Viva talks to some of the most interesting people behind the scenes at New Zealand Fashion Week.
Producing a fashion week show is not for the faint-hearted, with multiple elements that could go wrong - from music stopping halfway through a show, to bad lighting, to tardy models. Making sure this doesn't happen falls on the shoulders of the producer, and since New Zealand Fashion Week's inception Marissa Findlay has had her fair share of highs and lows.
"I just love what I do and that's how I get through any challenges. I make sure I always have food and water, a good pair of sneakers, a warm coat and a good belt to attach my radio and I'm ready for anything. A good show producer should always have an assistant, a phone and a run sheet - leave the attitude at the door."
Producing and directing the public Designer Selection shows throughout the week, Findlay will also be calling the shots backstage at today's New Zealand Weddings show and the Zambesi show tomorrow night.
"The public shows will showcase a great selection of in-season summer collections that they can buy in store now, plus a special preview of winter 2012 from all our catwalk shows at Fashion Week. The industry shows are for designers to sell the next season to buyers but we include one from each runway show at NZFW - this is something the public would never normally get to see until next winter."
- Dan Ahwa
At a breakfast show in Auckland this morning, the team behind the Ruby brand will officially launch their latest venture: Liam, which, despite its masculine name, is a womenswear label.
Designed by Emily Miller-Sharma, Liam will act as a complementary range to the Ruby collections; which will also be shown on the runway this morning. So who is this Liam? As Miller-Sharma explains, she is essentially Ruby's friend - with the same youthful spirit, but slightly more sophisticated. "We've toyed with the idea of a complementary range to our Ruby collection for a couple of seasons and this year's Fashion Week just felt like the right time," she says. "Last year was our debut show and this year we had the confidence to grow a little more and push ourselves a little further."
Viva had a sneak peek at the collection before this morning's début, and it was impressive. Inspired by daily rituals and modern ceremonial dress, it features variations on relaxed workwear and classic pieces for modern women - a sumptuous cowl-backed silk dress, jacquard floral pants, exclusive embroidery featuring quirky symbolism (oranges for joy, pineapples for welcome), and smart tailored pant suits galore. Miller-Sharma's favourite piece reflects the label's sophisticated fun - a cobalt blue, slim-line suit; "a classic cut in such a fun colour" - a description that sums up the Liam look rather well. When the debut collection being presented this morning arrives in stores in February next year (the Madame Hawke label will then cease to exist), I imagine the label becoming a favourite of young women who want to look feminine and strong, but not necessarily "cute".
As for that boyish name, the Liam team took inspiration from the word's meaning: "strong protector".
- Zoe Walker
Juliette Hogan and Rachel Morton
Designer-stylist relationships have become a special part of the New Zealand fashion industry, with many forming long-standing relationships that influence the aesthetic of the brand. Whether it be Kate Sylvester's association with Karen Inderbitzen-Waller, Stolen Girlfriends Club's with Zara Mirkin or Cybele's with stylist Chris Lorimer, these pairings involve a lot of collaboration, creativity and trust. Stylists can collaborate on everything from campaign imagery, runway outfits, model choice, venue and music selection, and some may also be involved, to varying levels, with design.
Yesterday saw the fruits of a new designer-stylist collaboration, between designer Juliette Hogan and Rachel Morton, the former fashion and creative director of Fashion Quarterly and now mother-to-be. The pair share a similar take on fashion - a classic and beautiful aesthetic that combines the feminine with something slightly tomboyish. This is the first season Hogan and Morton have worked together, and Hogan is excited about having someone new interpret her style and work.
"I hadn't worked closely with Rachel before, but I had loved her magazine shoots and knew she would be able to work with my design sense in a way that both complemented and challenged it," she explains. "People have also told me in the past that she and I would work really well together."
Yesterday's parade was Hogan's sixth NZFW show to date, with her winter 2012 collection dubbed "Bitter Sweet Memories" on the runway; a polished range she describes as buttoned-up swagger - or J.Ho, as the brand is known in the industry, all grown up.
- Zoe Walker
The editor-in-chief of popular fashion website Refinery29.com, Christene Barberich is one of the most credible international guests attending NZFW this year, part of a group of media being brought down to New Zealand for Fashion Week and the World of Wearable Arts show in Wellington by Tourism NZ. She already has a connection with our local fashion: Karen Walker is one of her favourite designers. "I have loved her forever and buy something of hers from every single collection," the stylish New Yorker explains. "I also love YSL, Steven Alan, Rachel Comey, Celine, Isabel Marant, and Hanes and Inhabit are favourites for basics." When Viva spoke to her before she arrived in NZ last week, she wasn't yet sure what shows she would be attending, but was excited about seeing as many as she could. But expect her to brighten up several NZFW front rows with her chic, polished look, which she describes as her own brand of vintage-modern. "Lots of old designer pieces and some basics with a few great contemporary pieces thrown in for good measure." Expect to see her in some of her favourite wardrobe pieces this week, including lots of structured coats, bold jewellery, trousers ("wide, slim, palazzo, you name it"), cotton and silk tank-tops, "and lots and lots of boots and shoes".
- Zoe Walker
Greg Murrell is a Fashion Week original who this year is busier than ever coming up with looks to complement designer styles. Murrell and his Ryder Salon styling team are working on the Stolen Girlfriends Club show tonight and Huffer tomorrow. He is also creative director for the KMS California hair team on the week's Contemporary Salon shows, giving him a range of established and emerging designers to work with. His first show of the week was Ingrid Starnes yesterday.
"I think it's important to work with each brand's aesthetic, but for the [hair] look not to become predictable," he says. "In the back of my mind are feelings about trends and movements that I have noticed, but sometimes I just have to disregard what is happening elsewhere and find solutions that appeal to my sensibility and work well for the designer."
Where are you at?
For Huffer we are moving things away from the expected, and with Stolen Girlfriends a new imagining of their rock and roll aesthetic is planned. It was also exciting to work with Ingrid Starnes for the first time on her contemporary salon show. Ingrid was after a look that had a nice floaty and free texture which was pulled back from the face and fastened in a loose deconstructed chignon at the nape. Strong but sensual.
Explain the process of coming up with a look?
We will usually meet up about a month before the show and start talking about the themes for the collection. We then meet for a hair and makeup trial on a live model about two weeks before the show to test it all out. We keep working on variations of the agreed look until we choose the right feeling. Often it is dependent also on the makeup look.
What happens backstage?
We usually have a two to three-hour call time before the show. Generally we will have the show look storyboarded out and team members are assigned tasks. As director I supervise this and help the team of between six and 10 people to complete the look to my satisfaction. I generally do the finishing.
What was the very first fashion show you worked on?
I think it would have been an in-store for Zambesi in Vulcan Lane in 1997. I did some braided looks from memory.
What was the most memorable show you've done?
There have been many shows at Australian Fashion Week over the years and it is hard to pick one, so I will pick the two shows that I did for Zambesi at London Fashion Week. I love that city.
How has NZFW changed the game?
Well, before NZFW, we didn't really have an organised and cohesive fashion industry. We just seemed to have people who made and sold clothes. With NZFW, the media suddenly became interested and it became possible for specialists such as hair, makeup, lighting, show producers and so on to work with fashion in a much more regular way. The level of professionalism grew accordingly.
Do you take a different approach for Australia?
I still prepare the same way but the reality is that it is not in Auckland so I don't have all of my trusted lieutenants with me. I usually take three of them with me and complete the team with associates from Sydney.
What's new in terms of products/techniques?
KMS California is relaunching at Fashion Week with brand new packaging and formulations. I'm excited to be able to get my hands on some of their new products.
A last line on doing fashion shows?
It's really fun to work on a creative project where other specialists are doing their thing as well. It's very satisfying and it's also a chance to stretch out a little and do something you wouldn't usually do in the salon.
- Janetta Mackay
Jason Chong Li
Beijing-born Jason Chong Li has been hairdressing for nearly five years and is a senior stylist at Stephen Marr Ponsonby. In 2008 he won Wella's Trend Vision award for young talent, and last year was named Harper's Bazaar Australia and New Zealand session stylist runner-up. As assistant to Stephen Marr's creative director Lauren Gunn he has gained plenty of show and fashion shoot experience - working behind the scenes of various shows this week.
When did Fashion Week work start for you?
It was at the 2008 New Zealand Fashion Week with the Stephen Marr team. I've been working on it since, and I have also worked at Australian Fashion Week and the Melbourne Fashion Festival.
What have been standout shows to date?
Favourite shows I have been a part of were Dion Lee, Ellery, Karen Walker, Kate Sylvester and Salasai.
Which shows will you be working on this year and what will your role be?
We'll be doing eight shows this year and I'll be mainly working on Zambesi, Salasai, Lonely Hearts and Helen Cherry/Workshop. I will be assisting Lauren on those shows. I will lead the team and key [direct] the look with Lauren for Zambesi.
Explain the preparation?
We start training six weeks before Fashion Week. We go to the workroom to see the collection's inspiration. At that stage we will have a big picture of the look, and it will become more and more focused.
How are things backstage?
It's usually really calm and fun as we work with our own team and we have really good training as a strong base. Of course, there are crazy moments, but it's part of the process.
What do you have to bring to show work?
A good attitude is always a must-have. Enjoy what you are creating rather than just trying to finish a job. We are a session styling-focused salon, so I believe our team have very good skills and experience.
Does show work help your styling generally?
Four people brought session session styling into my life: my boss Stephen [Marr], Lucy [Vincent-Marr], Lauren and Mobeen [Bhikoo, a senior stylist and Marr business partner]. They taught me a very different culture and view of hairdressing. It's unique and a step ahead. I always like our clients to walk out of the salon looking beautiful and editorial. Beautiful finishing is a big part. We spend lots of time on teaching clients how to recreate the looks we do at Fashion Week on themselves. It's absolutely wearable.
If you could work on any shows which would they be?
Celine, Dries Van Noten, Lanvin and Prada. The models would be Freja, Natasha Poly, Lara Stone, Sasha P, Liu Wen, Fei Fei and Emily Baker.
What recent show hair have you loved?
Internationally my favourite hair last season was Dries Van Noten and Celine. Alexander Wang's show always has cool hair. I like them because that's how I like girls doing their hair: it's handsome, but so feminine too. Locally, my favourite hair last Fashion Week was Zambesi and Salasai. Did you see what Lauren did for Salasai? [She placed gold foil in the hair.] Insane!
- Janetta Mackay
Twenty-four-year old Kiri O'Brien has been a makeup artist for six years, four with M.A.C Cosmetics who recently promoted her to the role of resident trainer. She is based in the company's Pro store at Britomart but travels throughout the country to train other M.A.C artists. Her first Fashion Week was in 2007 and she worked on Australian Fashion Week two years ago. This year she takes a step up with more work as a lead artist on a number of shows and the chance to direct makeup for the week's big closing event, the Kathryn Wilson show.
How did you get started?
I have always been a creative person; art and photography were my passions throughout my school years, so I enrolled in the Bachelor of Fine Arts at AUT. I had some sort of epiphany shortly before I started my degree and I made a bold decision not to continue. I just couldn't picture myself in any sort of career to do with fine arts so my ever-supportive mum suggested I enrol in a makeup artistry course.
What was the first fashion show or shoot you worked on?
I think my first was Westfield Style Pasifika. It is a huge production and I remember feeling so overwhelmed walking backstage for the first time. A couple of years later I became a part of the show when I entered the Pasifika Body Art section. I was a finalist in the competition and had the opportunity to create my design on a model to show on the catwalk.
Have you worked on Fashion Week before? What has been the highlight of events you have done to date?
There is always so much going on at M.A.C and as an artist we're really lucky to be given amazing opportunities! In 2009 I was team leader for the Amuse show at Fashion Week where I met Pamela Anderson and the ever-exuberant designer Richie Rich - that was definitely an experience I'll never forget! The following year I missed NZFW as I travelled to LA after winning an international M.A.C incentive. I was lucky to meet Gregory Arlt, director of makeup artistry for M.A.C, and Dita von Teese, who was once a M.A.C Viva Glam spokesperson. Recently I travelled with a team of M.A.C artists to Wellington to work on a body art production for Weta Workshop called Project Born. I had an amazing opportunity to work with the artists who created visual and special effects for Avatar, King Kong, Chronicles of Narnia and The Lord of the Rings.
Which shows will you be working on this year and what will your role be?
This year is super-crazy for M.A.C - we'll be backstage at 21 shows over the week, plus we hosted the official opening party. I worked on the event, called Modern Art, which saw us body paint eight bodies inspired by eight world renowned artists. I worked alongside 27 other M.A.C artists to execute these works of art. I am also directing the makeup for Kathryn Wilson's show that closes Fashion Week on Friday night. It's going to be really exciting as she has released tickets to the public so 3000 people are expected to be there. I am also team-leading for Hailwood, Jimmy D, and Workshop/Helen Cherry, which means I get to work alongside freelance makeup artist Kristen Stewart and two of M.A.C's senior artists which will be really inspirational: Amber D, M.A.C senior artist for New Zealand, and Fatima Thomas, M.A.C senior artist for New York.
Explain the preparation for a show look and then the time allowed to achieve it?
Preparation will usually start with a creative meeting between the makeup artist, designer, stylist and hairstylist. This is where we talk about the inspiration for the collection and put ideas forward. We will then do a test of the makeup to see how it will look on a model. From there it may be tweaked or even completely changed so there may be more than one test. On the day of the show the call time for everyone is at least three hours prior to show time. No matter how much time you have there will almost always be models running late from previous shows and the last 10 to 15 minutes can be total chaos, but you always manage to bring it all together and it's a really exciting time.
What's the atmosphere like backstage?
Models everywhere, hairdryers on full blast, people yelling, Red Bull girls passing around much needed energy, photographers snapping every moment. There is always the calm before the storm that is the last few minutes before the show, but it is always so exciting to see your work out on the catwalk and a huge sense of accomplishment and relief when the show finishes!
What's the view like when the models are on the runway?
Generally you don't have one and if you're lucky you might catch a glimpse of the TV monitors backstage. You never stop doing makeup until the last model has walked the runway so you're always super-busy.
What attributes do you need compared with working in a retail environment?
At the end of the day you need to get the job done so you kind of need to just take the emotion out of it and direct your team strategically. It can be a real high-stress environment so you can't take it personally if you are yelled at. The amount of times I have been around production managers screaming "Everybody get out"! But you just get on with it and do your job. After the show it's the total opposite, the people who were yelling are totally chilled and everyone is happy and congratulating each other. It's a crazy but gratifying experience.
What does working on Fashion Week offer you?
It's an opportunity for me as an artist to showcase my makeup ability and if I'm directing a show I get to show my creative talent. At Fashion Week you are surrounded by such talented people so it is a really inspiring time and one where you can learn so much.
If you could work on any show in the world what would it be?
I would love to work on a Vivienne Westwood show. The makeup is always so completely out of the box and insane - she usually does a few different looks that are all equally over the top, not to mention her shows are such an elaborate production to watch.
- Janetta Mackay