I sneaked backstage at a fashion show!

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Ever felt the urge to break into the backstage of a fashion show and see what on earth goes on behind that runway? Well, worry no more-I’ve done it for you. And I didn’t get caught.

Behind the scenes; behind the spotlight

As some of you already know, for the past few months, I’ve been working for Korea Style Week, which is the more accessible, B2B(buyer-to-buyer) version of Seoul Fashion Week. This season’s Style Week took place in COEX(in Gangnam, Seoul) a few days ago, and I was invited(obviously, I worked for them). I’ve been to Korea Style Week a few times before, once two years ago having to sneak out during class to see the Korean designer Ko Tae yong (see post by young Konni about it here). I’ve evolved a lot since then, since I no longer have to sneak around to go to fashion events lest people should mock (everyone close to me now is very supportive of my fashion career). BUT on Sunday, I had the chance to feel that tingling feeling of secretly tiptoeing around to get a more intimate glimpse into fashion. I sneaked backstage during the Korea Style Week runway show!

I figured if I got caught I could pull out the ‘I worked for the Korea Style Week blog!’ card, although I think even so I wasn’t supposed to actually go backstage during the fashion shows.

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(this was the entrance.)

Okay, deep breath, I tell myself. This is going to be a fun adventure! I’ll just keep exploring until I get kicked out. After all, no one in the fashion world succeeds by following the rules, if there even are any, right? The moment I entered, I just saw a bunch of makeup artists lounging around with their phones, looking pretty bored. I walked past them, nodding and smiling as if to say ‘yeah, I’m just one of you guys, keep working, don’t mind me!’ (They stared for a while, probably because judging from my shortness and chubbiness they made out that I wasn’t one of the models, but I didn’t look chic enough to be one of the designers, so who was I? But they turned back to their phones.)

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(backstage. succeeded in entering without looking too weird.)

The first thing I noticed backstage was the models. Oh what beautiful, unrealistic creatures models are.

No matter how lovely, unique, or bursting with personality a model is, there’s one collective aura that they all share in common, and that’s the aura of intimidation. Even though it’s not the first time I’ve talked to a real live one(yes, the nuance IS that they’re a different species) I can’t help but give away my nervousness in the subtle tremor of my voice or my awkward smile as I ask for them to pose for a photo. Physical traits do certainly influence human interaction, I think, as I bend my knees, tilting my head to eye those long limbs through an old Canon Rebel.

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(models running around in heels, backstage. pretty artistic shot, no?)

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(It was scary to even ask them to pose; they were all at least 20cms taller than me in those heels)

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(a model making sure she’s ready to get on stage. I wonder how it would feel to look in the mirror when you’re a model. I wonder if they look at themselves and take their bodies apart, criticizing themselves for their physical flaws like most of us do.)

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Overall it was pretty hectic; after all, the main objective here is to GET THE MODELS ON STAGE, ON TIME, LOOKING FLAWLESS. No one really payed much attention to me because they were all busy doing their own thing, playing their part to keep the show running. It’s not as glamorous a process as I thought it would be.

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(the runway seems a lot more accessible and familiar from this perspective. Just a few stairs and you’re on the magical fashion pedestal.)

When the models are all lined up and the show starts to heat up, it gets quieter backstage because everyone’s so focused on monitoring the show. The director was constantly running to and fro, waving a bunch of papers with the show schedule and details around. She had a pretty intense look on her face, and she was busy talking to each person about precisely what they were supposed to do at exactly what time.

But of course, none of this frenzy is reflected on the actual runway. All we usually get to see is the models calmly doing the catwalk, looking like they’ve got their stuff together.

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(The outfits were colorful and totally weird, but I like weird.)

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(and then there are the people that have to sit and take care of all the digital stuff, lighting, sound, photography etc.)

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After getting a few shots of the models and the people that do all the digital, techno-work (bless those people! no one ever seems to notice them but they work so hard to put important parts of the fashion show together), I wandered around to observe everything else.

A box filled with ‘밥버거'(rice burgers; a pretty popular snack/meal here in Korea. They’re literally burgers with rice instead of bread.) at the entrance raised my eyebrows; I thought models didn’t eat fatty foods, especially during show season. But then a scene from The September Issue where a pin-thin model cheekily looks at the camera during a shoot and eats pie(pie! The ultimate carb-filled, gluten-loaded, evil food! I’m being sarcastic.) comes to mind, reminding me that we’re all human and should all be let off the hook to eat whatever we want sometimes. (And I enjoyed that thought as I munched on my Burger King burger after the show. I have an unhealthy relationship with their long chicken burger.)

I was trying to get a shot of the rice burgers to show you guys when I was interrupted by something much more intriguing-A BACKSTAGE MODEL FIGHT! Well, okay, it wasn’t a fight, it was just a conflict. But I was still excited. I witnessed a model surrounded by girls, shouting to another model across the corridor about something related to the sequence that they were supposed to do on the runway. The atmosphere turned from hectic and lively to serious-mode, and I heard some of the staff trying to figure out what to do with the runway sequence. “We can’t have the lights turn off without the model on stage!”, I remember the stage director saying. I’d imagined model fights to be much more physical or loud, but from my experience(of sitting around on the big black electric sound boxes(amplifiers?) for an hour or so-yeah, I know, such a foundation to judge) conflicts backstage were more…civilized.

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Amid the messy stacks of clothes and hangers and personal belongings of staff members, there was another large group of humans, other than models, that intimidated me. The designers. These were the people that I was actually dying to talk to, rather than the models. I love talking to people about their creative process and inspiration for their craft; believe me, talking to someone about their art really reveals a lot about a person’s life values and perspectives. However, as busy as they were, they looked so immersed in the show, making sure their creations were properly represented to the public eye, that I just couldn’t get myself to pop their ‘bubble’ of concentration. What I did get to to, though, was ask a designer for a photo and exchange blog addresses! Hopefully I’ll get to properly have a separate conversation with her soon.

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(designers dress fabulously, obviously.)

As thrilling and exciting being backstage a fashion show is, sneaking around gets exhausting after a while. I went out to enjoy the many exhibitions by brands.

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A brand called LUVX seemed to be the main show here. They had a giant, weird booth in the middle of the whole exhibition hall and are actually pretty well-known among younger Koreans, considering the fact that I’ve seen their designs before, and I’m usually the last person to know about new hot Korean brands that idols are seen wearing.

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Walking around on my favorite dirty old pair of Skechers, I saw some designs (and people) that I really liked.

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(She caught my eye because she was tan, unlike most Korean fashion-conscious people these days (everyone here dotes on the classic pale Asian face), and because she had mint-blue highlights on the hair beneath her ears.

“So you’re here all day?”

“Yeah, you can take shifts but I don’t have a partner here so I’ve taken care of this booth each day, all day.”

“Isn’t it hard?”

“It’s doable. But don’t take pictures too close up; I haven’t got any makeup on.”)

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(I have no idea what ‘IRONY PORN’ means and, honestly, I really don’t want to find out)

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(model off duty!)

Overall, last Sunday was a glorious day filled with fun, thrill, and awe…which left me with sore feet and utter exhaustion (I’m usually a total insomniac but I fell straight asleep after coming home from Korea Style week), but that’s okay because it was a meaningful experience, both in terms of my fashion career and my life as a whole.

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And speaking of my fashion career, I’ve started working on my eBay partnership this week!

Wouldn’t be possible without you readers. I love you!

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3 responses to “I sneaked backstage at a fashion show!

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