During the 1990s, I traveled to Paris frequently for work. I found places, monuments and museums that suited me and revisited them often. Over the years, I spent many hours in the Musee de la Mode et du Textile (fashion and textile museum) admiring clothes, designers, fabrics and intricate constructions dating from centuries ago to modern times. While much of it was strange and impractical, I was always satisfied by this colorful and sensual treat. Fast forward to my recent visit to Paris after an extended absence. Back to the fashion museum I went!
The current exhibition features the avant-garde fashion of the 1990’s. New to me were the museum’s video installations showing the runway shows where the clothes on display were originally presented. I found the videos to be a distraction from the clothes themselves, but I got weirdly into watching them. And not because of the clothes.
Having never attended a live runway show, I was fascinated watching the models. I noticed that their “presentation” was the antithesis of how we coach speakers and presenters. Where we say connection is everything (look people in the eye, smile, relate, be relevant), these women were bound by rules of disengagement. Walk into a room with hundreds of people staring at you and act as if you don’t see them. Stare vacantly across the room. NO EYE CONTACT! Verboten! The human disconnection and detachment is icy cold. I started to admire their ability to look so indifferent while lights, cameras and all eyes were not only on them but glued to their every step. Honestly, the whole thing gave me the creeps.
If you want to sell clothes, feel free to emulate the Paris runway model. If you want to sell yourself, your product, your business or your ideas, make a genuine connection. Doesn’t hurt to look tres chic while doing it.