The front row might be the most coveted spot at fashion week but it’s not the only hot and happening place to be. The buzzword even amongst the frowers is “backstage” and from the way everyone is dying to sidle past the harassed security guards and enter the cordoned-off area, it seems as if a perpetual party is going on behind the scenes.
Yet it’s no secret that putting up a fashion show that doesn’t last for more than 20 minutes takes hours of preparation and oodles of hard work. Fashion weeks, which go on for days, with numerous shows per day, are a particularly busy time for the army of stylists, make-up artists, publicists, designers and production managers who are involved in the making of a successful fashion show.
So what is it really like – an exclusive, member’s only bash or bootcamp? Instep takes a look behind the catwalk to discover that it’s a bit of both. Think of backstage as an exercise in madness, but with a definite method to it. For an event that lasts three days and sees up to 15 different shows, the preparation begins well in advance, or as a PFDC insider told us, “The day this fashion week is over is the day we’ll start prepping for the next one. Everyone will sit down, hold a post-mortem of the event and chalk out a plan for next year.”
While the major work such as stage construction, setting up lights and sound, runway schedule etc is taken care of well in advance, the day of the show will still see a flurry of last-minute activity. Models are called to the venue by 10:00 am, which allows them a safe margin to be fashionably late. By noon, even the most non-punctual one has trudged in and has been seated in the make-up area.
Once the huge sunnies hiding the dark circles come off and the last-minute cigarettes have been stubbed out, the stylists begin slapping on the foundation. One model took it upon herself to cattily explain how the line-up for the make-up call is decided.
“Look here, some models can have their make-up done in the morning and it stays fresh all day long, whereas some of the more ‘senior’ models,” she stops to snicker and whisper under her breath that those who are over 30 should retire, “it’s no secret that they need touch ups constantly because of their aging skin. Make-up calls are decided on that basis.”
So which lot did she fall into? “I got my make-up done at 12:00pm and look, it’s still flawless five hours later,” she smirked as she ran off to grab a bite of the pasta in white sauce that was being served for lunch. You thought models didn’t eat?
With different areas designated for hair and make-up, the models move along as if on an assembly line. Once the make-up is in place, they hop over to the adjoining station to get their hair teased, primed and styled into whatever hairdo has been decided for a particular collection. Then it’s time for last-minute touches such as changing nail colour and putting on jewellery. Sometimes you might see up to five people hovering over one girl, tugging and pulling in all directions.
We saw Mehreen Syed in a similar state, but that girl is a pro if there ever was one. It took one glacial look and all assistants/helpers melted into the background. One flick of a mascara wand, a quick swipe of lipstick and a practice pout in the mirror later, she was flawless. “Ready for my comeback!” she winked at us as she bit into a bar of chocolate. Knowing how strictly she adheres to a healthy diet, we were a little surprised at her choice of snack but she laughed and explained, “Sometimes indulgence is all right too! There’s nothing like chocolate for a quick pick-me-up and to calm last minute nerves.”
Speaking of last minute nerves, we spotted designer Ammara Khan just before she made her ramp debut and we have to say she displayed none of the nervousness one would have expected from a newcomer. She looked cool and collected as a cucumber, simply and elegantly dressed in maroon pants and a black chiffon top. We’ve witnessed many an established designer lose her nerves at the last minute and start snapping at her team members, but Ammara was all smiles and gracious words for everyone, even taking out the time to answer the questions put forward by nosy reporters (yup, that would be us!).
Meesha Shafi has been sitting out of fashion weeks for a few years now, but she’s a regular fixture backstage. “I come here to provide moral support to the girls,” she said, referring particularly to close friend Cybil. “It’s great to see the energy and excitement of backstage where, contrary to popular belief, everyone gets along just fine and there are no tantrums!”
That might not make for good copy but unfortunately it’s the truth. If you go backstage hoping to witness a catfight or a starry tantrum, you’ll be disappointed. Quite frankly, no one has the time or the energy to bicker over little issues with show time right around the corner. The most exciting thing that happened while we were there was that spoons ran out during lunch hour and two models had to share one, which they assured each other, amidst a shower of ‘jaanis’ and ‘babes’, was not an issue at all.
Another regular fixture backstage is Kamiar Rokni, whose infectious energy and droll sense of humour can be counted upon to liven things up. This year, we found him with his head perpetually buried inside his phone. “I’m blogging for the official PFDC blog and I’m so not good at it!” Nomi Ansari is posing for pictures nearby and even signing an autograph or two for backstage helpers-cum-aspiring fashion designers. It’s apparent from their excited squeals that this will go down on Facebook as the highlight of their young lives.
HSY, the man responsible for the choreography and the show production, describes backstage as organized chaos.
“It might look like there are a lot of random people milling about, but trust me, they all have a very specific purpose. It takes a village to put up a fashion show,” he declares. It’s a little after 5:00pm and Sheru the showman is shepherding the models on to the stage for one final rehearsal. Some of them grumble because this has been their first opportunity to grab a bite to eat since they arrived in the morning, but when Sheru commands, you listen. They plaster on their game face and get ready to strut their stuff. That’s when we make our exit, preferring to leave some surprises for the night.