Designer Diary: Rebecca Taylor Takes Us Behind the Scenes of a Model Casting

She documented a play-by-play of the whole affair, from 6:00 a.m. to 11:30 p.m.
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She documented a play-by-play of the whole affair, from 6:00 a.m. to 11:30 p.m.
Photo: Tim Kitchen

Photo: Tim Kitchen

You hear a lot about the hectic days of editors during Fashion Week -- how crazy we are with running to shows, how our eyes are starting to bleed from so much writing, how we've eaten Chipotle one too many times -- but it's not often you get such a play-by-play from a designer.

That said, we asked Rebecca Taylor, she of all things girly-chic, to keep a diary for us during the day of her model casting. With her fall show set for less than a week away on Sat. Feb 8, let's just say it was quite a busy time at the office. From 6 a.m. to 11 p.m., it was a whirlwind of tweaking designs, meeting and fitting girls, doing interviews and tucking into some crispy chicken (mmm, designers: just like us!). Read on for a full account of what it's like to be in Taylor's shoes -- though, warning, you might just feel a little tired afterward.

Tuesday, Feb. 4: 6:00 a.m: I wake up at my townhouse in Park Slope, Brooklyn, and quickly look over my e-mails and calendar. I am hardly ever sitting at my desk for a long period of time at the office, so this is my time to scan over what the day has in store. With 12 collection deliveries a year, my schedule is always pretty tightly accounted for. But for Fashion Week -- which is jam-packed with interviews, castings and fittings, in addition to designing -- it’s important to mentally go over what is happening on each day. It’s also a rare quiet moment before my three children wake up and the house is an explosion of energy.

8:45 a.m.: I take the kids to school and get on the train to work, where I read a bit on my iPad Air while I have a moment. The Fashion Week in February is always particularly challenging because the weather is so unpredictable -- any sense of timeliness pretty much goes out the window. Today, however, we’ve been spared any delays on the train.

9:15 a.m.: I get off the train and head into work in the middle of the Garment District, where it’s always filled with activity, especially this close to the shows. Once I get off the elevator, it’s already buzzing in the office, while staff and interns make sure the showroom is all set up for the model castings we have today. Our design team is running up and down the stairs between floors to bring up garments, take them down to continue working on, etc. One thing I’ve learned as a designer, which is definitely important during Fashion Week, is to concentrate on the task at hand. There are always a million things happening around me on a given day that need my input, so it’s important to try as best I can to completely focus on the particular thing that needs to get done in that moment. I am very involved in the casting process, and think it’s important that we choose girls that represent the brand well.

Taylor and team scoping out a model. Photo: Tim Kitchen

Taylor and team scoping out a model. Photo: Tim Kitchen

9:30 a.m.: We order breakfast to get some energy for the long day that’s ahead. Lately, I’ve been really craving a fresh bowl of grapefruit for a jumpstart.

9:45 a.m.: Our show stylist and my good friend of many years, Kate, and our casting agency arrive to begin running the back-to-back appointments. We have girls booked from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. As far as models, I look for girls with confidence and a bit of an edge, what I call “offbeat sexy.” When we cast, we’re not only looking for the right look, but also the right look for the particular theme and mood we are conveying for the season.

12:00 p.m.: My mum comes to the office straight from New Zealand, where I’m from. She comes every single Fashion Week to help out -- I really don’t think I could do it all without her. She’s a huge help and works tirelessly, pretty much the second she gets off the plane.

Working on the soundtrack for the show. Photo: Tim Kitchen

Working on the soundtrack for the show. Photo: Tim Kitchen


1:00 p.m.: We take a reprieve from castings so I can oversee the design floor, get some other tasks done and take a few minutes to grab a quick bite on the go. I try to stay clean and healthy during Fashion Week, but every now and again I’ll give in and have some of the crispy chicken from Schnipper’s. It’s a guilty pleasure.

2:00 p.m: I meet with my art director to listen to music options for the runway. I absolutely love music -- David Bowie is a particular favorite and a lifelong muse -- but as far as runway music, I look for more than just songs that I enjoy listening to. I like to keep it light and fun, and I want people to have a good time when they’re at the show. My DJ sends over a lot of tracks for us -- if I’m liking how one sounds, sometimes I will play it over the loudspeaker in the office to really get a feel for how it will sound on show day. I’m pretty specific about the mix, so there will be more meetings like this one until we find the perfect blend.

3:30 p.m: After reviewing some of the sweaters for the show, I go back upstairs for an interview and photo shoot with a news publication that’s doing a story on my design process during Fashion Week. The photographer snaps away while I work and talk about my usual schedule (not that I ever have a “typical” day) and my plans for the upcoming seasons. While I’m being interviewed, the team is running around me -- they still have the usual meetings and appointments on top of everything else that needs to get done. It gets pretty chaotic in the showroom, but it’s exciting.

Making the fit just right. Photo: Tim Kitchen

Making the fit just right. Photo: Tim Kitchen

4:00 p.m: Our model casters have begun a fitting schedule that starts at 6 p.m. -- Kate and I review our model boards to see what look we think will work with each girl. Confirming the right girls is only the beginning, really -- we have to then decide who wears what, in what order.

6:00 p.m: We start fitting out in the showroom, allocating shoes, taking measurements and making adjustments. I try to get as many fittings done before Friday as I can so we can concentrate on any last-minute details for the clothing and also to account for any unexpected crises -- last February we had a blizzard the night before our show and the snow continued into the morning. We were lucky that it calmed down just in time, but that Friday night was a bit of a madhouse since we didn’t really know if it would let up at all, which could’ve caused delays.

9:00 p.m.: We take a break from back-to-back fittings and order some light bites and have a bit of red wine to soften the mood. It’s gotten a little quieter in the office, but a lot of the staff is still here plugging away, making sure all the pieces come together for Saturday. Kate and I have barely begun to have a full conversation when another model comes in and back to work we go.

11:30 p.m.: Time to go home -- the show is only a few days away. When I get home, the kids are sound asleep, but I stay up for a bit catching up with my husband. I try to relax since the days are only going to get crazier from here on out. I really love “Girls” and haven’t been able to watch it when it airs, so I binge watch whenever I have a moment. By the end of an episode, I’m definitely ready to call it a night and recharge. I'm feeling really optimistic about the week that lies ahead, even with the news that a snowstorm will make for another difficult commute. That’s what so great about New York Fashion Week, the energy surrounding the city makes you think anything is possible -- and I tend to agree!