I sneaked backstage at a fashion show!

11880215_1137847006245467_1086667157_n

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.

IMG_4733

(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.)

IMG_4693

(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.

IMG_4645

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

IMG_4691 IMG_4692

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

IMG_4652

(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.)

IMG_4653

IMG_4647

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.

IMG_4703

(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.

IMG_4668

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

IMG_4674

IMG_4654

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

IMG_4737

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.

IMG_4696

IMG_4640

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.

IMG_4713

(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.

IMG_4724

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.

IMG_4630

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

IMG_4726

(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.”)

IMG_4723

IMG_4721

IMG_4725

IMG_4716

IMG_4745

IMG_4683

IMG_4707

IMG_4715

IMG_4680

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

IMG_4734

(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.

11874075_1138008322896002_1187526102_n

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!

The most talked about fashion event right now: The Charles James Benefit Gala

Hello, my lovely readers! How was your day? : ) Mine was alright.

The most talked about fashion event at the moment is, without doubt, the ‘Charles James: Beyond fashion’ gala benefit that was held on the 5th this month at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. We’ve all seen the headlines. News about the gala is splashed all over fashion magazines, sns pages, blogs, etc. Whenever I open my laptop to casually surf the internet, I’m overwhelmed by thousands of fashion articles throwing today’s most popular celebrity names at my face, with netizens gushing over how Blake Lively, Emma Stone, or Madonna totally had perfectly coordinated outfits that accentuated their body types.

Since the whole fashion business is focused on the gala and the Charles James exhibition right now, I’m determined to write my own article about the Met event. One thing I realized while researching to write this article is that most of the articles online only gossip about what the celebrities are wearing on the red carpet rather than the actual exhibition itself, or what Charles James has done to innovate the fashion industry and deserve his own exhibition at THE Metropolitan Museum of Art. That’s why I decided to write about the great Charles James himself. I assume that not many of you have never even heard his name before (“Charles who?”). But he’s one of the most brilliant eccentrics that I’ve ever read about.

ac2

(One of James’s “Four Leaf Clover” dresses.)

Charles James(1906~1978), or, as Christian Dior labelled him, “the greatest talent of my generation”, was a perpetrator as well as a victim. While he incited chaos, he also had to run from it his entire life. James was born in England, and as a boy he showed musical talent but didn’t do well at school. His relationship with his father was significantly dysfunctional; both father and son shared a mutual animosity, which is apparently why he turned to the fashion industry, a business his father couldn’t stand.

James worked as a couturier in America, advertising through fashion press all over the world. He had a well-built reputation when he returned to London in 1929, and he later came to own exclusive salons in Paris, London, and New York. James’s success is said to have been built upon his spatial intelligence. He could imagine a design for a dress in several dimensions, and make it then and there. Some of his many unprecedented creations include the spiral cut and the taxi dress(a dress designed so that women could slip in and out of it easily in the backseat of a cab). Although James isn’t well-known among the general public(partly due to the fact that he didn’t establish a long-lasting brand label), fashion experts and insiders remember him for his elaborate ballgowns(which were tailored perfectly and made of exquisite fabrics), capes, and coats.

81.25.3 0002

(“Tree” Dress. Charles James, 1955.)

An interesting achievement of James is that he set a precedent for including couture in the category of art. By getting the gowns he designed into the Brooklyn Museum, he started a pattern of regarding fashion and clothes as works of art, and this idea still lingers about the current fashion industry, where famous modern couture labels like Prada are collaborating with artists like Damien Hirst to merge fashion and art into one concept.

In 1950, James won the Coty Award, and three years later, in 1953, he won the Neiman Marcus Fashion Award. Although James had been openly gay since he was a teenager, in 1954, he married Nancy Lee Gregory(yes, a woman). He later claimed that his wife knew that he was homosexual. As successful as he once was, Charles James could not escape from an immense debt and habits such as substance abuse. He ended once cherished relationships and even fell as low as to returning his rewards and accusing the Brooklyn museum for stealing materials that he had left there himself for storage. He was constantly having to run and hide from the creditors he owed, living in a myriad of different hotels, one after another.

ac1(“Butterfly” Dress. Charles James, 1955.)

In later life, James eventually settled on teaching. He worked with students of the prestigious Pratt Institute and and the Art Students League. Now this is where the title of today’s exhibition, ‘Beyond Fashion’, comes in. James was writing a memoir which he intended to call ‘Beyond Fashion’, but unfortunately, he never got to finish it. Homer Layne, a Pratt student that used to be James’ chief assistant and took care of James’s works, gave James’s old pieces to the Metropolitan Museum of Art last year.

It was Friday, September 22, 1978 when Charles James passed away, leaving months of back rent and debt behind. The medical cause of his death was determined to be pneumonia and heart disease. To the medics that had come in an ambulance on the day of his death, Charles James said,

“It may not mean anything to you, but I am what is popularly regarded as the greatest couturier in the Western world.”

 

Charles James was an innovator and a genius. Although I disapprove of some of his ideals(such as his view of femininity-he strongly opted for very traditional definitions and images of femininity only), I must admit that he has lived one of the most intriguing lives I’ve ever seen, and really just followed his gut throughout his turbulent adventure of life. He was raw, he was passionate, and he was real. He didn’t fake it, he really was himself the whole time, and I truly respect that in a person. Charles James’ life reminded me of how simultaneously hard and exciting a life in the fashion industry can be, and now I’m in love with fashion even more deeply.

Kudos to Charles James and the Met for coming this far. It’s a shame he isn’t here to see us celebrate his designs.

To comment or like this post, just click on the title of this post, then scroll down. You’ll see the Like button and Comment box at the bottom of the post. I love reading your comments, whether you agree or disagree with what I say, so go ahead and tell me what you thought of this post.

 

Research Citing:

http://www.newyorker.com/arts/critics/atlarge/2014/05/05/140505crat_atlarge_thurman?currentPage=all

Image Credits:

http://www.brooklynmuseum.org, http://www.metmuseum.org, http://www.wmagazine.org, theredist.com