The Rules of the Races

The Rules of the Races
Jean Paul Cauvin and Mari Davis at the Races as seen by Julien Fournié
Jean Paul Cauvin and Mari Davis at the Races as seen by Julien Fournié

PARIS, Oct 3, 2006/ FW/ —  You might think, like all fashionistas, that designers lead the trends for the way we dress. Well, a quite painful episode for your Fashionwindows team here in Paris has proven this wrong last Sunday.

For the first time in our life, Mari Davis, Editor-in-Chief of your favorite fashion website, Julien Fournié and myself had decided to go to the most prestigious horse race in the calendar of the French hippodromes: the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe Lucien Barrière. We chose to cover this supposedly mundane rendezvous of elegant ladies in their wonderfully creative hats, to check what was worn in the real world of aristocratic equestrian circles.

We had been offered V.I.P. invitations and were very proud to go and meet with the Parisian socialites gathering at the reserved and highly coveted “zone des balances” at the Hippodrome of Longchamp. To tell you the full truth, we were really only interested in this event because we thought that there, women could be wearing some genuine Haute Couture clothes and accessories. Nevertheless, and although the invitations displayed no information concerning dress codes, we had studied our horse-racing files and thought we had all the necessary elements to decide on what we were going to wear.

Missing a few afternoon shows to get ready, before we were to be driven to the hippodrome, we met in the town car, only to discover our outfits: Mari Davis had chosen the Haute Couture total look: her tweed jacket was classic and yet highly creative, she had paired it with the season’s Haute Couture denims from the same highly respected house, signature necklace and handbag. This outfit was tastefully mixed to bi-color loose boots by a top French saddler, and, of course, a hat.

As I knew that the talk of the town concerning the much expected race was the contesting Japanese horse, I had chosen a dark suit the color of night with checkered lining and collar, worn on a loose shirt by my favorite Japanese designer matched with black sneakers (limited edition shoes for a world famous sports brand) that he had also created some seasons ago.

Welcomed at the gate of the hippodrome by nice PR assistants, we then walked peacefully to the V.I.P. area but were stopped at the entrance of it by a very unpleasant man who started telling me that I had to wear a tie to get in and any shoes but sports shoes. He then checked our editor-in-chief’s look and said: “no denim trousers are allowed in this restricted area”. No talks with the female P.R. who came only to give explanations, no fashion justifications – let alone diplomatic negotiations – were to change these iron rules of the day: no sports shoes, no denims and a compulsory tie for men.

We were angry, but quickly grew sad as we decided to leave without seeing any really nice extravagant hats. The crowds that our chauffeur was going by on the outskirts of the race field might have been wearing evening gowns and ties, but by the lowest market brands. We then concluded that horseracing fields were no longer the place were style was to be seen. After all, if you can’t wear designer’s clothes at this kind of event, it could become useless for world famous designers to try and create new outfits and looks.

Instead of this dangerous thought, I prefer to ban this event from my agenda in the future as it will certainly take me a very long time to recover from this shock. The Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe will just have to get adapted to the elegance of our times, and might want to do this long before we set foot again at Longchamp.

Finally, I want to thank Julien Fournié, our star illustrator, who escorted us on this unpleasant journey. Mr. Fournié, not only did I witness how you tried to do everything you could to help us in. I have also highly appreciated your once more proven solidarity, when you decided not to get in although you were wearing a beautiful tie, the required type of shoes and no denims.

Thank you, Julien, above all for your splendid (and flattering) illustration that has transformed with class this sad moment in a genuine piece of art and, probably, our funniest episode in the season.

Illustration by JULIEN FOURNIE