Fittings are the part of the process where the collection really comes alive for me. They give me a glimpse into what the final show will look like, fulfilling the designer’s vision and my own. Seeing the models in the looks with all of the final accessories and accouterments makes me completely giddy.
When fittings begin, I like to start with the stronger models. The casting director does her/his best to get some of the more famous models in for the first couple of fittings so the designer and I can get really inspired. While this doesn’t always happen, it is a fun way to get this sometimes long part of the process started.
Timing for fittings can vary from designer to designer. With Antonio, we normally try to start fittings five to six days before his show because he works with a very small tailoring team. When a designer has a smaller tailoring team, the capacity to make alterations is smaller so one needs more time for fittings and then tailoring after. Larger companies, like Marc Jacobs or Calvin Klein, have very big tailoring teams sometimes hired especially for the week before the show to make alterations up into the minutes before the show.
The one challenge I come up against when designers want to do fittings a week before the show is if we fit too early we lose the chance of using the really great models. Commonly, the model agents will not confirm a model on a show until they know what all of the other options are for other shows at the same times as yours. In the past, Antonio and I have been up against such big shows as Y-3, who pay a lot more than we do. Luckily, I have relationships with many of the casting directors in NYC, and I call the casting director to stay in communication about the models I want and who they think they are not going to use. This way I can also find out when the conflicting shows are going to confirm their castings, and then release the model’s time with the agents. Oh man, is this business really about relationships! I have been saying over and over recently that talent is only half the deal, relationships are equally as important.
Sometimes we start fittings without all of our cast confirmed and wait until the day or night before the show to finish the process in order to get the models we want. It’s worth the wait because having amazing models is just as important as having great looks. However, I do prefer to get three quarters of the cast confirmed a couple days before the show so I can have an idea of our casting philosophy.
Once a majority or all of the cast is confirmed, the stylist starts what I call “rotation.” In order to start rotation, the stylist must create a lineup or run of show. I do the run of show once the looks are done and then start a conversation with the designer about what he/she thinks. Sometimes the designer likes to do run of show with the stylist and sometimes not; it depends on the client. Some teams like to do run of show while they are doing fittings, so a stylist and team can really focus on what the model looks great in rather than sticking to a particular sequence of looks for each model. I think all of these processes are equally effective, choosing one just depends on what’s most important to the team and how they want to tell the story of their collection. The lineup is crucial in presenting a collection. There should be ups and downs, “breathers” and a crescendo, like a movie or a song. A clear lineup will tell the story more clearly to a designer’s show audience.
Once a lineup is settled, “rotation” begins. “Rotation” is choosing which model will wear which look(s). Rotation for a one look per model show is much easier than it is for a show when each model will wear multiple looks. When choosing which look to put on a model, a stylist considers the status of the model (i.e. supermodel, next big thing, filler with great bod, etc.), body type and how the model’s look will “turn” an outfit. When I am doing rotation, I think about what kind of model I want in each look: masculine or feminine, curvy or boyish, blonde or brunette, etc. Putting a very masculine model in a very feminine look can give the clothes the extra push I sometimes feel they need. I love rotation because to me it’s like putting together a mad fashion puzzle.
As the casting director schedules the models to come in for the fittings, the stylist and the design team fit the models in the chosen outfits and confirm the looks. Confirming the looks encompasses choosing the final fits for the silhouettes, accessory philosophies, shoes, etc. While fittings are happening, the stylist’s assistant team and design team are taking notes for alterations and creating the dresser cards for the show. Pictures are taken of every detail and accessory so everything is visually documented. Explicit dresser cards are crucial for show day when a stylist and team are working with dressers who have never seen the collection before and have about an hour to get familiar with it.