Anne Hidalgo

The Paris Mayoress that brings together politics and fashion

She was born in Spain, her grandfather was once sentenced to death for fighting against Franco and she was brought up in Lyon, but few people have been as busy boosting fashion in Paris this past year as Anne Hidalgo. Ever since she was elected mayor of Paris in April 2014, the Socialist Lady Mayoress has actively backed our industry culminating this past September with a charming soiree where designers and fashion insiders were in­vited into Hôtel de Ville for an end of season cocktail. In London, the wives of the past two prime ministers have organised parties for fashion leaders in 10 Downing Street, but Hidalgo’s party – staged in partnership with the Chambre Syndicale, French fashion’s govern­ing body – was the first time Paris’s City Hall has ever opened its arms to the avant­garde world of bizarrely dressed designers.

In July 2015, an hour before attending Chanel’s gambling casino Haute Couture collection in the Grand Palais, we enjoyed tea and croissants with Madame Hidalgo in her wing of Hôtel de Ville. That’s when she first announced plans for a major reception in the Hôtel de Ville, underneath the gold decoration – part Renaissance and part Belle Époque – next to the caryatids and statues and beneath the massive frescoes by Laurens and Puvis de Chavannes.

“Paris must vibrate with fashion”

“Paris must vibrate with fashion”, exclaimed Hidalgo, who also revealed plans for a major banner campaign with the motto “Paris Loves Fashion”. And, she backed up her words with facts. In October 2015, a gang of politicos joined fashion freaks and us amused editors for the inauguration of the projection “Paris Loves Fashion” blazing out over the Eifel Tower for all of fashion week. Though very much a career politician – back in the 1990s she served as a cabinet advisor for Socialist Prime Minister Lionel Jospin – Hidalgo is quirky. Her other big pro­ject for historic City Hall? Installing a chicken coop in the garden. Even if she did not serve eggs to the fashionistas at her party.

Hidalgo has been showing up at runway shows for a while. In March 2015, she sat front row in the Hôtel de Ville for a great show by Dries Van Noten, which highlighted the dichotomy between the Belgian’s ethnic bo­hemian roots and the sophisticated elite he now dresses. A notable collection that was all about the empowerment of women – and apt seeing that Hidalgo is the first female mayor of fashion’s greatest capital. The daughter of an electrician, Hidalgo is hoping to create bursa­ries to help educate talented young aspiring designers from families of modest means.

Hidalgo is the first female mayor of fashion’s greatest capital

A paradox that continued in the front row, where the mayor sat down punctually opposite the seat of ghetto trash rapper Kanye West. He arrived 25 minutes late, making the mayor and the rest of us wait, eliciting several sarcastic voices in the audience to chorus: “Merci Kanye!” Presented to a brilliant soundtrack of icon­ic female singers – Nancy Sinatra, Beyoncé and Blondie – the cast sauntered over the parquet in the Hôtel de Ville in richly opulent jacquard dresses, tunics and coats. The lat­ter finished with fabric lowers, plastic petals and multi­colored stamens. It was a dazzling display, heightened by a huge lighting gantry that descended pre­show amid much grum­bling from the photographers’ pit.

Hidalgo actually has her own apartment in City Hall, but prefers to live with her kids in her own lat. This mother of three children is divorced but has remarried. Though very much a devoted Socialist, Hidalgo is a Roman Catholic, and has received the Order of Isa­bella the Catholic, “in recognition of success­ful Spanish integration in France”.

Hidalgo dresses with classical French good taste. She does not splurge on pricy runway brands, yet always looks elegant. Perhaps she got her taste for fashion from her mother, who was a seamstress. Back in the early 1960s with Spain in economic diiculties her mum and dad moved to Lyon, where Anne lived until her late teens. She speaks Spanish and French luently – along with decent English. Her parents have since returned to live in Spain, her one sister Marie runs a company in Los Angeles.

Hidalgo dresses with classical French good taste.

Our last meeting with Hidalgo was back­ stage in the Accor Hotels Arena at the irst of U2’s recent series of concerts in Paris – just three nights before the disgusting attacks of November 13. “I’ve always adored U2. It’s the music of my youth and of today”, thrilled the auburn­haired politician. Bono even thanked Hidalgo on stage after she had presented him with the honorary Medaille de Paris. “Merci Madame Hidalgo, nous sommes Parisiens maintenant”, smiled the Irish rocker.

Developing a taste for the front­row, the lady mayor showed up last summer at Raf Simons’ Garden of Earthly Delights for Christian Dior. Raf went back to the roots with Christian Dior Couture but rather than Christian’s beloved Normandy, Raf whipped up an efervescent show staged in a towering Burning Man set.

Anne Hidalgo’s efforts for fashion have certainly not gone un­noticed

Referencing Hieronymus Bosch and Jan Van Eyck, Simons created an evocative collec­tion a direct counterblast to the androgyny that has been dominating fashion of late. Dior, by contrast, was almost virginal in its purity: spacey versions of remote heroines painted in the 15th century. Simons also unveiled a genuinely new gar­ment: a metal mesh and crystal tank, cut as a miniature wrought iron lattice of a medieval church window, which he used over faux Ar­gyle cashmere tanks and splendid bellowing at the hip dresses. One sensed a designer working hard and being fully conident of his atelier’s ability. Notably recognized in several sculptural wool coats, cut ever so slightly askew and inished with one huge side pocket and just one sleeve in raw mink.

Stars were dotted everywhere – from Lu­pita Nyong’o beside Anna Wintour to Lucy de la Falaise dishing with Marisa Berenson – in Dior’s front row. Former First Lady Madame Bernadette Chirac sat beside Hidalgo, who chatted animatedly into the ear of Dior owner Bernard Arnault. Conservative Chirac was noticeably cooler to Hidalgo. Then again one could not help recalling that Chirac’s husband Jacques had used the position as mayor of Paris to catapult himself to the presidency. And no one has ever accused Anne of lacking ambition and ideas – as her efforts for fashion have certainly not gone un­noticed.