“Paris is always a good idea” is a quote often attributed to Audrey Hepburn, whose 1954 film “Sabrina” was shot in the French capital. It’s true, especially for students wanting to venture into the world of fashion.
Paris has always been known as the center of art and culture in Europe. One of the world’s four major fashion capitals (along with New York, London and Milan), Paris is the definition of style, beauty and refinement—it’s no wonder many people interested in fashion come here to be inspired.
And for an aspirant in the industry, it’s a dream—one worth sacrificing a lot for.
I have dreamed of studying in Paris since I was 8. I promised myself that I would do everything to get to the city I fell in love with through books and movies.
How could a child who’d spend summers in art class not love Paris, when the “Mona Lisa” is just a quick commute from where Vincent van Gogh himself used to live? How could a future fashion designer not be transported back to history when he sips a cup of the world’s creamiest chocolat chaud at Angelina, in the exact same spot where Coco Chanel herself lounged at in the 1920s?
Paris was the goal. After 10 years, I made it.
I moved to Paris last fall for further education, enrolling in a bachelor program in fashion design and technology at International Fashion Academy (IFA) Paris. I had been accustomed to living away from my parents since I was 12, when I started attending the Philippine High School for the Arts in Mt. Makiling, Laguna.
There is nothing different about waking up in the morning, making my own bed and doing house chores, which had been my ritual in the past few years.
Missing the warmth
This time, however, the weather is cold and so are most of the people. In Paris, in an era of diversity, racial ignorance is still felt. Oftentimes I miss the warmth of the Philippines—not just its literal heat, but also the vibrance of life I’d see on the streets.
The cost of living in France is extremely high. Rent and housing are very expensive, especially when you’re living within city boundaries. An 18-square-meter studio in the “outer” arrondissements can set you back 800 euros, or P48,000 a month. Dining out is also a dent on the piggy bank, so I’d resort to making home-cooked meals, which I had to learn on my own.
The most expensive are the materials I have to use in school projects. I’d choke up upon seeing the prices of fabrics, which are sometimes six or 10 or even 12 times pricier than the yardages in Divisoria, Manila. A Filipino friend I met here advised me never to compare how much a yard of katsa in Manila is to a meter of muslin toile in Paris.
It’s an ongoing struggle, but it’s one I’m willing to undergo to continue doing what I love.
Despite the expenses, there are still certain advantages to living in Paris for a Filipino fashion student. Daily commute is efficient, so I certainly do not miss Edsa’s snail-pace traffic and the long lines at the LRT and MRT.
Steeped in heritage
Parisian lifestyle feels more relaxed, and you are able to do many things in a day, that you don’t realize how fast time flies. The city is also steeped in heritage, with the oldest structure, built in 1407, still standing.
One is inspired by the Rococo interiors or the contemporary art in countless galleries in the city. Its cobblestone streets echo the ones I’d walk through in Intramuros, and the cafés are just like how I had imagined after seeing the scene in Juan Luna’s 1892 painting “The Parisian Life.”
I’d gush with excitement over how fashion’s historical maisons de haute couture are just meters away from me and how I could casually bump into the industry’s most revered designers on the street. And since France’s fashion and luxury goods industry generates more revenue in comparison to its aerospace and automobile industries, there are plenty of job opportunities for anyone interested in joining the creative professions.
I have much more to learn and take in. But one thing I know is, no matter how grand Paris is, even a view of the Eiffel Tower will never equal seeing the smiles of the Filipino people. —CONTRIBUTED