Fotopress/picture-alliance/dpa/AP Images