Thursday, March 4, 2010

View from the Riser - My lowdown on NYFW

by Milisuthando Bongela, Fashion Journalist

Pictures: Milisuthando Bongela

Rag & Bone. Picture:

Charlotte Ronson. Picture:

I was most fortunate to attend the Autumn Winter 2010 collections at New York fashion week recently, especially because it was the last time they were held at Bryant Park.

5th Avenue, day one of fashion week. I arrived early so had some time to mill around this famous street.

The Mercedes Benz Lobby. It was 9am and everybody was sooo dressed up.

My first show by young designer, Richard Chai. The news of Alexander McQueen's death broke out during this show.

In 2009, I won the Sanlam SA Fashion Journalism Award and my prize was to attend any fashion event in the world. I chose to go to New York Fashion Week but I didn’t just want to attend the shows as a journalist or a seated guest. I wanted to get closer to the processes behind a fashion show.

Lucilla kindly organised a week-long internship for me at Video Fashion, a 30 year old New York based media company that documents fashion shows during all the major fashion weeks in Europe and America – from back stage to runway to interviews with any designer and celebrity you can think of. My role at Video Fashion was to be a Spot Marker, which is as literal as it reads – I was going to be the person who marks the spot in which the photographer stands at the end of the runway or the Media Riser.

I would get to the shows 2 hours before they started, mark my spot with duct tape and a koki pen and sit on it my spot until my crew arrived. As menial as it seems, this role is very important as it’s the first cog in a very important machine. As many as 40 photographers (still and video) scramble for space on the riser – all with the intention of getting the perfect shot of the models as they first step on the runway!

X Marks the spot - I'd have to sit on my marked spot until my crew arrived 2 hours later

Pre Show at Chado Ralph Rucci, didn't know how popular he was until I saw the celebrities in attendance.

So this is what the riser looks like after I've moved from my spot! The collective sound of all those photos being taken is musical. They don't stop until the last model disappears.

Thought I'd take a pic of the most ubiquitous shoe in NY! These are called Winkle Pickers and they come in all sorts of shapes. Good for the snow, but also very "utilitarian chic"! I had to get me a pair.

I would get to see the magical process of how scores of PR people - chicly clad in black with insanely beautiful shoes – dress up a naked room to look like a designer’s dream platform for showing their latest collections. And here’s what I saw…

Public Relations

A PR Rep for Phillip Lim prepping the venue before the show.

PR people At Phillip Lim dressing up the venue. Please note how dressed up they are.

PR Reps Dressing the showroom at Charlotte Ronson. Again, she wore that dress and heels for about 12 hours.

Unlike it is here, each designer has a PR company that represents the brand and sometimes the actual designer. The PR agency is responsible for the guest list for the show, the seating arrangements, the goody bag preparation and allocation and evidently, the overall look of the show. They have to make sure that the brand signature is subtly but clearly embodied in the set design, meaning they work with lighting and sound technicians as well as the people who do the physical fixing and installation of the set.

Dressing-up Erin Fetherston. It was Valentine's day and all the guests got roses and champers on arrival.

Pre-Show at Charlotte Ronson. They were meticulous about the lighting.

Pre-Show at Lacoste. Everybody got one of these Lacoste books, even us spot-markers but I had to leave mine because it was too heavy. I read it before I left though and it's about the history of the brand.

Ready for the Show at Rag and Bone.

I don’t know whether they all sent a memo to each other, but all the PR people were always impeccably dressed in intimidating black outfits, stockings and vertigo-inducing designer shoes accessorised with handsfree walkie-talkies, clip boards and the authority to check guests in or tick them off. I’ve never seen so many pairs of Christian Louboutin shoes in real life. These were the first faces guests would see and they play an invaluable role in making sure a designer’s vision for his collection is realised. They are at the helm of deciding who is invited to the show, where they sit, who photographs them sitting there and the overall perception that the media and guests leave with after attending that show. There was also the IMG PR who were there to make sure each show is consistent with the standard and protocol of the sponsor and the overall fashion week.


More fabulous shoes!

Me at Phillip Lim...gasping at the shoes.

Look out for tomorrow's post about the Media and Celebrities at New York Fashion Week

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