Glossy’s daily New York Fashion Week briefing brings you on-the-ground insights and analysis from straight off the runway. Sign up for Glossy emails to see the daily recaps in your inbox.
Calendar transitions and the relevance of fashion shows altogether may be the talk of the town, but New York Fashion Week has another problem on it hands: the enduring chaos of backstage.
Day 2 of the shows was a brutal reminder of this for the journalists, photographers, press teams, and hair and makeup artists who operate mostly behind-the-scenes at these events — not to mention the models, who have been outspoken in recent months about the poor treatment they’ve endured at the hands of brands and casting agents. That conversation has resulted in model protection charters from the likes of LVMH, Kering and Conde Nast.
What effect these new guidelines will have on the modeling industry remains to be seen, but everyone working backstage is still left to fend for themselves.
Friday morning saw hordes of people — a mix of hair and makeup teams, and media — backed up in the cold at Chelsea Piers, waiting for their chance to capture the backstage scene before the BCBG show. The call time was for 9 a.m., and by 9:30, people were being turned away due to overcrowding.
Over at Spring Studios in Tribeca — which is this season’s central venue, replacing Skylight Clarkson Square — things were just as ugly.
A crew of Tresemmé stylists hired to create the hair looks for designer Jason Wu were being held up by the venue’s security team, who couldn’t seem to find their names on the clearance list. Naturally, this list was on paper, in a nod to fashion’s stubborn reliance on old-school tactics, and email confirmations displayed by the team were ignored.
“We literally have all the product for Wu’s hair and makeup,” one of them complained. “This is so fucked up!”
Nearby, a cameraman from the agency Getty was railing against the endless wait to get backstage at Bibhu Mohapatra, having gotten there early in an effort to avoid this. Now 15 minutes past the call time of 10:30, he was not amused.
“By the time we get upstairs and set up, we’ll have maybe 10 minutes,” he told me under condition of anonymity. “God forbid Getty piss off any brands,” he half-joked.
I certainly felt his pain. After enduring my own wait (and, yes, I too arrived early), I was told to go up without a press pass — they had quickly run out. Once upstairs, however, security wasn’t buying it. It took 15 minutes to reconnect with Mohapatra’s backstage press team and be allowed in.
The room itself was overflowing with stylists, photographers, journalists and PR people chasing after several, conflicting goals. People were sweating, and the harsh lighting didn’t help. A tray of food — muffins, rainbow bagels and fruit salad — had been razed and looked days old.
“I wish they had more, and better, food,” one model in town from Russia, who goes only by her first name, Daria, told me. “It’s so, so important for us, despite what people think.”
However, Miss Pop, the nail artist who collaborated with Mohapatra on his show’s nail designs (featuring black and clear rhinestones), wasn’t bothered by the chaos. Having worked on over 50 shows in her career so far, she chalked it up to business as usual.
“Fashion week doesn’t go smoothly — so just abandon that idea,” she said, though she added that a little more space and time for the backstage artists wouldn’t hurt. The presence of a fan nearby to aid in ventilation was a welcome rarity in itself, she said, content with even the slightest upgrade. “No one’s involved in fashion week for the comfort, we’re in it for the glamour — but the glamour doesn’t happen backstage, it’s on the runway,” she said.
Ann Leery, a security guard who’s worked at the shows for four years, said that the move to Spring Studios had made things particularly problematic this year. Compared to Skylight Clarkson, she said, it is severely lacking in space.
“This venue is much tighter, backstage-wise, and I sense that it’s made it harder for everyone involved,” she said. As she sees it, designers who don’t allow press backstage at all are much better off. It would also help, she said, if there weren’t so many different passes (usually based on their role) given out to people. “It can be hard to keep track of who’s allowed where, and when.”
Of course, the front of the house has its own set of problems. Elevators have been causing problems for editors since 2013, when a horde of fashion’s finest — including Eva Chen and Andrew Bevan — got stuck in one of them on the way out of a Philosophy by Natalie Rabesi show. Similar scares have happened since, and at Jason Wu today, elevators were once again blamed for the show’s late start.
“If a brand invites me to the show and I get here early, but they don’t let me go in right away, I’ll turn around and walk out.”
Vicky Yang, a talent and digital strategy manager at the talent agency The Society Management, has picked up a few new tricks over the last several years. While managing modeling jobs and schedules for the company’s roster of talent, Yang now also deals with the daily schedules, PR and brand contracts for the group of influencers (called “creatives” internally) she now represents.
Fashion week used to be cut-and-dry. Models were sent to casting calls; if selected, they would attend fittings, then hair and makeup tests and a rehearsal, then they’d walk a runway. Maybe they’d be stagnated, perched in a designer look at a presentation. This process would repeat until everyone flew to London for the next fashion week.
“With influencers, we have a lot more time to work with during fashion week, because they’re not going to hair and makeup hours before a show. They just show up,” said Yang.
Full episode, below.
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After 16 years in business, Australian designer Alice McCall is making her NYFW debut in an effort to capitalize on international momentum
After Telfar Clemens, the Liberian-American designer behind the label Telfar, won the top prize at the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund Awards in November, everyone’s been buzzing about the unisex brand. Clemens presents his fall/winter 2018 collection tonight at 9 p.m., and it’s sure to be well-attended (and unpacked across the web). The label was ahead of its time when it launched in 2005, but it’s perfectly suited to today’s revolutionary climate.
The unisex theme continues into the weekend with shows from other buzzy labels like Eckhaus Latta (Saturday) and Gypsy Sport (Sunday). Is this a fleeting trend, or one with real legs? We’ll be following along to find out.