The Galleon - Portsmouth's Student Newspaper

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Fashion & Beauty

Backstage at New York Fashion Week

An insight into the work behind one of biggest events in the fashion calendar

New York Fashion Week started on Thursday 7th September and running for almost a week, it allowed designers from all around the world to showcase their new and upcoming fashion pieces for the next year.

I was lucky enough to jet off to New York City, conveniently at the same time as Fashion Week, for my twenty-first birthday and at the airport was surprised with backstage passes and front row seats to one of the weeks’ shows. In the lead up to the event I was invited by the head hairdresser, a friend of the family, on some of the shows to help him out backstage with the models and rest of his team. Naturally, I jumped at the chance and my insight into the fashion world began.

“No matter how ‘out of this world’ they seem, are just human too.”

The preparation for the Saturday evening show started about three hours before the audience were let in and during this time the designer and the show’s producer met with the lead hairdresser and make-up artist to determine what looks would be the focus of the days event. For the 6pm show, the models started arriving anywhere between 3pm and 4:30pm, depending on their call time and whether they had any previous shows to model for on the day.

In the case of this show, starring Austrian designer Irina Vitjaz’s collection, the stylists seemed to go by the rule of ‘if a model is free, grab them before they go’ and began making them over with the precise look that had previously been discussed. The hairdressers paired up so that they could help each other achieve the desired look perfectly and the make-up artists had to constantly check in with the lead artist to make sure that each facial feature of their model was up to their standard.

“But the most reassuring thing that I saw during this time was that they still had pores and blemishes that needed to be covered and hair crying out to be tamed which made me feel less out of place.”

Chaos didn’t seem to occur until one of the assistant producers requested the models for a half hour interval, at very short notice, in order for them to become familiar with the runway and the shoes they would be walking in. This put the stylists into panic mode as they had allowed just enough time to get the models ready, without leaving any spare in the schedule. The hairdressers and make-up artists reluctantly let the models go and waited anxiously in preparation for their return.

During this time, I was able to go out to the space that the walk was being held and watch the models rehearse. Throughout this half hour run through, the lighting was adjusted, timing of the walk, shoes that the models were assigned and even the order of the walk was arranged. All of the models seemed to take it in their stride until I noticed one of them head backstage in tears, clutching her bloodied and bruised feet from the extremely high stilettos she was walking in. This brought me back to reality as it made me realise that the models, no matter how ‘out of this world’ they seem, are just human too.

As the run through came to an end, there were still six models with long hair to be delicately drawn back into a low ponytail, the focus of the show, and a handful to still be made over. As I had watched the hairdressers for the majority of the time spent backstage, I decided to watch the make-up artists which seemed a more stressful environment. But the most reassuring thing that I saw during this time was that although the models towered over most of us, they still had pores and blemishes that needed to be covered and hair crying out to be tamed which made me feel less out of place.

“Also, dependent on the style of runway, you could be in with a chance of tripping up the models which would certainly see you leave ashamedly through the nearest exit.”

As the time to the show drew in, I decided to head into the auditorium and we were given our seats on the front row by the runway entrance which was the best place to get photographs as the models appeared. Just before the lights dimmed, we were approached by some of the fashion show workers and asked to uncross our legs. At first I was confused as to why this would have to be the case and wondered whether the designer was just very picky about the appearance of her audience members but after some research, I discovered that being on the front row with crossed legs poses a risk of ‘leg-bombing’ the photographs. Also, dependent on the style of runway, you could be in with a chance of tripping up the models which would certainly see you leave ashamedly through the nearest exit.

When the show started and the models began to enter, there were plenty of ‘ooohs’ and ‘ahhhs’ coming from audience members around me as they strutted the runway showing off Irina Vitjaz’s exceptional designs. Each one differed from the next but had the same style of hand-crafted elegance and floating material that anyone I know would pay plenty to wear. On the opposite page are some of my favourite pieces from the show that stood out in comparison to all the rest, although they were all beautiful.

The show lasted fifteen minutes which is amazing considering the amount of preparation that goes into it, with the designer appearing at the end to a huge round of applause from an appreciative audience. After I posed for an obligatory ‘runway photo’, I slipped backstage to see all of the stylists packing away their tools and thanked the lead hairdresser. An experience I may never have again, I will always remember it as the most exciting birthday I’ve ever have. Not many people can say they celebrated their twenty-first backstage at New York Fashion Week.

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