Paul W. Downs Finds the Humor at His First Fashion Show

The Hacks creator and comedian ventures into unfamiliar territory sitting front row at Hermès.

Paul W. Downs having a "little selfie moment with Toheeb Jimoh and Hope Ikpoku Jnr—moments before the Hermès show began."

He might not have known it last weekend, but the actor and Hacks co-creator Paul W. Downs began participating in a time-honored fashion week tradition before he’d even touched down in Paris: the travel snafu. Downs, who heads up the hit HBO Max series with his wife, Lucia Aniello, was scheduled to arrive at Hermès’s spring 2023 menswear show—his very first runway presentation ever—after a quick jaunt in Milan from his home base in Los Angeles. But when he checked into his flight for Italy, he realized his passport had expired just weeks before. “Oops,” Downs tells W over e-mail the day after attending the Hermès show. “So I had to expedite it.”

No worries, Paul—it wouldn’t be fashion week without a logistical snag or two. Luckily, the Broad City alum made it to France in time for Hermès, which held its show in the 17th-century courtyard of La Manufacture des Gobelins, an historic tapestry factory, There, he took in the slate of gray, black, and navy blue slacks; sensible work jackets; white tank tops; and PVC windbreakers done in pops of lavender, peach, and salmon with matching bucket hats. (Of all the looks the label sent down the runway, Downs’s favorites were “the deconstructed jackets with schoolboy shorts, the jumpsuit, and some of the colorful knitwear. Everything looked light and comfortable and very wearable.”) The actor, who himself wore a blue leather overshirt for the event, said he was “very excited to see the Hermès show and be in Paris,” but his ultimate dream would be “if a model had overslept and I was the only option to step in.” As for his fellow front row gang, he wasn’t sure with whom he’d be seated, but “was glad to meet Nabhaan Rizwan because I really loved Station Eleven, and Sean Baker and Samantha Quan—I’m a huge fan of their work, especially Florida Project.”

Below, Downs shares more details from his very first runway experience, one that he described as (naturally) “très Parisian.”

“Just off the flight from New York—need a shower and a change, badly.”

“View from my hotel.”

“Day of the show. I was actually invited—here’s proof.”

“Can't do a weekend in Paris without a stop at the Paul Bert section of the flea market,” Downs says of the photo on the right. And on the left, “More puces content for my flea market heads.”

“The rain lasted just long enough for me not to need this umbrella,” Downs said, adding that the downfall miraculously ended right before the show began. On the right, a Paris staple: Compeed bandages. “New shoes means absolutely [wrecked] feet—had to stop at a pharmacie,” Downs adds. “Blister pad, but make it fashion.”

“First meal in Paris is a classic niçoise at Buvette in Pigalle.”

“Yes, I took a ton of branded napkins from this chain cafe.”

Photograph by Saskia Lawaks

The front row.

Photograph by Saskia Lawaks

Paul W. Downs and Nabhaan Rizwan.

“The colorful finale of the Hermès menswear show.”