While we usually work with clients for at least two months before fashion week, this presentation in particular went from first contact to final execution in exactly 15 days. Here's the rundown.
10:24am Receive a phone call from an unknown number and answer it not expecting the call I'll be receiving - it's a friendly referral from Linda Gaunt, owner of the PR agency Linda Gaunt Communications. We've worked with her agency before on shows, and most recently, she and I presented together in Copenhagen in June to the Danish Fashion Council. I'm speaking with Gary Nelson, head at Christian Cota, and they are looking for a production company for their F10 presentation. Location has already been secured - Metropolitan Pavilion on 18th Street - so it has become a matter of overseeing and facilitating Christian's vision within the space. Set up a walkthrough for that afternoon. We have just about 7 days until our first show -- in addition to many other (and perhaps more important) things, I suppose this also means that I will have to redo the cover art for all of our production binders!
12:30pm Walkthrough at the Metropolitan Pavilion, and bring our technical director Eric Chavez of Chavez Design. He's extremely talented at explaining of the real-world implications (both logistical and budget-wise) of a purely creative concept. Meet with Gary, Christian, and Elizabeth, their PR / Communications Manager. Everyone's friendly and enthusiastic -- it's a refreshing change at this stage; everyone else we've been working with is in the thick of it and has their blinders on.
1:15pm Listen to Christian's vision for the space: girls on multiple platforms of different heights, assembled as one structure. Initial reaction: interesting idea but could be a tricky as far as budget goes to light it properly. Collection apparently has architectural influences; urban skyline, some color themes discussed. Somehow we end up on a tangent, and end up explaining what LED lighting can do for a set - basically, it's a type of lighting assembled with red, green and blue bulbs (same as each pixel in your computer monitor) that as a whole can be adjusted to be any color and brightness or temperature. He likes this versatility and we brainstorm ways to incorporate it into his presentation.
Friday 2/5 12:45pm Still working on the floorplan and overall budget. It's not as straightforward as you'd assume to assemble the actual cost numbers for a show (especially when you're simultaneously producing eight). There are a variety of needs that need to be understood and addressed, from as straightforward as security to as fluid as lighting and staging - and properly servicing each one of those needs involves contacting a vendor for an estimate detailed to the specific circumstances of that show. Certain venues have exclusives with established vendors, which means that you can't source and bring in multiple companies for one service and price/feature comparison shop in the client's interest. While not a rule of thumb, it actually can be more expensive for a designer to show at a location with these types of restrictions than at an open location with a good producer, who then assembles a team of assorted vendors at manageable, negotiated price points. Saturday 2/6 2:20pm By now, we've got some rough ballpark numbers and feel comfortable presenting to the team at this point to get first impressions on feasibility. We set a meeting time to go to his studio and to actually see the collection.
3:10pm Meet with Christian and his team. The initial concept ends up being rather expensive to execute at the level necessary to execute it properly, so we listen as he discusses what he wants people to leave his presentation with as we look at the collection. The clothes themselves are gorgeous, very colorful, and geometric, but also quite asymmetrical. For the type of collection where there's enough going on in the clothing visually, an equally-noisy set can actually distract from the garments themselves - especially in a presentation format. It is quite easy in these instances to unintentionally wade into the dangerous waters of building an art project or high school musical set.
We propose a new approach: a vertically tiered, symmetrical white set with a center runway on which to shoot the lookbook with girls in motion. Our idea is to remove the color of the set and let the collection speak; add some visual alignment, focus and symmetry and let people appreciate the geometry of the garments. Through a combination of standing on chairs and tables in front of a wall-sized mirror, Christian feels out how the concept would feel for his girls and gives his seal of approval. Happily enough, this concept meshes creative and logistics and we head back to the office to crunch the new numbers. Tuesday 2/9
11:46am We have budget approval! Vision confirmed, now it's time to execute. Thursday 2/11
11:40am Message from Elizabeth at Christian Cota -- she wants to setup a meeting with their PR team so that we sync up. In the middle of overseeing the lighting focus at the Bespoken presentation for that day a few hours later (been onsite since 8am, awake since 5am), and we have Jen Kao that day at 6pm. My mind is very much elsewhere, but set a meeting for the next day. Is this really just the first day of fashion week? Friday 2/12
1:30pm Monicka and I run to meet with the team around the corner on 40th Street. On the agenda? Finalize logo sizing, PR needs, and master scheduling. We are down to the wire with a good five days to go until the presentation and we need to insure that all day-of timing has been finessed to the max. Bump into Lauren Santo Domingo as we walk in - she's styling the collection! Monicka and Lauren have known each other for years I find out as they discuss how great Mario Grauso is looking these days and reminisce about working on the Nina Ricci show back when Lars Nillson was at helm. Everyone leaves the following meeting feeling comfortable with the next steps.
10:48pm Review venue garbage disposal regulations (fashion is quite glamorous, after all) and venue catering requirements. Get final logo options off to client.
11:54pm Bedtime. Sunday 2/14 11:08pm After two shows - Calvin Klein Men's Collection and STÆRK/Glemaud at Milk - our team grabs a bite to eat around the corner at our haunt Barbes on 36th Street (shh -- don't give it away, but everyone in the fashion industry eats there). We receive a late email from Christian who's in the thick of finalizing the collection and is concerned about model placement. He proposes a few new ideas and we agree to tackle in the morning.
Monday 2/15 10:42am Sitting next to our technical director we adjust the floorplan, adding another level, and over the course of the next hour go back and forth on revisions with the client. Finally come to a set of revisions that they're all happy with and that addresses their concerns. Tuesday 2/16 7:00am Load-in at the venue. See that lighting and the set teams are getting in, and go around the corner to grab coffee with a member of our team (this is coffee #1). 9:00am Monicka swings by, just back from overseeing the load-in at Cedar Lake for William Rast the next day. We go over emails, floorplans and budgets and order another coffee run; this makes #2. Reconfirm all timing for the day.
11:24am Starbucks run. Coffee #3. Setup all rentals, from front of house check-in tables to the champagne bar. Drop power backstage with about 55 extension corders, and set up all hair and makeup stations (tables, chairs, long mirrors, clip lights). 2:00pm Hair, makeup, manicurists arrive and start setting up. 3:05pm Test the LED lights on a small section of the wall; after going through key primary colors and adjustments, Christian decides on a blue. Coffee #4 handed to me. 3:20pm In the middle of planning for the 4PM lookbook shoot. From a production standpoint, one advantage of a runway show over a presentation is that you get all of your lookbook pictures at the same time as your work is revealed to the audience! With a presentation, you have to get the pictures before the audience sees the set -- which means you have to touch up the set after the shoot. It adds a buffer window between when girls are ready and when you can allow in an audience -- usually a tense, high-pressure buffer window. It's not exactly pleasant.
However, after a similar and successful setup at the Bespoken presentation we produced on Friday, I'm pretty comfortable in streamlining this process. As most things in production, it is about ten times more complicated than you'd suspect at first glance. With the team on headset, here's the rundown of how I attack this:
1. I position two senior staff members in hair and makeup to push the teams to finish the girls, and connect them with Wayne Sterling, the casting director, to make sure that they know what girls will be coming in late and can direct them as necessary. 2. They hand off a finished model to dressing and styling to get into their look, and on the other side of the dressing area I place a staffer who will manage getting the model out of the backstage draped-off area and handing them off to our other staff member who will line the girls as they prepare to be shot and check them off our list. 3. I walk the girl onto the stage (after dusting off her shoes) and cuing her to walk two consecutive runs down the main platform while being shot. 4. The last member of our team escorts the girls off the platform and corrals them in an area against the wall, where they'll wait until the styling team is ready to place them on the set.
We have 11 girls arrived who are presently in the middle of hair and makeup. The team gets ready to go.
3:51pm Cover the platforms with plastic and paper - a delicate balance of protecting the steps up for the models while also keeping the protective layers out of the lookbook shots. 4:05pm We decide to install the full LED lighting now so that Christian can creatively have the option of his girls shot against a color-splashed wall. We test both, and he opts for no splash color in his lookbook - a course of action that we generally recommend so that all colors look true-to-life. 4:18pm First look is shot. Instruct the girls to have strong energy and long pace. "Ready, GO!" I shout to the girls after explaining the run-through. 4:28pm I realize as about the fourth girl is passed to me that this collection, all flattery aside, is incredibly strong. It is going to look great against the clean backdrop. 4:30pm 12 looks left to shoot. 4:31pm Instructed that a VIP might be coming for a walkthrough early from a show that was just let out. Our lookbook is 1/2 way done being shot and we have to touch up the set after. Not worried, but on my radar as a big concern. 4:46pm 6 looks left to shoot. 4:52pm 2 girls to go.
4:58pm Lookbook shoot DONE. Immediately start placing girls on the lower platforms while our set team jumps up to touch up the top platform from where the soles of the girls' shoes roughed up the white surface. Ever seen a game of Twister played by models and construction workers? Exactly. 5:01pm Majority of girls placed. Christian and Lauren rapidly swap out girls as they carefully maneuver steps over drying sections of just-retouched set. 5:03pm All crew off the set. Last three girls on. Instruct girls to keep rigid energy, think of soldiers in a line, uniform, strong posture. Cue backsplash of blue LED lighting. Collection comes to life. 5:05pm Doors open! PR team is very happy. High-five staff; our team is incredible, and I'm very lucky to work with them. I smile, sigh of relief, grab a Fiji water and head backstage for a few moments of silence.