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What Fashion Week is Like for Marissa Webb

The creative director of both Banana Republic and her namesake labels pulls crazy hours even when it's not Fashion Week.
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Photo: Jemal Countess/Getty Images

Photo: Jemal Countess/Getty Images

Most of the designers we talk to during New York Fashion Week are (understandably) exhausted and sleep-deprived, and they only have one collection to worry about. For Marissa Webb, that responsibility is doubled: The runway show for her namesake line takes place on Thursday, and on Saturday, she'll present the spring 2016 collection for Banana Republic, where she has been creative director since the spring of 2014.

Webb says she works most weekends even when it isn't Fashion Week, so it's difficult to imagine what her schedule is like right now. As she told us over the phone earlier this week, she gets through it by multitasking and not worrying too much about what other people think. Read on for our full interview.

When do you officially begin prepping for both shows?

For my own label I actually do the physical designing, so that starts about three to four months out. For Banana Republic I have a design team — I give them the concepts but they're designing and I review their sketches. It's a very different process, which I love personally, to have two different worlds. I would say the conceptualizing starts at the same time.

As a designer that has her own brand and is the creative director of another brand, you don't really sit around and design a lot, unfortunately. You don't have that luxury, so it's running around doing 1,001 things all at once; it's multitasking and we're constantly on the move. It's not easy to say what you're doing because you're actually working on three seasons for each company at the same time.

What have been the most important things you've had to do over the past week?

Running around like crazy is the main focus and trying to stay sane, but it is actually doing very similar things for both sides. I stagger my time between Banana Republic and Marissa Webb. It doesn't matter if I'm at the Banana Republic office or if I'm at my studio, I work on both at the same time. So for the past week, first I styled out the show for Banana Republic and went through the show prep; the day after that I styled out the Marissa Webb collection. Then I had the model castings for both for two days overlapping. We're still in the casting and booking process and we are now heavy into fittings, so today I'm focused on fittings for Marissa Webb because the show is two days before Banana Republic.

How does show day for Marissa Webb differ from show day for Banana Republic?

My show [for Marissa Webb] is always runway so the process is very different, the models need to have a great walk, the music is very different. With a presentation, it's very chaotic behind the scenes and then when the curtains open everyone has to be very polished — it's kind of the same but in the end it's different. They both have their own unique craziness, which we embrace.

What are those final hours like before showtime? Do many changes take place at the last minute?

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Nothing is ever done until it's done. It is interesting to me when I see people on vacation and other people being very relaxed and out doing things — I basically live at the studio or at Banana Republic until the wee hours and probably run on two hours of sleep every night. The models are running around all day, so you have to be flexible on their time as well. If she needs to show up at midnight, we make that happen; often it is a curve ball where someone backs out when something comes up, so we have to do more castings or go-sees. There's a lot of behind-the-scenes chaos that people don't see. So no, it is not all fine-tuned and perfect. Sometimes when a girl comes in for her fitting, the look has to be changed or altered to fit her.

Do you get stressed or worried about how the collection will be received?

I'm usually one of those people that doesn't freak out often. I just try to stay focused on the task at hand and stay true to my DNA, then also to the DNA of Banana Republic, which is a different responsibility. I honestly think you have to go with your gut and can't be reactionary; changing something because you think someone else might not like it. This is not the way I operate. It's more about, how do I feel about it, do I feel like this looks okay. I ask my team, and it's their input as well. I trust their instincts because they know me very well so it's more a conversation with my team and not worrying about what everyone else is going to think... until after.

What happens right after each show?

After the Marissa Webb show, I go to the hair and makeup test at eight o'clock for Banana Republic, so there is no downtime and no partying after. I would love to have a time I can just get everyone shots of tequila or whatever they need because they've been working their butts off, but it usually doesn't happen until way after and then we go into market week.

Banana Republic is two days after Marissa Webb, then for two days I'm here for market and my team does the rest. Then I'll be headed to Europe.

Is there a point after Europe where you're more or less "done" with that collection and can relax?

This industry doesn’t really allow that. You have to be cut out for the madness of this industry, but having two jobs in this industry at the same time means there is really no downtime ever. People try to remind me there will never be a good time to have a weekend off so just do it, because I actually don't take weekends off either, which is probably not normal.

What makes for a successful fashion week?

I think it's when everything happens the right way, the music hits at the right time, no one has an accident on the runway and the team is feeling good. After everyone's hard work, just being able to say, hey we did it. Secondary to that is when people receive the show well.

Do you read reviews right after?

I try not to focus on it too much right after because I feel like you just need time to clear your brain. It's nice to be able to order pizza for everyone and just have them be able to clear their minds for a little bit. Not that reviews aren't extremely important because you always learn from them, but again I think it's really important to stay true to your DNA and what you feel like really represents you. Not changing that for other people is really important.