Special guest writer Lisa Rounds, journalist and writer, Minneapolis, MN
It was 1998, and I was about to finish a one-year contract with a publishing company in Paris. I was 25 years old and living a dream from which I was not quite ready to wake up. I had six months left on my work visa, and a friend of a friend mentioned an unpaid internship at Hearst Magazines. The office served primarily as a rest stop for the U.S. editors of Harper’s Bazaar, Marie Claire, and Cosmopolitan when they swooped into town twice a year for the runway shows. In my short time at 42, rue Montaigne (just above the Chanel boutique), I learned the proper French way to address an invitation, taxied accessories to photo shoots, and when the parties were over and it was time for the editors to go back to New York, I FedExed the designer purchases that did not fit in their suitcases. If only there had been blogs in those days, what fun I would have had telling the stories that have since faded with time. But there are some I will never forget…
There was chatter in the office one day about an up-and-coming actress who was starring in a movie about Queen Elizabeth. She was going to be photographed by Karl Lagerfeld for the cover of Harper’s Bazaar. Critiquing the young actress’s looks, my colleagues determined that she was not beautiful in a conventional sort of way, but interesting enough. At the time I did not know who Karl Lagerfeld was, let alone Cate Blanchett (I have since become a huge fan). Later that week I was asked to hand-deliver a box of antique jewelry to an undisclosed location, and it turned out to be the Harper’s cover shoot.
My most memorable experience of all, however, was an afternoon spent searching for the “perfect Moroccan slipper” (in red, of course) for a Cosmo photo shoot. A young assistant editor was given the task of bringing back several options for her boss to choose from — surely a test. It was her first time in Paris, and because I lived not too far from the North African neighborhood of Barbès, I volunteered to be her guide. We set out in a chauffeured black Mercedes, and as we approached the 18th arrondissement — first Pigalle, then under the elevated Métro Line-2, past the beloved pink checkered Tati sign — the crowds became too thick, the hilly streets too narrow for our ubiquitous sedan. I asked the driver to let us off so we could start our mission, and he reassured the nervous assistant that he would park nearby and wait for us.
We searched every single shop along the rue de la Goutte d’or and found all kinds of things, from Indian-style jutti flats to white-and-gold beaded slippers, but nothing red! As I grew more and more determined to succeed, my shopping partner grew more and more apprehensive about the boisterous crowds. She huffed about the lengths to which she went for her job, the risks she was asked to take in the name of fashion! As I was about to pull her back into one of the first shops we’d visited, we saw our chauffeur waving furiously at us from the corner. Three hubcaps were gone, and a young man was prying off the fourth. This was the last straw, said the assistant. She would not be subjected to this kind of danger. We got in the car and inched our way out of the zone, through the masses.
My unforgettable internship came to an end later that month, and I always wondered if the young editor’s job did too.
Lisa Rounds lived in Paris from 1997-1999. Originally from Minnesota, she spent 10 years in New York working in magazine and book publishing, including at the Bureau du Livre Français as a literary agent representing French authors. She met her husband there, and the couple eventually moved to Buenos Aires until 2008. They now live in Minneapolis, Minnesota with their two sons, Sebastian, 7, and Lucas, 4.
You may also enjoy A Woman’s Paris™ blog, Fashion trends from the street, Rule of Five. On extended stays in Paris, I’ve seen trends take hold. Like waves shifting in the Paris breeze; each wave like a cat-paw on the surface of the ocean, now here, now there, now gone. Still, the Parisienne never tries to fit in. Daring, carrying herself confidently, with her own inbred style, she moves quickly through the city, hardly disturbing its surface.
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Text copyright ©2012 Lisa Rounds
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