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Behind the Scenes at Fashion Week

From the front row seats, fashion shows seem like one big glamorous party. But behind the curtains, it’s a pandemonium of stylists, publicists and models all striving to make the designer’s vision a reality.

It’s the team of people who get a model ready for the show that is responsible for making sure their look stays on point throughout. It’s organized madness, but a necessary one.

The Stylists

It’s no secret that fashion shows are a big deal. They’re a chance for designers to show off their latest collection to a room full of buyers, editors and influencers — often with celebrity guests in the front row. But while the runway show might be the star of the show, there’s a lot going on behind the scenes to make the magic happen.

Backstage at a fashion show is a flurry of activity: Models silently glued to their phones texting their agents, stylists running around in a frenzy, personal assistants barking requests and hair stylists working frantically with a blizzard of bobby pins while submerged in a fog of hair spray. It’s a madhouse but one that is necessary to produce the ultimate show experience.

Stylists are in charge of putting together the final looks that will walk down the runway. They are responsible for the overall look of each model from top to bottom, including accessories, makeup and hair. Stylists work with a designer’s sketches and vision to bring them to life. They must be able to put their ego and personal taste to the side to fulfill the vision of the designer, and then interpret that collection into something that can be worn in real life after the show has finished.

A typical show lasts about 12 minutes. It’s a whirlwind of lights, music and the magic of seeing a new collection come to life in front of an audience. The designers are nervous, models excited and everyone’s looking forward to seeing how the collection will be received.

The producer is the person who oversees all the logistics of the show – he or she will check that everything is running smoothly, from model timings and choreography to the music, lighting and set-up/breakdown. They’re usually the ones wearing headsets and controlling traffic backstage, as well as the people who you clear the way for any time you see them running (they’re always running). They also know the space best so are able to provide quick and accurate answers to any questions you may have.

The Publicists

Often overlooked and underappreciated, the PR team is the backbone of every fashion show. It is their job to write press releases, determine which guests to invite, and manage the overall flow of information at a show. The work is long and arduous, but it is crucial for the success of any show. Publicists can be found at all levels of a production, from casting to post-show events. Fashion writer Ty Gaskins credits the PR team as a huge driving force behind the shows he covers. “Without their help, no one would know anything about the collections,” he says.

PRs are also the ones who decide which journalists are invited to a fashion show and how many of them will be allowed in. Fashion journalists have a mutually beneficial relationship with fashion PRs — the journalists need to report on fashion shows and the designers, while the PRs want their clients’ stories published in order to communicate to their clienteles.

Fashion editors, writers and columnists rely on attending fashion shows to inform their editorial decisions. Whether it’s selecting items to include on their product pages or finding inspiration for a future photoshoot, they need to see the latest collections in person. Fashion editors and writers are also able to spot trends that they can later share with their readers.

Influencers and content creators are a new breed of invitees at fashion week. They are invited because they bring value to the brand, be it increasing its awareness or popularity on social media. They can also boost ticket sales or merchandise sales by wearing the brand’s clothing during the show.

Although there are some who criticize influencers and content creators’ presence at fashion shows, it is a fact that they are here to stay. As a result, they should be given the same opportunities and privileges as other industry professionals. This is a good thing because it helps keep the show environment more professional.

The Make-Up Artists

Besides the designers who present new collections, and the editors, influencers, buyers, and celebrities who watch from the front row, Fashion Week involves a large team of hair stylists and makeup artists who work to complement the models’ clothes with appropriate styles and looks. It takes a lot of time and artistic energy to translate a designer’s vision into the next season’s coveted look.

Aside from providing a perfect canvas for showcasing beauty products, Fashion Week also serves as a testing ground for emerging trends. In a show this year, models were seen flashing their Crayola-colored tongues (achieved by using bright food dyes) and matching teeth, while in another, makeup artist Crystabel Efemena Riley constructed a crystalized look around the models’ eyes. These looks were part of the collection, which was inspired by “the juxtaposition of Hades and angels, fire and ice.”

For those interested in becoming a professional makeup artist, there are a few different ways to get started. Many independent MUAs find themselves backstage during shows, working alongside established professionals to gain experience and build a portfolio. Other ways to get involved include finding a hair and makeup team who needs an assistant, or contacting the show’s producers directly. In either case, it is important for aspiring fashion makeup artists to remember that they are not there to fangirl over celebrity models or their beauty teams. It’s also crucial for those in the beauty industry to stay professional and not snap photos without permission, as this can lead to legal issues and ruin careers.

When preparing for a fashion show, makeup artists are usually given anywhere from 3 to 5 hours to prepare an average of 3-5 models. This can be a fast-paced process. Once a model is dressed, the main makeup artist will check to make sure the looks match, touch up any last-minute requests and then they are off to the runway.

Sometimes models are booked for more than one show on the same day and need to change quickly. This is known as being ‘on option’, which means that the agency believes that they are available to be used for other shows if needed. If the other shows are booked up or have secured their own makeup teams, it can be disappointing for a model.

The Models

Fashion Week is to models what the Olympics are to athletes — it’s a chance to compete on a global stage and make a name for themselves in the industry. But it’s also a lot of work. The shows run from dawn to dark, which means early call times for hair and makeup and a grueling schedule of back-to-back runway events with only minutes between each. And that’s not even counting the extravagant after-parties that are crucial for networking.

Models often have to crisscross the city to get from one show to the next, and if a show runs late it can throw off the whole schedule. All this makes for a stressful, high-energy atmosphere, with photographers frantically trying to capture the perfect shot and models often squeezing in outfit changes while rushing to get backstage.

Behind the scenes at a fashion show there are hundreds of people working together to ensure that the event runs smoothly. This includes the designer and his or her studio team, as well as hair and makeup professionals, set designers, construction workers, publicists, runners, assistants, fit models, and more.

Then there are the actual models, who scurry around to meet their deadlines and walk down the runway looking their best. The days before a show can be especially hectic as models try to nail their looks and keep the production team happy. And it’s not uncommon for even supermodels to get tense before they take the stage.

In recent years, fashion shows have started to become more theatrical in nature with sets, lighting, and even special effects like holograms. But it’s not all fun and games — it can be dangerous for the models, too. And this is particularly true during winter Fashion Week, where the weather can be brutally cold and windy.

While powerhouse guest lists and viral photobombs can certainly grab attention, some of the most interesting backstage moments happen when a brand pushes the boundaries of diversity on the runway. For example, last season Gita Omri’s show went viral for featuring both straight and plus-size models wearing the same look side by side on the runway. And this season, the designers at Christian Siriano, Khaite, and Eckhaus Latta have all pushed the envelope for representation with trans, Latina, and African-American models.

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