PARIS — “Glittering night birds,” the dress code for the 20th annual Sidaction benefit gala in Paris, might have been too much of an ask for some members of the bedraggled fashion flock.
Many wore basic black to the annual fundraiser, which fell at the tail end of several fashion weeks and had a ’70s disco theme, exalting the heydays of legendary Paris nightclub Le Palace.
The guests — who included Whitney Peak, Margaret Qualley, Adut Akech, Clémence Poésy and Iman Perez along with designers such as Julie de Libran, Coperni’s Arnaud Vaillant and Sébastien Meyer, Simon Porte Jacquemus, Sara Chraïbi, Charles de Vilmorin and Elie Top — split into two categories: those who were all for dress codes and those who did their own thing.
“I just show up the way I’m going to show up,” confessed Mugler creative director Casey Cadwallader, although his “normal me, wearing black and white” outfit included a vintage Mugler jacket he’d been lucky to score for a song on Vinted. “It’s nice to stay in character.”
Singer-songwriter Bilal Hassani said he was never one to respect an outfit request: “I always do me. That’s a gorgeous black Alexander McQueen dress — just dream of the glitter.”
Peak, who is the face of Chanel’s Coco Mademoiselle fragrance, rose to the occasion with a silver-threaded lace outfit by the French luxury house. But she confided that being asked to dress as an “alien cowboy” for a friend’s birthday had once left her stumped.
Singer Amanda Lear described her look as “glittering from A to Z,” showing off her Roger Vivier heels and bag as she arrived in the lower level of the Pavillon Cambon, which had been turned into a lounge-club for the evening. “That’s what was written on the invitation.”
She recalled being invited to a party where guests had to be dressed as a vegetable. “People dressed as broccoli, salads,” she related.
It turns out such offbeat dress codes are more common than one might think.
Ami Paris designer Alexandre Mattiussi recalled a birthday party he attended a few years ago that requested circus attire.
“I tried to make myself into a clown, so I wore a red jacket, green shirt, yellow trousers, blue shoes,” he related. “I did the best I could.”
Designer Ludovic de Saint Sernin, wearing a bare mesh top twinkling with Swarovski crystals, said the most fun he’d had was with a theme of “not yourself tonight.”
“So that night I was Rick Owens and I was wearing a cool Rick look. My boyfriend was [Rick Owens muse and model] Tyrone and he just looked amazing — it was the best night ever.”
Louis-Gabriel Nouchi, winner of the 2023 ANDAM prize, said he once attended an event inviting guests to dress after “the name of tube stations in Paris.”
Since he lived near the “Rome” stop, he draped himself in a sheet. “It was so funny to see how people interpreted the weird names we have in Paris,” he said.
The wackiest dress code Victor Weinsanto was given was “clothed or not.” It turns out those who turned up naked were excused from paying the entry fee. “Best money I spent on my dignity,” he deadpanned.
Organizers of the fundraiser, in partnership with the Fédération de la Haute Couture et de la Mode, and hosted by Sidaction ambassador and artistic director Jean Paul Gaultier, upped the ante this year with a bevy of drag performers, a breathy Marilyn Monroe-esque version of “Happy Birthday Sidaction,” crooned by actor and designer Romain Brau, and more disco balls than a Boney M. concert.
There were poignant moments, too, notably a video address by French singer and Sidaction cofounder Line Renaud, still full of hope and fight at 95.
The audience was told the galas have raised more than 11 million euros to date for AIDS research and patient support, with Sidaction president Françoise Barré-Sinoussi coaxing the audience to applaud the researchers and activists who were present.