Behind the Scenes at Fashion Week
When fashion week entered the digital age, it really became a crazy time. Here’s what went in to a typical show...
Creating a look for fashion week starts way before the day of the runway show. A test application with the designer, stylist and my top assistant was the first step. Often the designer and stylist had different ideas and describing what was in their heads was not always very clear. After looking at the new collection and seeing the inspiration photos, I would visualize and translate the clothing into a makeup look. Once a look was agreed upon, I would get to work on a test model. (This model was sometimes not even in the final runway show, but was just someone available that day.) After the team approves the makeup, my assistant would sketch the colors on a face chart. And full disclosure, the products used were often selected to highlight an upcoming makeup launch.
Show days were always jammed pack and scheduled with military precision. My head assistant would be responsible for recruiting the backstage assistant teams to help with the 25 or more models we would have to get ready. We packed our bags packed in snowboard-sized rolling suitcases and wheeled them in on a mission.
Set-up was always fast and furious, everyone was trying to jockey for the best position backstage to capture whatever light was available. Some of the spaces, like the tents, were funky but roomy; others were dark and cramped. After we set up, I would grab the most photogenic model I could find to recreate the look from our test.
While I started applying makeup, my video team, photographer and artist would watch as if I was demonstrating a brain surgery technique. Once the look was completed, we were given special access to the runway and would check it under the show lights with the designer, stylist, publicists, top editors and my team. Often the designer would have a last minute change or we would realize that what we picked back at the office was not going to cut it with the lighting of the runway space. This was my time to adapt and really figure out what would work. My assistants always had their arms full of supplies, ready to blot, bold or change on the spot while dozens looked on. I always breathed a sigh of relief when we were given a thumbs up.
With the look finalized, I would give interviews describing the look to top editors over and over again. Sometimes I did it while I worked on faces, with rows of editors staring back at me. On top of that, video crews and photographers were working to capture content for outlets from all over the globe. I can only imagine the photos captured of me while I concentrated on my job...
Models were always coming in at different times, some straight from other shows. For those that arrived late, we had a SWAT team of artists that would divide and conquer. One would take the face, the other eyes, the other lips. This would often happen while the model was sitting in a chair for hair and getting her nails done.
I am such a perfectionist and detail person that my main concern was always consistency and precision. While I worked to finish, check and fix every model, waves of bloggers with cameras, friends, family, crew and hairdressers were requesting selfies and trying to get the best shots of the look. Thankfully, I always had my top artists on deck to assist and was surrounded by my peeps backstage. (In this photo you see Tara from Yahoo Beauty, my artists Cassandra, Kim and Marc and a slew of editors and bloggers from around the world.)
Was it exhausting? Beyond. Exciting? Absolutely. Am I glad that I am out of the backstage business? For sure. But I am so glad I had the experience. Would I do it again? Only for a top designer, and only as a one off.