Behind the Scenes of a Fashion Week
There are few words in the fashion lexicon that evoke as many glamorous thoughts and dreams as the word ‘Runway.’ This post is put together especially for new models or emerging designers who would like to understand how a typical fashion week is organized.
During “Fashion Week” in any market large or small, all the players in the various teams involved in the world of fashion come together in glorious pandemonium.
Designers, model agencies, photographers (still and video), wholesale retail chain and boutique buyers, fashion and other magazine editors, models, makeup artists, hair stylists, wardrobe stylists, publicists, advertising agencies, DJs and audiovisual specialists, production companies, … as well as fashionistas and everyone who follows and loves the fashion industry – an endless list – but EVERYONE is there.
See – and read – lots more about a fashion week both behind the scenes as well as on the runway after the jump, including a FAQ section at the end where the most frequent questions about this blog posting are answered.
Fashion Week Day 1: Casting and Fittings
It is not really Day 1 as the venue and event organizers have already started setup and prepared the backstage spaces. But, it is the first day that the fashion week participants show up.
Designers arrive with their garments, shoes, or whatever the models will be wearing on the runway. They hang the garments on their wardrobe rack in the giant open hall that serves as the fitting room.
Models check-in at the venue – hundreds and hundreds of models, and wait in an enormous casting hall (which changes the next day to makeup and hair stations), hoping to get chosen during castings. A few select models are already booked in advance.
Casting is generally done by the designer (or sometimes their producer if they have one), who will choose 8-30 models during casting and bring them over to the fitting hall to do their final selection at fittings.
Fittings The model will try on 1 or more garments to check fit, and see if their their ‘look’ and walk style is suitable for the designer’s vision. If selected, a snapshot is taken of the model in the garment. In the fitting hall there are television crews, photographers, the designer team, wardrobe prep (seamstresses, steamers, etc) and event organizers. Video and still images are created for ‘backstage’ looks, designer interviews, etc. Popular models (requested by multiple designers) can be selected for multiple designers, so many hours can be spent between different wardrobe racks. The designer or their producer will spend time explaining to the model how to walk and best display the garment, usually with a few test and practice walks.
Sequence The designer uses the snapshots taken of the models during fitting to organize and determine the order that garments will appear during the runway show. This gets complicated if models appear multiple times (to allow time for changes), and to be sure that the models are in the final garments if the designer will have a ‘snake’ finale (multiple models walk simultaneously at the end of the show). The garments are placed in order on the rack with a tag indicating the model’s name, and a sequence board is placed on the head of the rack with a snapshot.
Fashion Week Days 2-4: Rehearsals, Hair & Makeup and Runway
Days 2-4 (though Paris 2012 made the controversial decision to extend fashion week to a full week meaning Days 2-7) are when the actual runway shows take place.
Garment Prep The garments head over to wardrobe care, where each piece is steamed or ironed and any final hems or other seam/hem work is performed. No matter the work the tag with the sequence number and other information never leaves the garment.
Rehearsal The designer has a rehearsal on the runway to check and coordinate signage, music, video with the audiovisual team. Models have a final instruction and practice the actual walk the designer wants – this is normally done in the model’s street clothes.
Hair and Makeup models head over to the model hall to have their hair and makeup prepared – again, with instruction from the designer to the hair and makeup teams for the colors and looks desired. Normally this is the most chaotic room – hundreds of models, hair stylists, makeup artists and loads of assistants – plus often an assortment of accompanying spouses, children…
Runway Once hair and makeup is finished, the models finally head backstage and get into their garments and … walk the runway. Some designers will have a card just at the backstage entrance to the runway with reminders of how they want their models to walk the runway.
Click here if you would like to see some of OyOy’s runway photography.
Some of the most frequently asked questions and answers are listed below.
Q: As a model, what should I wear to the show castings to increase my chances of getting selected?
A: Something that makes you look as tall and thin as possible. Leggings, heels, a top that shows your form. Bring or wear a pair of close fitting unadorned knickers – if you get selected that is what you will be wearing as you try on garments.
Q: Does a model walk just once on the runway for a designer?
A: A model may well walk more than one time in a 7-10 minute runway show for a designer, so backstage is very hectic.
Q: Are there changing rooms?
A: No there are not. Runway shows are not for the shy.
Q: What do I have to bring the day of the runway show?
A: The designer will let you know. Some designers do not supply shoes for the runway, and will ask you to bring heels.
Q: Are the male and female models separated?
Q: Are there minimum ages for models for runway shows during fashion week?
Q: Are there size or height requirements for models?
A: Officially, no. But the designer arrives with only one set of garments or shoes in ‘sample size’ so you would need to fit that size. These sizes are well established for designers and model agencies: about 5 feet 10 inches and size 0-2 for women, and just over 6 feet tall for men.