“OK the past few weeks have been MANICCC,” Masoom Minawala Mehta, a lifestyle and fashion influencer with 1.3 million Instagram, posted in her stories on Sunday. In addition to dealing with events in her personal life — a canceled trip to Spain, and a husband with a broken leg — Mehta was grappling with one major question: whether to attend Paris Haute Couture Week in light of the ongoing police brutality protests currently roiling in the city.

The protests, which have been going on for nearly a week, were prompted by the shooting death of a 17-year-old boy of Algerian descent identified as Nahel M., who was killed by police during a traffic check. The shooting reignited national debates about police brutality and racism, resulting in protests in the city and surrounding area and hundreds of arrests and injuries, as well as a violent attack on the home of the mayor of a Paris suburb. But Mehta had other concerns.

After checking with local Parisian friends, who reassured her that the city was “safe and running as usual,” Mehta, who did not immediately respond to Rolling Stone‘s request for comment, made her decision. “I decided to go because frankly it’s an important season for me,” she wrote, seemingly suggesting that her desire to attend overrode the protests, though she added she would not bring her child “because of the safety concerns.”

Many of Mehta’s followers were horrified by what they viewed as her tone-deaf response to the political unrest in the city, referring to her post as “entitled” and “privileged.” “A little boy was killed; this isn’t ABOUT YOU. Stop MAKING THIS ABOUT YOU,” one commenter wrote in the subreddit r/InstaCelebsGossip. But in truth, she is far from the only high-profile figure — or brand, for that matter — proceeding with business as usual amidst the chaos.

With luminaries like Cardi B, Vogue editor Anna Wintour, and influencer Meredith Duxbury in town for the week, Haute Couture Week has so far proceeded as usual, despite the racial and political tensions throughout the city. Following a handful of calls for the event to be shut down and brands like Chloe canceling parties last weekend, only one major house has officially acknowledged the current political climate: Celine. Designer Hedi Slimane wrote on Instagram that it would be canceling its show this year because “a fashion show in Paris, while France and its capital are bereaved and bruised, seems… inconsiderate and totally misplaced.”

Aside from Celine, however, as of Monday shows by brands like Schiaparelli, Maison Alaia, and Iris van Herpen have continued apace. And while most of the content taken at Haute Couture Week has been standard influencer fare — GRWM videos, selfies at Parisian brasseries, and champagne brand shoutout posts — some influencers have made reference to the roiling political climate, to questionable effect.

“It’s going to be intense. With the current context, I don’t really know how it will go,” wrote fashion and style influencer LaRox in the caption for her video in which she prepped for Haute Couture Week, which is translated from French. “But I’m going there with a lot of excitement. This is where we understand the full meaning of the word ‘passion.’” She then tried on various looks for her audience, including a pair of lavender espadrilles with a floral dress and a pastel cardigan.

Fashion influencer and writer Susie Bubble also alluded to the current crisis by posting a video of police sirens in her Instagram story, writing, “Cavalcade of police vehicles heading presumably towards Paris burbs,” with three heartbreak emojis, adding “the rioting may have quelled by the underlying root causes…need to be addressed,” which she followed up with a video of the spectacular view from her hotel room.


While it could potentially be argued such posts provide necessary escapism from the political climate, not everyone is enjoying them. In a comment on Bubble’s video from the Maison Alaia show, which took place on a bridge and opened with a quote from Alaia’s creative director: “to meet all together on the bridge, just before sundown, when beauty spreads in the city,” a commenter wrote, “Yes, it is the truth when beauty spreads in the city the suburb of Paris is burning. I love fashion people .”

With the unrest in the Parisian suburbs thankfully appearing to be winding down (there were only 157 arrests on the sixth night of the protests, as opposed to 3,880 at its peak on June 30), influencers like Mehta can focus on what really matters. As she outlined in a video titled “My Goals for Couture Week”: “I want to be able to drive a conversation with my looks,” she said, adding that she wanted to “tell the stories of the brands, the events, and shows I’m attending [in] a way that I can be able to drive some sort of impact to them. Like, why am I at Fashion Week, right? I don’t want to just go there to play dress-up. There has to be a story I’m coming back with.”