What really goes on Backstage: NYFW Spring 2016

It’s getting messy and sweaty backstage at New York Fashion Week ahead of the School of Fashion’s 10th anniversary runway show. The calm before the storm only lasted about 15 minutes before a swarm of people started to flood backstage. With only three hours to go until the show begins, models are running around, the hair and makeup team are covered in the tools of their trade and the designers are busy finishing with last minute details.

Liz Li and Bom Kim watch theircollection on the runway via a monitor backstage. Photo by David Dooley.
Max Lu and Jingci Jessie Wang watching their collection go down the runway. Photo by David Dooley.

At first glance backstage seems chaotic, but after a moment it’s clear that everyone is multitasking and highly focused. With so much to do and so little time, it’s a race against the clock for designers, makeup artists, hair stylists and the production team.

Photo by David Dooley.

Just two hours before the show is set to begin, press start arriving backstage and interviewing the designers, hair and makeup teams as well as models. With the show just around the corner, designers are steaming their wrinkled collections, fixing last minute details, being interviewed by reporters and trying to keep their excited and nervous emotions from exploding. The hair stylists hold several tools in each hand, talk to the press while trying not to burn themselves or the models, all while fighting for space in the small backstage area that is their studio for the evening. The makeup teams are also talking to press, struggling to be heard over the noise of hairdryers. The artists make balancing a conversation with their duties look easy, and models are effortlessly made up while artists speak with reporters and production crew.

Models in Bom Kim and Liz Li’s collection line up backstage ahead of the show. Photo by David Dooley.
Max Lu being interviewed by Apple Daily Taiwan. Photo by David Dooley.

The multitasking isn’t just left to the hair and makeup teams. Models can be seen making the most of their short prep time; eating sandwiches from the buffet, getting their hair, nails, and makeup done, being interviewed, practicing their poses and looking good for candid backstage photos.

Photo by David Dooley .
Designers rejoice after the show. Photo by David Dooley.

One hour until the show begins and things are getting even messier and sweatier. School of Fashion Executive Director Simon Ungless, however, cannot be fazed, and at times seems like the only one keeping his cool while managing to maintain the chaos. Models, show-ready from the neck up but still in their street clothes, line up and perform one final runway rehearsal, which is watched intently by Ungless.

The last 60 minutes before show time goes by in a blur. Designers are scrambling with last minute adjustments, hair and makeup teams put the final touches on the models, and finally the group of dressers arrive and it’s go time. Models are outfitted in their looks and line up backstage, ready for their turn on the runway. I peer into the front of house and see that the huge auditorium is quickly filling up, with eager guests patiently waiting for the magic to start. Suddenly, the formerly deafening hum of workers backstage becomes so quiet that you could hear a pin drop. Models are lined up, designers have double checked the collections and wait for their cue. The music begins. It’s time for the show to start.

Models in Ruone Yan’s collection line up backstage ahead of the show. Photo by David Dooley.
Simon Ungless speaks with a reporter backstage. Photo by David Dooley.
From left: Mehrzad Hemati, Max Lu, Bom Kim, 3D Design Coordinator Gonbee Tanaka, Liz Li, Livia Bianda, Ruone Yan, 3D Design Coordinator Terhi Ketola-Stutch, Wehnan Yuan, Graduate Director John Bauernfeind, Jingci Jessie Wang. Photo by David Dooley.

3, 2, 1, blastoff! The models are on the runway, showcasing the designs that students have worked on for so many months. As the models complete their circuit of the runway and return backstage, dressers quickly change them into the next look and off they go again. With Ungless and their design instructors by their sides, the designers watch the show backstage via a monitor. Each designer is pushed to the front of the small crowd so they have the best view as their collection walks the runway. Some tear up and some simply beam quietly, but all are thrilled to see their work presented on such a prestigious stage.

Finally the show has come to a close. Models disrobe; everyone packs their belongings and goes home. The loud and hectic backstage area turns back into a serene open space and awaits the next show.



By Isabelle Eder, BFA Styling