Models, Make-Up, & Mayhem? Backstage at Fashion Week

A bit of chaos and confusion may be expected in contrast to a slick, sleek, and orderly fashion show.  We see the glamour and glitz in front of the stage, but what goes on behind-the-scenes [bts] requires  precision ‘military like’ planning, enormous preparation, and an experienced team of professionals to pull it off. The goal: implement a designer’s vision down the runway. Sounds easy? It’s not!

For those viewers fascinated with the ‘catwalk’ and all that goes with it, EDGE takes you backstage at fashion week.

A fashion show is a production, similar to a film or theatrical play, that involves staging, set design, lighting, music, models, stylists, costumes [the designs], etc. In addition, the producer manages the crowd scene; celebrity invites, celebrities on the red carpet, and the seating of celebs along with prominent media; the photographer riser – claim your spot on the riser; and other media guests and bloggers. 

The Stage

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The Photographer Riser

As a runway photographer, we ask Cindy Ceballos a few questions.

How is fashion photography rewarding?

Cindy Ceballos – I have worked backstage at many fashion shows and I’ve seen how busy designers are making sure their designs are perfect for the public so to be able to provide them with a beautiful, detailed shot of their designs that makes them feel as if they saw the show from the audience is truly amazing.

If you could talk to the models backstage, how would you advise them on you “capturing” ‘the look’?  What would you tell them to do? For example – to have attitude, how long should they pose to show off the front and back of the outfit, etc.

Cindy Ceballos – I would advise the models to always listen to the fashion show staff and workers because their tips and advice are to help them provide the best possible photos for the photographers, if you are supposed to stop on the third to last tile on the runway then stop there because sometimes the lights are focused on only that one area and if you’re a couple steps off, it could put you in the dark and no one will be able to capture the design all too well.

The Red Carpet, Black Carpet, The Scene, The Guests

Phoenix Fashion Week
Phoenix Fashion Week

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AFWLA - guests on social media
AFWLA – guests on social media

The complexity is syncing all the parts into a visual story that communicates a message to the viewer.  The chaos and confusion come from the lack of a well thought out plan, organization, and direction.  Designers are not always involved behind the scenes.  At a minimum, a designer usually has a team consisting of a stylist, make-up and hair artists, wardrobe dressers, video and music techs, and so on.  All these players must collaborate to present what we see on the runway.

Models, Rehearsal

AHF Models Rehearsal
AHF Models Rehearsal | photo Cindy Ceballos

Models, make-up, and hair [or headdress] are equally important in the look as the fashion, they complete the story, the presentation.  In many of the runway shows, models, make-up, and hair . . .upstaged the fashion!

Make-Up, Hair

A stressful environment is a given.  When you are backstage, there is an appearance of chaos, confusion, and, yes, the pressure is on.  The appearance is sometimes the ‘reality’, but mostly frenzied activity of make-up, hair,  models dressing, stylists reviewing and making small changes, and organizers in loud pitched voices trying to keep the order and to the schedule.  When the EDGE team is behind the scenes, we witness a range of energy from chaos [lack of planning and direction] to a totally organized and well managed show.  All in all, the show must go on and it does.

Happy Designers, Backstage

Patrick Kevin Francisco, backstage with models
Patrick Kevin Francisco, backstage with models
Rhonda P. Hill, Michael Ngo, designer | Art Hearts Fashion | Photo Cindy Ceballos
Rhonda P. Hill, Michael Ngo, designer, backstage | Art Hearts Fashion | Photo Cindy Ceballos

[Select Images Photo credit: Cindy Ceballos; Isabel Szkiba]

For more on B-T-S, click here for Lights, Camera, Design – Behind the Runway Scene with Emerging Designers.


Rhonda P. Hill

Founder, Publishing Editor