A Dream Realized: Backstage at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week

For years I have read magazines like Vogue, Marie Claire, and Bazaar hungrily drinking in the images splashed across the pages, wishing one day I’d be invited to a fashion show in New York City during Fashion Week. I imagined myself sitting in the audience one leg crossed over the other, elbow on knee attuning myself to the evoked ambience, while rocking some understated, classic yet stylish and perfectly accessorized outfit, notepad on my lap, digital camera at the ready to capture those things I covet, while the opening strains to a Coldplay song lilt across the sound system right before the lights dim. Well this past Saturday I had my opportunity and then some; I was invited to attend Nina Skarra’s first Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week show at Lincoln Center’s Avery Fisher Hall.  Not only was I invited to attend the show but I was allowed in the hallowed halls backstage where I was able to witness the seemingly less glamorous behind-the-scenes happenings.  

Backstage is all about transformations; it is where the remainder of the designer’s vision is brought to life. Teenage girls and young women walk off the street fresh-faced wearing jeans and sneakers, skirts and sandals, hair pulled back in unremarkable ponytails, Kindle at the ready, coffee in hand waiting in a hair and makeup assembly line where their blank canvas will be enhanced. Surprisingly backstage was not remotely chaotic. Work stations for both hair and makeup were on one side of a narrow room lined with silver covered clamp lights; the countertop, backed by mirrors, ran the length of the room and was covered entirely in protective white paper the consistency of a brown paper bag, outlets snaked under all of the tables fronted by white folding chairs. Before everyone arrived the space looked almost clinical like a doctor’s office and then the hair stylists and make-up artists arrived with their easy chatter and suitcases filled with tools. I admired one stylist in particular, Eric, who was carrying a medium old-school hard suitcase covered with carpet-textured colorful squares of fabric; his suitcase stood out from all the others who pretty much had the standard black wheeled contraptions. I watched as the stylists prepared their stations, setting up iPads to play music, plugging in curling irons and flat irons to heat them up and laying out brushes side by side, everyone got into their rhythm, then the models started to show up and conversations slowed down as the real work began.

All of a sudden a new group comprised of media and public relations surfaced, cameras clicking, video recorders at the ready gleaning all of the little controlled tidbits they could for whomever they represented. This was an interesting crowd, I was constantly amazed at the agility of the stylists and make-up artists to answer questions about the work they were doing without stopping their flow. I was particularly impressed by Kim Roxie, founder of LAMIK Beauty, she was just a dynamo who seemed so comfortable deftly applying makeup while taking interviews, expertly answering questions, spelling important words, and tirelessly doing it all with a smile on her face.  I hung around her area for awhile looking at the product packaging and admiring her work. Her publicist explained the origin of the word LAMIK which is an acronym for Love and Makeup in Kindness. She described the make-up line as ‘eco-chic’ advising that the make-up is packaged in ‘green products’; so ladies, you can strike that proper balance between sexy-chic and responsible-chic!

After I sat watching Miss Kim Roxie transform one of the models for the show I roamed over to the room where the show would be held and looked down on the vast hall as chairs were arranged under the streaming natural light diffusing the room from the glass walls of the building. I wondered what the energy would feel like once the guests arrived. As the finishing touches began: a slicked stray hair here a nose needing a little extra powder there, I finally caught sight of designer herself dressed in all black with a pair of black running shoes. I felt her completely; she was there to execute a job and needed to be comfortable. I watched as she strode through rounding up any stragglers and sending the girls downstairs to the dressing room which was immediately adjacent to the runway.

It was finally time for the show but due to a pounding headache that suddenly enveloped me causing me to feel nauseous and terribly out of sorts, I declined to sit in my second row seats, instead choosing to watch from upstairs where it was airy and not crowded so I could avoid being fodder for media or cast a pall over the designer’s show if I suddenly became ill and had to bolt. So I watched from upstairs and marveled at the Twenties headbands adorning romance curls; sleek silhouettes; cool blues, soft pinks, and vibrant whites; the juxtaposition of the textured skirts and geometric designs of some of the dresses with the floating ethereal skirts of others. This collection awakened a Great Gatsby-esque  vision for me and I particularly connected with how well-cut the collection is and how broad the style range so there really is something for everyone. If you’re a laid back California girl who likes to wear a dress or a skirt but prefers flowing rather than fitted you could find something in this collection. If you prefer a little more structure, like myself, because you’re a size 16 and know your body type well enough to know loose and flowing often translates as moo-moo (can anyone tell me the origin of that word?) then you could try the soft-pink sleeveless pintucked dress featured first in the video below.  

When the last of Nina’s 2013 spring collection disappeared around the corner, I hustled downstairs to find my friends and check out the sights. The first person I saw was June Ambrose whose vibe seemed so open and positive. I also peeped Lil’ Kim who I have loved since she exploded on the scene in the mid-90s; seeing her was like seeing a familiar friend although she doesn’t know me at all, I went down memory lane remembering my girls and I getting pumped to go out during our college years, screaming every lyric of her raps in the backseat of somebody’s car as we rode down the Major-Deegan late night to party in Manhattan. I watched as guests milled and the media swallowed up Nina like ants on watermelon. I shook my head marveling at how fleeting this whole moment was: within 10 maybe 15 minutes the show was over, within about 15 minutes after the show wrapped most of the folding chairs were whisked away; it was hard to believe that runway show was preceded by four hours of preparation earlier that day and countless hours of designing and sewing before that.  I’m glad my first Fashion Week experience included being backstage and watching just a sliver of what it takes to execute one’s vision. Congratulations to Nina Skarra and sincere thanks to those who allowed me to ask them questions, watch them work and bask in their general glow. I hope to see you all next year and add in a new piece of the dream, Fashion’s Night out in NY or LA.

Photo: Me @ after party

Link to highlights from show: https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=I1wofNNLEeY#!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: