My favorite part about the Lehigh Valley is coming home from wherever I have been. My other favorite part is how easy it is to play at the highest levels of fashion from right here. This year, for the first time after saying no for more than a dozen years, I worked backstage at New York City Fashion Week. Though almost every one of my team members, over the past dozen years, worked backstage styling hair for some of the biggest names in fashion (including Betsey Johnson, Tadashi Shoji and Tory Burch), I never went, primarily because I am a colorist, and, at fashion week, you need to be strong in styling and finishing hair. But this year, Rodney Cutler asked me to join the team backstage doing social media.
So for the first time last month, I was up at 4:41 a.m., took the 5:45 a.m. out of William Penn and was in New York City by 7:15 a.m. to work NYC Fashion Week Fall Winter ‘17. After a quick stop downtown at Cutler Salon on West Broadway, the salon I work at when not in the Lehigh Valley, it was off to our first show and backstage with world-famous hairdresser, Danilo, best known for his work with Gwen Stefani. He was leading the hair for an up-and-coming designer Chen Chow. He created a period look for a presentation where models would be standing in a “set” that looks like an old office, though it was really a gallery. Then, even before the show started, it was off to the next, featuring another new up-and-coming designer. That was the theme this year.
It seems that fashion has realized it has gotten old. Design houses that once revolutionized fashion in the 1980s are still around, occupying large spaces in the fashion industry, though most are now no longer lead by their namesake. This year, there was a focus on new designers and new ideas.
Fashion has also gotten faster. Many of the shows were an interesting flurry of activity backstage, with models, hair, makeup, clothes, photographers, video, interviews and food, and it’s all happening at once, before the show.
Here’s a behind-the-scenes step-by-step of what seems to be a typical show:
Hair and makeup arrive, security is pretty tight, but everyone seems to know everyone and, ironically, I know the producers of the first two shows from all of my year’s traveling. Soon after, models and the food arrive. The food was so good; I couldn't believe how good the food was. One show had smoked salmon sandwiches and another had breakfast bruschetta with sliced egg and avocado. At some shows, the models were eating so much they had to reorder. It was that good.
Two models are chosen by hair and makeup so that the lead artists can demonstrate the look that the designer had decided on. One designer wanted a period look; one wanted something very casual with a precise part; one wanted the models’ hair to look like they climbed to the top of the Himalayas and took their hats off. The stylists used way more product than you can imagine to masterfully recreate the intended looks. The backstage show producer keeps everything on track of makes sure the models in hair get makeup, the ones in makeup get hair and, when they are both done, they are off to wardrobe and then to the photo shoot backstage. Most designers today shoot their look books backstage before the show rather than weeks later (typically so they can give them to editors). Now with digital photography and LED lights, it’s easy to set up and take really good shoots right before the show. Some girls are literally being shot as they are about to walk out on the runway, with their finished look.
The shows are different today because, without Bryant Park and the “tents,” the fashion shows are spread throughout New York City and many of the newer venues do not offer the opportunity for a runway presentation. Instead, about half the designers now show by doing a presentation where the models just stand in one position, with their hands at their sides, nearly motionless on a small box or cube. This allows the editors and buyers to see the collection as a whole with all of the models next to each other, rather than individual models and pieces of clothing that walk the runway nearly alone until the finale walk. Both can be very effective, and with fashion not having a current home in New York, it will be interesting to see what happens in the future.
It used to be that fashion was about the clothes and the more utilitarian function of clothes enhanced by design and the designers. Today, honestly, it is still about the clothes, but it is also about the response from social media and how easy it is for anyone with a phone in their hand to be able to create a great image of your work. Sometimes the function of the clothes is secondary or even questionable; today it’s about the images that the editors, bloggers and buyers can get and share, making sure their clothes and their shows are what people are talking about.
About the Author
Patrick McIvor is an International Haircolor Educator, Blogger, and owner of 101 E. Center Salon/Education/Creative Center. As one of the most respected colorists in the industry, McIvor was the founding Color Director for Nick Arrojo and Rodney Cutler at Arrojo Cutler Salon on 57th Street in NYC and has now rejoined Nick Arrojo as Brand Strategist & Techni-Color Director of ARROJO. McIvor is a cultural junkie inspired by international cosmopolitan influences from fashion and global trends to technology. The team at 101 E. Center Salon creates beautiful, sexy, believable hair in an intimate studio environment utilizing technology to make guests the center of a TechniCulture Salon Experience. McIvor is featured in the book “50 Hairstylists” and was named one of the best colorists in the USA by Allure Magazine.