Backstage View

by Barbara ZORZOLI

As the lights go up, the music starts and the models stride into view. Their timing is perfect and the clothes look sensational… but the show begins behind the scenes.

Twice a year, the world’s style capitals London, Milan, New York and Paris host Fashion Week to showcase designers’ wares for next season. Beautiful faces, spectacular clothes, tickets to the top-level shows. But for all that glitz and artifice, behind the Fashion Week there is always a hard job. A runway show may last ten minutes, but the backstage action can go on for hours. Shows are planned over a year in advance, with dedicated teams overseeing each aspect – from music and lighting to shoes and models’ eyeshadow shades. It takes three weeks to build the venue. An average show lasts between 7 and 20 minutes, features around 40 looks and costs a lot of money to put on ($150,000, but many designers spend closer to $400,000 in the hope they will generate enough media coverage and buyer interest to recoup their significant investment). In previous years, before the recession affecting most of the world, fashion houses would be expecting costs up to $750,000 to produce a quality runway show. During Fashion Week, up to 100 shows take place, with start times ranging from 9a.m. to 9p.m. Up-and-coming designers live in fear of snagging a time slot that conflicts with that of a ‘top drawer’ name: highfalutin fashion names can only be in one draughty marquee at a time, after all. To the casual observer, Fashion Week’s catwalk shows run like a well-oiled machine. But schedules are often thrown off kilter, and curtains have been known to rise up two hours late. The term ‘fashionably late’ was clearly coined for catwalk shows, and while celebs are often paid to pitch up, cash does not guarantee punctuality. Even with the golden tickets in hand, not everyone adheres to the seating policy and ‘runway rage’ is common. And what about models? During Fashion Week, they would sometimes be working 20-hour days. They are not just walking down a catwalk, every day they also go up to 20 go-sees (where models ‘go-see’ designers with their portfolios), and doing fittings in-between. The pressure to impress is intense.

Barbara Zorzoli is a Columnist for the Italian Journal