“If I were a bag, this is what I would be,” Paris Hilton said in her apartment in New York on Tuesday night, cozied up on a white leather couch between her sister Nicky and her brand new, bright pink Birkin. It's her revenge handbag, so to speak. Ten years since the so-called Bling Ring infamously stole all 20 of Hilton’s Birkins—not to mention $2 million worth of jewelry and designer items (Paris rattled off the entire bill of stolen goods in one breath along with “I hate them”)—she has finally found a satisfactory replacement: a Birkin she'd just gotten “custom designed, because it was boring before.” Now it's covered in tens of thousands of Swarovski crystals and, as Paris put it, “blings so hardcore.”
But she would not be taking it with her last night. Having just returned from Carnival in Brazil during her birthday DJ tour with her fiancé, Chris Zylka, that morning, Paris was preparing to attend the fall 2018 New York Fashion Week event for Monse, the buzzy label run by the Oscar de la Renta designers Laura Kim and Fernando Garcia. This season, their show took the form of a screening party at Gramercy Park Hotel for a film featuring their collection, shot in Coney Island and narrated by Nicki Minaj, meaning the Hiltons would be carrying purses by Monse—ones much smaller than a travel-friendly tote.
Paris hadn’t slept since her flight from Brazil. She’d been running on coffee since she landed, accompanying Nicky to Alice + Olivia’s presentation, having her customary back-to-back meetings—mostly all prep for the love-themed single and music video, “I Need You,” that she’s dropping Wednesday for Valentine’s Day. Nicky, on the other hand, was dutifully attending all her friends’ fashion shows while taking care of both of her daughters for the first time, one of whom was born just two months ago. (Paris is, naturally, "obsessed" with her nieces. "I’m so in love with them," she gushed. "I can’t wait to have my own.")
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At Paris’s downtown Manhattan apartment, it was still “family time." She and Nicky technically live on opposite coasts, though Paris travels, by her estimate, 250 days a year for her business and DJ duties, which is why Nicky, her soon-to-be maid of honor, pointed out that—for her sister and probably no one else—Fashion Week “is like a break.”
That's “why I love it," Paris agreed. "When I go to events, I just love to spend time with my sister. We’ve been doing this together since we were teenagers, so it’s a special time for us to be together—to dress up, have fun, support our friends who are designers.”
And her fiancé is well aware. Once Nicky arrived, Zylka cut short his tour of the apartment and insisted that “New York is sister time,” declining to be in any photos and settling on the couch with his Game Boy. Getting ready together is, after all, something of a pastime for the Hiltons, even if they weren't wearing Monse growing up. Their mother often dressed them as twins in what Nicky described as “itchy velvet expensive dresses that we hated and could not wait to take off.”
On this night, though, Nicky wore a Monse pre-fall ensemble of a sweater and asymmetrical skirt, and Paris' rare all-black appearance, which included leather pants, was also courtesy of the label. (Though it was admittedly accented by a sizable swath of sequins.) Altogether, it pretty much summed up Paris’s style evolution from a “tomboy” who dreamed of being a veterinarian to a socialite who got into fashion after moving to New York.
“Everyone was always very elegant and proper, and I came in with all these sparkles and pink—things I’m seeing now, so I’m realizing I was just very before my time,” she said. Occasionally, she still revisits those early-2000's trademarks, but “now that I’ve grown up and I’m getting married and I feel like more of an adult, I look to Nicky for style advice—or just her pictures on Instagram. She always looks so chic and perfectly put-together.”
Paris is still Paris, though. Even if her New York apartment is remarkably low-key—no doorman, no publicists or assistants in sight—it’s also a wunderkammer of all the shiny, charming kitsch you probably associate with her brand. “Paris is like Michael Jackson with all of her toys,” Nicky said. She recalled how, shortly before his death, Jackson dropped by their mom’s house and went through all of Paris’s things, asking if he could take home trinkets like her Tinker Bell and Peter Pan figurines. “I’d be pissed if it were anyone else but Michael Jackson," Paris added. "But he’s a legend and he was like family."
Paris, of course, had more than one Tinker Bell. Famously, she brought along her “sidekick” Tinker Bell, a chihuahua whom Nicky called “the third Hilton sister,” to fashion weeks past. Tinker Bell even joined the sisters in walking the runway at a Heatherette show in their early fashion weeks. And Paris brought one of her ferrets, Cinderella, when she walked a show in L.A. in 2005. (She still, in fact, has six ferrets today, though they now all reside on the Hilton family ranch in Costa Rica).
Paris laughed at the memory. Nicky had been quietly laughing pretty much since Paris compared herself to a handbag. But before all the ferret talk, Nicky had been lamenting the “authenticity” missing from fashion week in the present-day. “When I first started going, people went to shows because they loved the designs and the designer," she said. "Today, it’s so different—people don’t go for the love of fashion, and it’s more about who’s writing the biggest check and sponsored posts." She adores Kim and Garcia, the Monse and Oscar de la Renta designers, which is quite a compliment coming from someone who grew up going to Oscar shows. “They have the uptown girl covered with Oscar, and the downtown cool girl covered with Monse,” she added.
Paris had grown uncharacteristically silent, and apologized for being in such a jet-lagged daze. She’d been thinking of the next day ahead of her, which her single release was making so hectic that she'd preemptively cancelled all the shows she’d planned to attend. "Obviously, my music is more important,” she said, adding that at the very top of her priority list, though, is simply “being a businesswoman,” which includes managing her 19 product lines, 20-plus fragrances, and her nonstop DJ-ing schedule. “I really wish I had a couple of me,” she said.
Like Kim Kardashian, perhaps? I pointed out that she'd just played a clone of Kim in the Yeezy campaign. “That was so fun," Paris said, perking up. "They didn’t send the concept, just the clothes, and I was just on my phone, working, when they were getting me ready in what I thought would be just normal hair and makeup. So when they were like, ‘Let’s go,’ I looked in the mirror and I had the wig on and everything and I was like, ‘Oh my god, we look like twins.’”
Enough reminiscing: it was time to head out for the night. Before the Monse show, the sisters planned to stop by the New York premiere of Black Panther, and the next day was, of course, Valentine’s Day. Nicky's plans with her husband James Rothschild included “a little date night—a night off from the kids for a few hours.” Meanwhile, Paris insisted that for herself and Zylka, “every day is Valentine’s Day,” and that, as usual, she’d spend most of it working before they they could get to doing “something special”—in this case, after making her way through the 20 interviews she's scheduled to promote her single.
“Just 20 interviews,” said Zylka, piping up suddenly with a wry smile. “Now you see why I play GameBoy.”