Proof you don't have to be in the fashion industry to enjoy Paris Fashion Week

Yahoo Lifestyle is going to Paris Fashion Week on a shoestring budget, and we’re taking you along with us. Every day for a week, we’ll give you tips on how to pack, where to stay, and how to enjoy the French capital without breaking the bank — or forgoing any of the fun. Follow us on Instagram for daily stories. Today’s lesson: How to enjoy fashion week beyond the shows.

For many seasons, jaded fashion editors have griped about the exhausting four-leg international race that is fashion month.

Attending fashion week shows in New York, London, Paris, and Milan isn’t as effortless as showing up and taking a seat. There are the mobs of photographers and fans to fight through, the sometimes hourslong wait for shows to begin, and suffocating heat inside packed-to-the-gills venues. But let me be clear: This first-world-problem-ridden style writer is not complaining!

For the uninitiated, fashion week, and in this case Paris Fashion Week (PFW), is a biannual gathering of fashion editors, bloggers, models, and buyers to attend shows and events. And for as much as designers claim that they want fashion to be democratic — fashion for all! — it’s not.

Meticulously curated guest lists mean even some fashion industry insiders aren’t invited to high-profile shows (I’m not saying I was denied tickets to events that would’ve made my heart sing, but I don’t know anyone who would voluntarily skip the chance to see a Chanel rocket blast off.)

Alas, take comfort in knowing there are a few ways to get in on fashion week action without being officially invited to participate. For instance, you might end up with a better view of the shows from your phone than if you attended yourself. (Follow a brand you like or a fashion editor on Instagram — ahem, @hautetakes — for live show updates.)

And for more immersive experiences, read on for three easy ways to feel like you’re on par with the fashion elite.


1. Find a fashion exhibit

There are dozens of museums and historical sites to explore in Paris, but if you’re a fashion fanatic, the city’s art scene becomes especially vibrant during Fashion Week. This year’s must-sees include: a Christian Dior exhibit at Musée des Arts Décoratifs (open until January 2018), the newly unveiled Yves Saint Laurent museum, the Irving Penn exhibit at the Grand Palais (open through January 2018), and the Palais Galliera’s Museum of Fashion.

Before you go to any of the city’s museums, consider a few things: Will an exhibit you want to see be open to the public when you’re in town? In addition to checking a museum’s normal operating hours (for example, Musée des Arts Décoratifs, like most museums in Paris, is closed on Mondays), make sure a museum isn’t closed for a privately held event, which is frequently the case during Paris Fashion Week.

Once you’ve confirmed that the exhibits you want to see will be open during your trip, consider whether you want to purchase tickets individually or purchase a pass that gets you into multiple museums. A Paris Museum Pass, available for purchase through the city’s Convention and Visitors Bureau, may be a cost effective way to maximize your museum experience, depending on how many places you want to visit.

The cost of the Christian Dior exhibit, for example, is 11 euros for an adult; Let’s say you also wanted to attend the Louvre Museum, you’d be paying another 17 euros to do that, bringing your total to 28 euros. Meanwhile, a two-day museum pass is 48 euros and also allows you to skip the lines when you visit. So ask yourself: Will you visit more than two museums or exhibits while in Paris? If the answer to that question is “yes,” you may save money by purchasing a museum pass.

2. Look for pop-up shops and store events

Several retailers and concept stores host pop-up shops and events in Paris during Fashion Week, knowing that international visitors will be in town scoping the area’s busiest shopping districts (including Le Marais, Saint Germain, and Rue Saint Honoré.)

That means it’s easy to spot OG supermodels like Claudia Schiffer, who hosted a book signing at the Colette concept store during Paris Fashion Week, up close. The events are open to the public and often free, unless you decide to purchase, in this case, a book to be signed.

Before your trip to Paris, search any one of these store’s Instagram pages or websites to see if they’ve posted about upcoming events: Colette (closing December 2017), the Comme des Garçons Trading Museum, Le Bon Marché, Le Centre Commercial, and Démocratie. (If you don’t see anything online, you can always use that old trick called the phone call to find more information.)

3. Be part of the shows

Guerrilla fashion shows — those staged in public places — are increasingly common, as seen during the New York leg of fashion month. Paris is no exception, meaning you don’t need a ticket to see fashion’s power players in action.

This season, the Saint Laurent fashion show was held outside at the Place de Varsovie, overlooking the Eiffel Tower, leaving hundreds of people without tickets with a front row view; Gypsy Sport held its show on the streets of Place de la République; Dumitrascu went underground, literally sending models down a Paris metro station platform.

To be sure, most shows are still held inside a venue, but you’re likely to spot celebrities, models, and editors heading into the shows if you know where to look. The official Paris Fashion Week calendar is available online to the public, and many brands host their shows at the same venues every season (Chanel, for example, is almost always shown at the Grand Palais.)

And if you’re traveling to Paris outside of Fashion Week or miss the chance to glimpse a show for yourself, you can always watch a show at Galeries Lafayette, which hosts shows weekly on Fridays at 3 p.m. to showcase in-house brands. For this, you must reserve a ticket online for 12 euros.

When in doubt, follow street style photographers like bread crumbs.

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Alexandra Mondalek is a writer for Yahoo Lifestyle. Follow her on Twitter @amondalek.