New York Fashion Week (NYFW) is an exciting, buzz filled week full of celebrities, fashionistas, designers, amazing locations, and of course, the clothing. Behind the scenes, there are countless bloggers, photographers, hairstylists, makeup artists, and more who prep and capture everything that’s happening so that the rest of the world can be up to date on the latest trends that established and up-and-coming designers are releasing to the world.
Although my career direction has taken me on a different path and I don’t actively advertise myself as someone who works at fashion week, it holds a special place in my heart. I was just starting to make my way into the fashion and beauty world with real clients when I got the call. It was at a time where many of the shows were hosted at the Lincoln Center, which was an amazing experience. I loved it.
For those of you who have a similar desire to be a part of fashion week but haven’t reached it yet, let me share with you my experience.
The Beginning – How I got started
It was a dream and goal to experience working behind the scenes at NYFW since I got into fashion. There are fashion shows all over the world, but the experience at the major shows in the fashion circuit in New York, London, Paris, and Milan are another level.
When I moved to NYC, I’d worked about a year on various fashion and beauty projects, building up my reel and resume. I eventually connected with designer Sally Lapointe and was brought on to capture a fashion show for her. I was excited. My dream of working at fashion week was coming to fruition.
My first show
I was set to capture the backstage action and the runway.
There were no ‘how-tos’ (at least that I knew of) on the internet at that time of how to prep to capture one of these shows on video. I had no idea what to expect as far as how to prep. Of course, I didn’t tell or show anyone that, so I packed almost all of my equipment with me into two cases. I think I even had Arri fresnels with me (lol). I really just wanted to be prepared.
When I got backstage, I knew I brought too much stuff for a one person job. When they finally let everyone in, I was already behind on capturing as everyone started working immediately. Up to that point I’d captured a few events before, but it was always a leisurely process. I thought I would at least have some time to settle my equipment and get a lay of the land. I was wrong. I prepped as fast as possible and started capturing what I had been assigned to capture.
When shooting fashion week, it’s best to be as prepared as possible when you walk in. Not every show is like this though. There are some shows I’ve been to where there was no rush at all. However, there are some where you start working immediately upon getting your backstage badge.
Here’s the very first show I shot in 2013:
Being backstage at NYFW definitely changed my perception of what Fashion Week is. From my perspective, it’s a stress bomb waiting to go off at any second. There’s a short window in order to prep all of the models, clothing, hair, makeup, etc. It somehow always comes together, but people get on edge when they’re against a clock and money/reputation is on the line.
I will use a term I don’t often use for myself – videographer. That’s what I’ve been at these shows – just capturing the environment. There are some instances where I was able to light backstage, but those have been few and far between. As a videographer, it can be challenging to capture the environment since many backstage areas are poorly lit – either not enough light or mixed color lighting.
There are other videographers who are tasked to capture interviews which can be challenging. Most people end up using on camera LED lights since they’re small and compact. I despise on camera lighting. I think they’re horrible. I’d rather use the ambient light and strategically place the person being interviewed vs blasting light at their face. But that’s just me 🙂
This is by far the most glamorous part of NYFW shows. Let me restate that – glamorous for the people watching the shows. As someone working on the photographer pit trying to capture the show, it can be a battle.
I’ve experienced people shouting at me, elbowing me, pushing me, etc. to insert themselves onto the riser that faces the runway. I’m pretty laid back in general in terms of dealing with people, so I haven’t had to get into it with anyone. There are many photographers who work multiple shows in the global fashion circuit, so they save each other space on the risers and band together. It’s a nice thing, but not if you don’t belong in the circle.
The Fashion Show Process – and Tips
Here’s a breakdown of most shows that I’ve experienced, and some tips for the uninitiated:
1. Arrival. Depending on what your assigned to cover, I’d suggest arriving early if you’re unfamiliar with the brand, client, etc. You never know what could happen.
2. Check-in. There is a line for check-in. Make sure whoever you are working with at the show has you on the list. If you’re not, it can be a gamble. Most of the time you won’t be let in unless your name is on the list, or if someone who is working there escorts you in. Make sure you have your contact’s info with you and that someone will be available to help you in the event your name didn’t make it onto the list.
3. Prep. Assume the show is running late and have everything prepped. If you need to prep anything, try to keep your prep window to 2 minutes. There are times I’ve had no time to prep and got behind.
4. The backstage and show schedule. It usually goes as follows after check in:
-Key hairdresser and makeup artist demonstrate to their respective teams what the technique is.
-After the demonstration, the hair and makeup teams start working on the models.
-A dress rehearsal with all of the models on the runway occurs. This is for everyone to see the walks, the lighting, music, etc.
-Hair and makeup teams finish after the dress rehearsal.
-Models get into wardrobe.
-The show begins.
This all usually happens within a 3-4 hour window depending on the show. After the first hour, I would say there is a little breathing room if you’re capturing backstage. It’s usually the first and last hour that you really can see the buzz in images, because that frantic energy is in the air. You can see the focus on people’s faces, body language, etc.
Fashion Week – Currently
Fashion week is no longer held at the Lincoln Center in NYC. You can look up the reasons for why as there are a lot of articles that cover it. Now all of the shows are spread out through the city. Some locations are amazing, others not so much. However, I’ve found the principles and the schedule to be pretty similar.
If you’re looking to capture fashion week as a photographer or videographer, you’re in for some fun, and some hard work. If you have any questions, feel free to email me and I’ll see how I can help. Have fun!