Tuesday, September 18, 2012

I recently returned from New York where I spent 9 days. Aside from too many dinners and not enough sleep, I did some New York Fashion Week'ing. Just like last fall, I was lucky enough to catch all the ins-and-outs backstage at the Marc Jacobs shows.

The hustle and bustle of backstage can only be described as relentless. It's not an environment of compassion or patience. At a show like Marc Jacobs, it's painfully obvious how utterly expensive the whole thing is. From the leather tiles covering the 3000 square foot runway/stage to the sheer number of models - He uses one girl per look, where many designers double-up with a quick-change. Being familiar with theatre production, it's a real feat to watch unfold. Dozens of technical staffers create the entire set from scratch in a day. I think I saw 10 or more stage managers. There are no fewer than 20 follow-spot operators. The whole thing must run hundreds of thousands of dollars. And, might I remind you, once the show gets going, it's all over in less than 5 minutes, hurriedly dismantled and gone as if it never happened. (Kind of like fashion itself.)

So with all that in mind, you can imagine why tensions run high in the hours leading up.

Models are swept in and out, thrust into makeup chairs and then dragged across the room to hair. They are handled like the paper dolls they've agreed to be, but it's always jarring to see. The room is filled with directives ("Hurry up!!" "Come on, make it messier!" "Fix her eyes!") and heavy energy. And, amidst all the panic to contend with, there are hoards of press and photographers snapping away, squeezing between elbows, edging their way into tight spaces to get their shot. Some models, when done with their obligations, are happy to pose, often agreeably holding reflectors and preening as a dozen of the old guard shooters shout at them. The girls are sure to show off, in equal-measure, their hair, makeup and nails, awkwardly posing like top-of-their-class Barbizon graduates.

I prefer, as usual, to lurk around the edges, getting what I get. I feel so guilty pressing my way into close quarters where 50 hair and makeup professionals are just trying to do their jobs. And it always surprises me when photographers come with studio gear, blasting out the existing light with strobes, removing all the charm and mood of this bizarre place. It is, after all, a big white tent erected inside the bowels of an active US Military Armory.

The whole thing is kind of chaotic an unnerving, for somebody like me. And while I like being there, there's nothing like busting out into the sunny street when it's done.

New York Fashion Week (September 2011)
Another Fashion Week (February 2012)
New York City Realness (June 2011)

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