Backstage at MBFW- Where All the Madness And The Magic Happens

Academy of Art University Spring 2015 Collections  - Backstage
Photo by David Dooley. Models wait backstage for their runway entrance.

As you might guess, fashion shows are not a low-fuss event. It takes a huge team to pull together a successful show; every single facet of the fashion industry works to put on a successful show that lasts for just 15 minutes.

In the front of the house, the vibe is cool, calm and collected. The music and lights go up and models walk the runway in a zen-like state. Even if they take a spill, they just act like that was all part of the show. In most cases, everything goes off without a hitch and the show is done before you know it.

The chaos of backstage, however, is in sharp contrast with the serenity of front of house. Makeup artists and hair stylists scramble to get the models ready in time, designers hurriedly fix hems and steam garments, dressers speedily undress and redress models, and a throng of journalists moves through the crowded space photographing, interviewing and filming the designers as they work.

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Photo by David Dooley. Mia Jianxia Ji, MFA Fashion Design and Knitwear Design, multitasking while she answers reporter questions backstage.

Today I’m pleased to offer up an exclusive, behind-the-scenes look of all the chaos, fabulousness, and fun that went down backstage at the Academy of Art University Spring 2015 Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week show.

The preparations backstage started hours before the runway show. From hair and makeup to last-minute garment alterations and runway rehearsals, the models, beauty team, stylists and press were all on-site long before guests started filing in to the Theater at Lincoln Center for the show. Working backstage was definitely a team sport, it was not uncommon to see a group of ten people hurriedly working on just one model to get her runway ready.

Academy of Art University Spring 2015 Collections  - Backstage
Photo by Randy Brooke/WireImage

Amidst the chaos, however, was a sense of zen.

It wasn’t a dramatic scene at all—the designers didn’t yell at the producer, the producer didn’t yell at the hair and makeup artists, and the hair and makeup artists didn’t yell at the models. Everyone backstage said “please” and “thank you” all the time, even though they were working under intense pressure and a tight deadline. Seeing this just reinforced my belief that politeness and professionalism are the key to getting the best out of any team.

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Photo by David Dooley. Max Lu, MFA Fashion Design, is all smiles backstage.

For a long time, my biggest MBFW misconception was that fashion industry people are pretentious and entitled, as they are so often depicted in the media. At the Academy’s fashion show this was unequivocally not the case. All the people I saw working were by and large the loveliest, most creative, down-to-earth, most relentlessly hard-working group of professional individuals I have ever met.

I love the dynamic vibe of backstage! It’s difficult to put in words the feeling of being among the diverse talent that converges inside just a few hours to execute the perfect fashion show. The excitement and the nerves, the chaos and harmony; once the show began, the outpouring of positive energy backstage was all encompassing.

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Photo by David Dooley. From left to right: Mia Jianxia Ji, MFA Fashion and Knitwear Design; Wei Bai, MFA Fashion Design; Yin Yang, MFA Fashion Design; Max Lu, MFA Fashion Design; Jingci Wang, MFA Fashion Design; and Yaqiong Zhou, MFA Fashion Design.

Working backstage taught me the importance of planning and logistics, thinking on my feet, clear communication and again, teamwork. Be efficient. Focus. Enjoy the moment. This produces the best work.

Sure, it seems exhausting to work in a fast-paced, high-energy environment that is filled with nearly every type of character; however, there’s no better feeling than seeing all of that hard work come together as a look goes down the runway.

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Photo by David Dooley .Front row, left to right: Liz Li, MFA Fashion Design; Yaqiong Zhou, MFA Fashion Design; Die Zhou, MFA Fashion Design; Szu Chi Huang, MFA Fashion Design; Jihyun Kim, MFA Fashion Design Menswear.Middle row, left to right: Madison Detro, MFA Fashion Design; Mia Jianxia Ji, MFA Fashion and Knitwear Design; Gonbee Tanaka, 3D Design Coordinator; Wei Bai, MFA Fashion Design. Back row, left to right: Max Lu, MFA Fashion Design; Jingci Wang, MFA Fashion Design.

Yes, this fashion show was a whirlwind, but it was a once-in-a-lifetime experience that I’m sure the 12 designers will never forget!


By Doreen Du, MFA Fashion Merchandising