The nights were hectic with dinners and cocktail events. In early July, as Paris celebrated the return to in-person fashion shows at its semi-annual couture event, Giorgio Armani, who had been among the first Italian designers to cancel his show in February 2020 as the pandemic first surfaced in Milan, staged an intimate runway show and gathering at the Italian Embassy. One guest remarked on Instagram what a thrill it was to catch a glimpse of the designer up close. Even as a dinner took place outside on the grand hotel particulier’s grounds, images from inside showed a packed staircase full of guests and crew members overlooking a crowded entryway full of unmasked models. Elsewhere, Mick Jagger mixed with models in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower. Dior, Chanel and Balenciaga staged significant runway shows, signalling an immediate return to a business model that many industry insiders had predicted would become extinct in a post-pandemic world.
In fashion, it was as if the past 18 months had never happened.
Less than a month earlier, such gatherings had been verboten. That’s not to say they didn’t happen. In early June, at the chic Club Marigny by Jean-Louis Costes, hidden behind the Théâtre Marigny, guests on the terrace intermingled, gossiped and lingered past Paris’s strict 9pm curfew, when service in bars and restaurants was ordered to stop as part of the city’s efforts to curb the spread of the coronavirus. People chattered on, some gossiping about a party that had reportedly taken place at the home of Pierre Kosciusko-Morizet, the French entrepreneur and founder of e-commerce site Priceminister, with more than 300 people in attendance and a “Burning Man” energy. (His sister is Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet, a former politician who was once France’s environment minister.)
Kosciusko-Morizet was rumoured to have thrown the illegal party on May 28 before an extensive home renovation. Since-deleted social media posts and other reports claimed the fête required a vaccination certificate, encouraged outrageous costumes, and used les guetteurs, or lookouts, a new-found profession since last summer in places like Nikki Beach Club in St-Tropez, to warn of impending inspection by the authorities. The police apparently were called to Kosciusko-Morizet’s home, but the outcome of the events remains unclear.
Stories of what people were willing to risk for a good time have circulated in cities around the world. But the French, especially, love le scandale, and the high profile of the participants in the debauchery here seems to reflect a broader disregard for restrictions that is part of the national character, which ultimately prolonged the impact of the pandemic even more than in other European nations.
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