Diary: A Day At the Studio – New York Fashion Week Spring 2016

For student designers Max Lu, Jingci Jessie Wang, Ruone Yan, Liz Li, Bom Kim, Mehrzad Hemati, Livia Bianda and Wenhan Yuan, participating in New York Fashion Week is filled with boundless opportunity and seemingly endless work and preparation. The designers are well aware of the depth of this moment and even more aware of the focus and determination needed to get them to the finish line— their work being displayed on the runway during one of the most well-known events in the fashion industry.

Mehrzad Hemati’s work station at the studio. Photo by Alexa Palacios

With just two days to go until the runway show I visited the students in the Manhattan studio where they set up shop the week before the show, fitting and finishing their collections perched high above 5th Avenue. The mood in the studio was surprisingly more calm than expected. The space buzzed with productivity and the set-up within the studio was extremely organized.

The airy loft studio is divided into three rooms. In the front room the casting team had set up shop, greeting statuesque models as they arrived for casting and fittings. Poster boards with model headshots lined the space, giving me a sneak peek into the faces that would soon grace the runway.

The middle room, flanked with dress racks upon which nearly finished collections hung, served as a fitting and alteration space. A model stood in the middle of the room, outfitted in a look from one of the collections. Designers and instructors flitted about, making tailoring notes.

A piece from designer Wenhan Yuan’s collection in progress at the design studio. Photo by Alexa Palacios.

Next door, the sewing room was filled with Academy students and assistant seamstresses completing the final aspects of their collections. The collaborative mood of this season’s group held strong as students and seamstresses worked with quiet focus on the last touches. The designers showed their strong bond with one another, constantly asking each other for their opinion on a detail and never balking from assisting their peers with the grunt work like sewing and steaming.

A rack of Ruone Yan’s collection in progress at the studio. Photo by Alexa Palacios.
Student designer Ruone Yan making adjustments to her collection following a fitting. Photo by Alexa Palacios.

“It’s really an honor and I am very happy that I can showcase my pieces and my collection on a prestigious platform where industry mentors can see it and maybe , potentially, meet the ‘who’s who’ in the industry,” said student designer Mehrzad Hemati. When asked what she hoped to get out of showing at NYFW, Hemati told me, “I hope to gain a job, that’s the most honest answer. Besides that, just showing the collection is just beyond description for me and I’m very excited and very grateful for it.”

As there are many moving parts to a fashion show, the numerous teams responsible for making it happen, including the talent/casting team, have strategic tactics and plans to implement into production, including scouting the best models to work in Academy of Art University’s NYFW show.

Jingci Jessie Wang finessing the gorgeous sequined fabric used in her collection. Photo by Alexa Palacios.

“A real common denominator that we always look for, especially with the Academy of Art University show, is a real freshness… a real freshness that people may have already seen in previous designers’ collections from seasons past, but also will continue to see in major designer collections for the future,” said Zan Casting associate Paul Brickman.

Student designers Max Lu and Jingci Jessie Wang putting the final touches on their collaborative collection. Photo by Alexa Palacios.

At the studio, it was obvious that each moving part worked together in a successful way to produce a consistently fluid, seamless show season after season. The bumps along the way are expected, but each student designer showed real poise in executing their distinct collections. I left the studio with a renewed sense of respect for all the teams working on the show, and excitement to see the culmination of their hard work take the runway.

By Alexa Palacios , BFA Fashion Journalism