Fashion and runway protests have an amusing relationship, depending on how you look at it.
Whether it's PETA protesting the Dior FW03 show and getting dragged off the catwalk or a Rick Owens model dropping a banner reading "PLEASE KILL ANGELA MERKEL NOT" – with livestreams broadcasted from every angle, it's a tempting setup for someone who wants to make a far-reaching statement.
In many ways, the spectacle of a fashion show is the perfect stage for socio-political disruption – and isn't fashion supposed to lean in towards outliers and those who challenge the status quo? Well, not always.
The general sense of awkwardness was palpable when Marie S'Infiltre stormed the Chanel Spring/Summer 2020 runway show at Paris Fashion Week on October 1 (as captured by DAZED below), before she was brusquely escorted off the runway by none other than Gigi Hadid.
We spoke with Marie to get her side of the story.
So, what was your motivation for storming the Chanel show?
I wanted to continue the series of videos that I do for fashion week. I wanted to do something funny and amusing within the very serious world of fashion.
How did you get through security?
I found faults in the system. It was really difficult to get in – you need to have an invitation, your ID, your passport… I did many things to get in; I lied. Then, at the end [of the queue], there was a rush – the person at the door was stressed. So I seized the opportunity while they swiftly glanced at my documents. I managed to enter quickly, along with my associate.
And what was your intention once you got on the runway?
I never really have an intention with these sort of things, they’re usually spontaneous acts. I wanted to walk the runway with Chanel’s top models because I wanted to do something involving that brand.
Why Chanel, of all brands?
Because it’s the most prestigious fashion show. The most important, the most serious… It’s the show at the end of fashion week, and it’s always highly anticipated. So therefore, it’s the most important. The week before, I crashed the Etam show and walked their runway, and it went really well, but perhaps too well. People thought it was set up. So I thought, if people thought that was fake, I have to hit the most important runway to make them see otherwise.
Can you please explain what was going through your mind once Gigi came to stop you – is she as strong as she looks? We've heard she does a boxing regime...
I didn’t recognize her at all; I didn’t recognize one of the most important fashion models in the world. I didn’t understand what she was doing, why she was acting like a security guard. She was quite aggressive. It was really funny because she was like an American teenager – really excited, you know? She seemed really nervous. I thought her attitude was ridiculous.
She was still really aggressive backstage. For me, the most important thing was to get out of the show as quickly as possible because I didn’t want to get in trouble with the police. But Gigi and two other models continued to seem aggressive towards me. I felt like she wanted to steal my iPhone because she thought I was streaming with it. At the time, I didn’t really understand what was happening. For me, Gigi was just a girl being really protective with her friends. She seemed like a caricature of a top model.
For me, fashion is joyful, it doesn't need to be a pretentious milieu. I think Gigi’s reaction demonstrates the first degree of the absence of humour in fashion. Her lawyer emailed me an official complaint telling me not to mock her image – you can see how this seems ridiculous to me. I’m a French girl, I have 250,000 followers on Instagram, nobody cares about me. But she’s still angry.
I box too, I’m not afraid. If she wants, we can do a big fight in Vegas or something. We should organize that, that would be funny. I think I’m stronger than her. I’m smaller, though, so maybe that would be a factor.
What happened after Gigi escorted you off the stage?
Gigi completely freaked out. It felt completely aggressive.
Where did you get your outfit from?
I asked my mother if I could borrow her Chanel suit from 1986. It was important to me to be in Chanel for the Chanel show, of course! My mother bought the suit with her first paycheque.
I also wore my Chanel bag, which I was given for my 18th birthday. The hat I wore is by a new and really famous French designer, whose name I can't remember… I did my best! It was completely spontaneous because I only found out about the Chanel show at the Grand Palais on the day before. I didn’t know if I would manage to get inside; I don’t prepare my actions. I check it out, and if I think it’s okay, I’ll go do it.
Tell us about your work outside of this? How did the stunt at Chanel fit into it?
Marie S’Infiltre is a character I created separate from my own personality, Marie Benoliel, someone who’s more serious… I don’t want to do this for the rest of my life. I want to act, I have my own show that I wrote and produced on my own. Marie S’Infiltre is this crazy girl, but Marie Benoliel is a producer, etc, with a lot of ambition!
Was this your biggest infiltration to date?
I think I’ve done more dangerous things.
I did a big video on Burning Man, which was since censored. I’ve done a lot of different videos on society; different subjects like politics and economy… I wanted to show that fashion can be joyful even if it’s seen as a serious subject. We can laugh, we can smile, we can show that it doesn't have to be tough or deep. I wanted to be really respectful to the brand because I love Chanel. I didn’t want to disturb the show. But my goal was to put into question how we treat certain subjects.
For example, Burning Man was really complicated to get into, to get the tickets, to film everybody. What we did was completely illegal. I’m really proud of this video – Burning Man has never been filmed like that before. Even with politics, I always do courageous things. In France, we have the Front National, a right wing party that’s quite racist, and I gave them the middle finger. A lot of what I've done has been more impressive and dangerous than just walking on the catwalk during a fashion show. But so many people respect fashion, so maybe they're more impressed by what I’m doing because nobody wants to mess with the image of fashion.
Do you plan to return to fashion week again?
Not yet! I hope that I’ll find other things. But now I see that my actions can have a bigger international impact, so maybe I should take that into consideration. Where can I go? Where can I reveal something so that we can laugh about things that are serious? [I want to] change people’s minds.
Interview and translation by Bianca Giulione