When we think of Paris Fashion Week or New York Fashion Week, we think about exclusive events, runways, celebrities, and the high life. Normally, one doesn’t even try to get into these fashion shows just to avoid a foreseen rejection. However, with a little motivation and persistence, you can ask press agents for invites to your favorite designer’s show. But don’t only ask them for an invite, also let them know you’re available to volunteer backstage, need be. Backstage is definitely not as glamorous as the runway, but that’s what makes it so exciting. Of course there’s the glam of the clothes, models, and makeup; but there’s also a fast-paced environment of stressed and anxious people trying to prepare for an unforgettable show.
Right before Paris Fashion Week started, I was asked to be a dresser backstage at the Jacquemus and the Veronique Branquinho fashion shows. It was definitely a cool experience: I met students from other fashion schools in Paris, was taught how to wear the clothes from the collection, and dressed models in couture! Just being able to feel and see the ready to wear up close was much more exciting than seeing it from a distance on the runway. The last 30 minutes before the show starts (and these shows are known for starting 30 minutes late) is the most stressful half hour to everyone backstage. To begin with there isn’t much space, and when you add photographers, makeup artists, and event coordinators running back and forth trying to finish last minute touch ups and details, it becomes a mad-house. This is all while models are trying to get dressed. There’s usually mini-disasters along the way as well regarding the garments (make-up stain, missing button, etc.), models with a missing shoe, or models missing in general.
Dressers are instructed to assist the models because they usually have a very short time frame to change from one look to the next – and some of these clothes are complicated! While the dresser is helping her, there’s a make-up artist with a florescent light shining on her skin to touch-up any marks or blemishes. At the same time, there’s a photographer trying to get a perfect picture of the make-up artist touching-up the model. Then there’s always that one perfectionist that comes around with a lint roller, body tape, and scissors (for lose threads). When there’s a time crunch, there are four people to one model making sure she looks perfect – and she always does!
Despite the hectic scene backstage, a beautiful show is presented showing no previous signs of stress. The tension behind the scenes slowly releases as the models walk the runway one by one. Once the finale walk starts, everyone backstage celebrates and congratulates the designer for a job well done. Afterwards, the press starts flooding in to get their interviews with the designer, while everyone else is packing up the collection, helping the models, or cleaning up the area. It’s quite an experience and highly recommended for fashion students! You have the opportunity to meet and network with people in the industry and get to handle couture collections. You become part of the company’s team as a dresser, all working toward a common goal: to put on a fabulous fashion show.