What to Expect Backstage at Fashion Week, If You're Going

What Can You Expect Backstage at Fashion Week?

What's it like working backstage at fashion week?

Did you think my NYFW coverage was over? Does a fashion week schedule dictate my editorial calendar? What did I do backstage at NYFW? How did I even get backstage and what do bloggers do backstage anyway? Do you like a paragraph full of questions? Will any of these questions be answered in this article? Yes. Yes, they will.

The beauty of this blog is I write like I speak, and I speak with somewhat dramatic undertones sometimes.

Anyway, let’s get this thing figured out. My overall questions here is what’s up with backstage access for bloggers, and I intend to weave you through some different scenarios I’ve had over the last few seasons. I never actually thought that I’d reach the point of being able to cover backstage at some of the biggest shows in the industry. I’m pleasantly surprised at the progress I’ve made.

How I First Started Covering Backstage at NYFW

Alright, so my first exploration of backstage wasn’t actually done in physical presence. Basically, I opened up WWD during fashion month and gorged on the backstage pictures and makeup/hair tutorials. I literally scoured photos of makeup and hair tables looking for standout products and secret things that didn’t quite belong but could be considered “industry secrets.”

It was a twisted version of Where’s Waldo?  Fashion week style. Except I didn’t know what Waldo looked like and the secret might’ve been that coconut water I just glossed over in the shot. Did they use it as a toner maybe? My mind went to wild places.

I’ve been backstage before, but only as a model, and never at a big show like some of the recent ones I’ve had the pleasure of attending. The vibe is hectic, and everyone has had too much coffee throughout the day. People are sometimes cranky and almost always exhausted.

My first time attending with a serious intention of covering everything about a look was by invitation from Aveda. I’ve done small doses of backstage vibes here and there, but never actually went with the intention of bringing the look tutorials straight from the runway to the blog.

I received a pleasant introduction e-mail and along with a roster of shows that I could cover on my blog. I reserved a few spots and hopped off on my merry way into the early call times and sardine-packed rooms.

What It’s Like Working Backstage at Fashion Week

Did you see the above sentence? The one above the title of this section? Yeah. It’s early call times and sardine-packed rooms. I like getting to things early or on time. One of my more exciting and eventful backstage experiences was at Public School for their FW16 runway show (you can see what that environment was like HERE).

It was a 7 AM call time, downtown on the west side highway (read, by the water and wind tunnels) on one of the coldest days in NYC. Like, there was a Fashionista reporter there actually looking for quotes on how cold it was. I’m pretty sure polar bears migrated to NYC that day (there you go- I couldn’t come up with anything clever on the spot, so there’s my quote).

So, back to backstage. It’s hectic, there are a lot of things going on at once, and there’s absolutely no room to move around. This past season was the first season that I experienced some of the calmest backstage environments, aside from Rebecca Minkoff, which, though not quiet, was SUPER exciting!

What It Was Like Working Backstage This Season

I got a lot of help this season by partnering up with Sarah McGonagle, who covered many of the makeup tutorials with MAC Cosmetics leading at the helm. As a result, my schedule freed up enough to allow me to attend more of the runway shows and focus on the runway photography.

Backstage at Fashion Week with Tadashi Shoji

I went to Tadashi Shoji backstage to snap a few extra shots of backstage coverage (check out the full makeup tutorial HERE). That was a SUCH a breath of fresh air. The show took place at the Arc in Moynihan Stations, which is one of the bigger spaces at NYFW.

The backstage area was beautiful and airy with plenty of room to walk around and take photos. I typically have to find little nooks and crannies to take shots backstage in between all the camera crews and the makeup and hair artists. This time, I actually had some space to move around and capture different angles!

Backstage at Fashion Week with Nolcha

The mood at Nolcha Shows showing Lu Yang by Yang Lu was subdued, although a bit more packed. The Nolcha shows took place at Art Beam, which I’ve been to backstage before for Chiara Boni. So, I knew what to expect and how to navigate the room. The biggest obstacle in a room like this is making my way through the rows of makeup and hair chairs to get step-by-step backstage shots.

The strategy here is to hang out on the outskirts until you see a nook next to someone who’s getting a fresh makeup application done. Then, park yourself next to the model and makeup artist, and get ready for the waiting game. You’ll be snapping away slowly as the look comes together. I typically make my way around the space, if I see the opportunity, to capture some of the final looks. Then I just wait next to the clothes as the models emerge from the makeup area.

Backstage at Fashion Week with Rebecca Minkoff

Rebecca Minkoff backstage was a whole different ballgame. Since the show took place outside the Rebecca Minkoff store on Greene Street, the backstage prep was done off-site at a nearby location (specifically, Magnum store). If you’ve been following along with NYFW, you know that the show was packed with prominent bloggers and fashionistas not only sitting in the front row but also walking the runway.

This show was a show all about who’s who. And naturally, the press had to be there (lil ol’ me included). As I walked in and walked right past Rebecca Minkoff, I couldn’t get my head out of the gutter. I kept thinking of condoms. Cuz, magnum. I know it’s ice cream, but there’s a weird word association going on in my brain that refuses to let go of the condom analogy. But no, seriously, that ice cream looked BOMB.

After a few brief introductions and some friendly catch-up (you’ll find you know nearly everyone after working a few seasons), I got to work on the makeup and hair shots. Since I wasn’t covering for a makeup or hair brand at this show, I didn’t focus on the step-by-step tutorials. I was here for GE Lighting, so I was flexing my photography muscles with the lighting conditions.

Space was tight, so I parked myself in a corner that turned out to be where Caroline Vreeland was getting her makeup done. Go me! I made my way around the room eventually, snapping up photos of the scene while trying not to get ice cream all over myself. 

If You Want To Work Backstage At Fashion Week

Here’s the deal, you need to realize that this IS about work. There’s nothing to do backstage (other than eat) unless you’re covering something specific. Brands are interested in the exposure you can provide, so you need to be able to provide a platform that will give them an audience.

If you’ve spent a considerable amount of time reading up your readership and have the aesthetic background (and the numbers) to show that you can perform and give them the exposure, go ahead and reach out. Don’t just stick to asking the designer about the coverage. The brands that provide the products backstage need exposure too, so ask to cover the shows on their behalf.

Next, be ready to commit, show up on time and deliver!

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