Like everyone, I was horrified to see the news of the devastating fire at Notre Dame Cathedral. That it survived world wars but was nearly felled by what looks like a terrible accident after 800 plus years of majesty is hard to comprehend, much less accept.
My first visit to Notre Dame was solo. I had a spare 24 hours between business meetings in Geneva and London (I had a pretty cool job in my 20s), so I decided what better time to see Paris? I recall coworkers thinking it was odd to venture to a famously romantic city by myself, but come on, what better place to explore with only your own interests to pursue? I could see the Eiffel Tower from my hostel (cool job that didn’t pay that well), but I went to Notre Dame first.
My second visit was with my mother, on her first trip abroad. I was with her when the fire news broke…and we cried together. For the building, for the people, for the church…and for the fact that I would likely not have a similar visit with my own children.
My last time seeing the cathedral was with my husband, literally the very last stop on our three-week honeymoon. By then we were a bit tourist weary, but you simply don’t skip Notre Dame.
Three visits. I’m luckier than most…but still really sad.
But as with most tragedies, when you look you are likely to find hope amidst the ruin. Elizabeth I spoke about the fire, and she shared that she’d just seem some articles: news was just breaking that Paris’ major fashion houses planned to donate to the rebuilding efforts. I said, oh, that’s great, but it’s going to take hundreds of millions of dollars.
She paused, then said – no, they are giving that. They’ve giving hundreds of millions of dollars. Well, euros.
From the New York Times: At least 600 million euros, or more than $675 million, has already been promised to help rebuild Notre-Dame: The billionaire Pinault family of France, the French energy company Total, and L’Oréal and the Bettencourt-Schueller Foundation, which is backed by the family that founded the cosmetics giant, each pledged €100 million; the family of Bernard Arnault, owners of the luxury goods group LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton, plans to contribute €200 million.
I was stunned.
It is great, of course. Although, I will admit, for a split second I was mildly chagrined that these houses and their CEOs have such abundant revenue to spare when so many in the world have so little. But it’s not like we didn’t know these companies’ leaders are billionaires many times over…and, to be fair, these companies have earned such revenues through their creativity, innovative products, and marketing savvy.
Which led me to my more lasting thought, about how fashion – in all its forms, from the design houses in Paris with global reach, to our Stylebook boutiques locally — is inextricably woven, pun intended, into our lives.
It made me think of Miranda Priestly eloquently scolding Andy in The Devil Wears Prada about “cerulean blue,” that is to say, the global reach of designers and the countless people whose lives depend upon the fashion industry.
It made me think of the Stylebook post I wrote last year, when women chose to wear black to the Golden Globes. Fashion was a tool to make the profound, clear statement that Time’s Up.
It made me think of Alicia’s post last week about Sara reentering the workforce. Fashion is her armor as she navigates a new chapter.
Fashion isn’t frivolous; it helps us express ourselves. It’s societal shorthand to telegraph who we are in the world. But fashion isn’t a one-way street. With each season’s collection, designers use the runways to reflect who we are; their looks are a distillation of a particular moment and mood in time.
So who better than those in fashion to speak for humanity.
With these extraordinary donations, fashion’s most powerful voices are amplifying what we all hold true: we value art, we value faith, we value history, and we vow to preserve these gifts for generations to come.