9 things no one tells you about working Fashion Week (as told by 10 Irish insiders)
Published 20/09/2016 | 11:31
So here we are, halfway through Fashion Month.
Are you tired of it yet? It’s been a glossy cavalcade from the fashion pack of insouciant street style photos, champagne quaffing party snaps and impeccable runway looks.
Chances are you’re not nearly as tired as them. Because for every air kiss there’s an aching pair of feet, for every batting eyelid there’s one twitching with exhaustion and for every perfect FROW there is a frenzied backstage arena.
Fashion Week may seem rooted in fantasy but behind the perfectly dressed scenes turns a wheel of sheer endurance. This fiercely paced industry is manned by hard grafters, whether they are designers, producers, models or photographers. We spoke to nine industry insiders to get their take on the good, the bad and the truly fabulous moments of Fashion Week.
Who: Danielle, 32, is a London-based Irish designer who founded her namesake label in 2013.
What she does: Danielle has been involved in the prestigious NewGen initiative that enables young designers to show at Fashion Week. Her vibrant contemporary womenswear is the ultimate cool-girl wardrobe, evident in her fan base including FKA Twigs and Maisie Williams.
Fashion Week secrets: As head designer, Danielle lives and breathes her collection from the initial conception to the final show. To produce the final collection she works with a vast team of creatives.
“A set designer, casting director, stylist, I also like to collaborate with a footwear brand to create the shoes. I also work with a really talented Irish makeup artist, Niamh Quinn, who I used to hang out with at Wesley Rugby Club discos back when we were teenagers, and I work with a fantastic Japanese hair stylist Mari Ohashi.”
Starting about five months before Fashion Week, she will begin the research that forms the basis of her collection. The team is recruited two to three months before the presentation, around the same time they begin making the first prototypes. Despite such a long lead time, the logistics of Fashion Week dictates a frenzied final few days.
“Everything comes together in the final 10 days. We work very late in the last few days confirming all the models who have usually just arrived in from NYFW. There is a lot of competition between certain designers to get certain models so we can be waiting until the wee hours to get confirmation from their agents. No one in the team is allowed to leave the studio until the show is fully cast in case we need to make fitting amendments for a particular model."
Aaron Hurley is a photographer. Picture: Kelly Horrigan
Who: Aaron is a 20-year-old photographer from Kildare.
What he does: Having already amassed an impressive client list across fashion, beauty and portraiture, Aaron’s backstage photography has been featured by American, French and British Vogue's websites as well as Vogue Runway.
Fashion week secrets: For an industry that places unrivalled importance on youth, being just 20 years old would seem advantageous for an up-and-coming photographer. The reality, however, is far from that.
“Usually I am the youngest photographer backstage and the other photographers can find this quite intimidating or odd so they try to bully me out of a shot. Or sometimes they try and remove me from backstage, that is until they see my accreditation. They immediately think “He shouldn’t be here, he’s too young! Who is he even shooting for?'"
Ageism aside, the positives far outweigh the negatives as he traverses the show venues each season.
“My favourite thing about fashion week is the buzz, there’s nothing like it. It’s not as glamorous as you expect in the slightest but the rush of adrenaline you get shooting a designer’s first look and then running to the car in order to make it to the next show in time is incredible.
"Right before the girl walks out she could have three hairstylists, two dressers, a makeup artist and a show producer swinging out of her at once. I’ve often seen girls who missed their three second window to walk out and be pulled from the show. It’s insane. “
Who: Aimée, 34, is a buyer for Brown Thomas’ Contemporary Womenswear and Denim for Brown Thomas and BT2 stores.
What she does: Working as a buyer for luxury powerhouse Brown Thomas, you can thank Aimée and the team for introducing Ireland to some of the world’s most exciting brands as they scour the collections each season.
Fashion Week secrets: “I adore attending Fashion Week and luckily it's a big part my job because I buy contemporary fashion for the amazing new womenswear space on Level 2 in Brown Thomas Dublin as well as all our Cork, Limerick, Galway and BT2 stores,” she says of her envy-inducing role.
The fast pace of the buying season sees Aimée often working between 12 to 14 hours, but the electric atmosphere more than makes up for it.
“People definitely don't realise how much hard work is involved. Everyone assumes the world of fashion is incredibly glamorous, which it also is of course!” she says.
“Dublin airport is basically our home from home during buying season which runs four times a year. Fashion never stops and as we are always buying a season ahead. You are constantly kept on your toes! Having said that, this is my dream job and I could never imagine doing anything else.”
Model Tabea Weyrauch. Picture: Eilish McCormick
Who: Tabea is a model with Distinct Model Management in Dublin and Brave in Milan.
What she does: Originally from Co Derry, Tabea was scouted for and won the RTE programme ‘The Model Scouts’ in 2010 when she was just 16. Her win secured her a place with IMG, one of the world’s top agencies.
Fashion Week secrets: At just 23, Tabea is something of a Fashion Week veteran and has lost count of how many she has worked after so many seasons. Aside from the four major fashion capitals she has also walked Sydney, Berlin, Singapore, Tokyo and Portugal Fashion Weeks, although Paris remains her favourite.
“I feel they have the most beautiful and unique locations for the shows. I've walked at the Louvre, Palais de Tokyo, Grand Palais, old churches and museums. It's a real experience!” she says.
She has a personal record for making it to 25 castings in one day, but the stamina required for such an in-demand model can be gruelling. It’s the biggest drawback of the week for her and often results in absolute exhaustion.
“I've had a good few breakdowns in the past. Once, during NYFW I had been running to and from so many castings and shows and fittings in one day that I passed out at my last show, and spent the whole evening crying because I was so over-exhausted.”
So that’s the good and the bad, but as a model she is also privy to the outrageous side of Fashion Week.
“I've been glued into my shoes before, I've walked between lions in cages, had to act like I was a crazy person in an asylum, walked straight into the cameramen because I was blindfolded, ran onto the catwalk with my skirt tucked into my top because the dressers were in such a hurry. You name it, I've probably done it.”
Brenda Aherne and Helen Delany
Who: They are the creative brains behind Electronic Sheep, the Irish knitwear label that has garnered a cult following both at home and abroad.
What they do: Brenda is the knitwear specialist whilst illustrator and graphic designer Helen creates the brand’s signature imagery. The vibrant colour palette, clashing prints and hand-drawn illustrations are the perfect remedy for dreary winter outerwear.
Fashion week secrets: With Brenda based in Dublin, Helen in London and six Fashion Weeks under their belts the pair have a Fashion Week regime down to an art. They both savour the opportunity to dress up for the occasion, with Helen saying she loves “deciding what I'm going to wear and getting some new designer outfits, including some new Electronic Sheep pieces for myself!”
For Helen, putting a face to an email name is a highlight, adding that “so often we don't meet the people we are working with in the digital age so that's really nice to see humans!”
The gruelling schedule is a drawback for both of them, but nothing beats the adrenaline of being considered an ‘it’ label as Helen recalls. “The first year there we were advised by The BFC to look out for one of the most influential buyers at LFW and her (very 'Fashion') entourage.
Corina Gaffey. Picture: Naomi Gaffey
Who: Corina, 33, is a freelance stylist and writer.
What she does: Hailing from Greystones, this Irish-based stylist lends her talent to an array of glossy women's magazines, as well as styling and consulting for big brands like Brown Thomas, Penneys, River Island and Debenhams.
Fashion week secrets: A seasoned Fashion Weeker, she knows it’s a cruel reality that you are required to look immaculate whilst manoeuvring across cobblestones as quickly as your impractical flatforms will allow.
"I was really late for the Julien McDonald show. There was a group of us running and I turned a corner and nearly fell right in front of Caroline Issa, a massive editor and street style star. On the plus side it’s great now flats and runners are in fashion right now!” she says.
Her favourite thing about the week is that indelible anticipation just before show time. “The lights go off for a couple of seconds, then music blares, lights shine and the model hits the catwalk. It still gives me goosebumps, it's that anticipation and excitement of what's to come. “
As with all Fashion Week attendees, she acknowledges that with the bad comes the good. Whilst “it's not all champagne and air kisses” there is the opportunity to rub shoulders with industry heavy weights like Anna Wintour, Alexa Chung or Kendell Jenner. And her best kept secret? “Topshop” she says, but not just for the clothes.
“For getting fed (they lay on a massive spread) and it's the best celeb spotting show with the best of who's who on the FROW.” Take note fashionistas, food and famous people will get you through the week.
Dylan Moran. Picture: Dean Ryan McDaid
Who: Model Dylan 22, was scouted by mother agency Not Another in Dublin and is also signed with Select in London, Wilhelmina in New York and Elite in Milan.
What he does: Since bursting onto the scene in 2015, Dylan Moran has been snapped up by the likes of adidas and Alexander Wang. He has also graced the pages of style tomes like T Magazine, Oyster and Vogue Italia.
Fashion week secrets: When he’s not stalking down the runway, you’re most likely to find Dylan DJing at one of Dublin’s underground clubs. Coupled with his model credentials, you might assume he’d be hitting the party circuit during Fashion Week but his survival technique is in fact to “sleep, sleep and sleep.”
As well as getting that all-important shut eye, working the week with friends is also a highlight for him. “I got to walk in the County of Milan show along with a really good friend. It was his first ever show. That was a pretty cool day.”
He adds: “I've never come across much drama worth talking about between other models. You meet an ego or two every now and then but I usually steer clear from that rubbish. All that aside I've made some really good friends.”
And his most memorable moment so far? “I ate a burger in Nicola Formichetti's hotel room in Paris.” Chowing down with the Creative Director of Diesel; it doesn’t get more fabulous than that.
Makeup artist Tee Elliott. Picture: Taine King
Who: Malaysian-born, Dublin-based makeup artist Tee, 38, works across editorial, television and film.
What she does: Working under Lan Nyugen’s team at both London and New York fashion weeks, she creates looks for the industry’s up and coming designers.
Fashion Week secrets: Under the instruction of the lead artist, Tee works with her fellow artists to create the uniform look for the show. “When the key artist arrives, her assistant and team members will gather. She will explain the look accompanied with quick demo using key products. After that everything is go, go, go. As quick as we can to finish 30 or 40 models. Time is really precious as we have to divide our time with the hairdresser, as well rehearsal and last fittings,” she says.
Despite the pressure of time restraints the team of artists still produce the identical looks required for the catwalk. Currently working at London Fashion Week, it’s the early call times that are the biggest drawback for her.
“Sometimes half four in the morning,” she says, whilst echoing that same sentiment that “it's not as glamorous as it seems. Small spaces, crowded and sweaty.”
So for a makeup artist Fashion Week can be sleep deprived and sweaty but for Tee, the final result is worth it “creating beautiful and creative makeup looks designed by a key artist; each season is mind blowing.”
Who: Rosanna shot to fame after being crowned Miss World in 2003.
What she does: Model, beauty queen, presenter and author, there are many strings to Ms Davison’s bow.
Fashion Week secrets: She may be more concerned with fitness of over fashion after releasing her second recipe and lifestyle book, but 32-year-old Rosanna has enjoyed a successful modelling career as well as earning the top honour of beauty queens everywhere.
Her career in fashion has seen her work both the catwalk and the front row, reporting on the collections in various fashion capitals and most notably, walking for Irish designer Paul Costelloe in 2005.
Reflecting on the mania of Fashion Week, it was the standout brands she worked with that were a highlight, saying, “I've really enjoyed working as a brand ambassador for designer Basil Soda at Paris Fashion Week and reporting from the Topshop show at London Fashion Week.”
She says a drawback is “the insanely long queues”, adding “it's never as glamorous as it looks, there's a lot of waiting around, standing in line and then the shows are over surprisingly quickly. It's a very fast-paced world.”
A consummate professional, when probed about the most outrageous thing she’s seen at Fashion Week she very cleverly answers: “I couldn't possibly tell you!”