Backstage Experience at New York Fashion Week Fall 2020 Season Episode 1


A consumer of fashion, brand ambassador, stylist, the lead stylist are some of the ways I have participated in past fashion shows. However, since accepting the co-directors role for Pittsburgh Fashion Week 2020 (PGHFW 2020), I felt that to be successful in this role, I needed and wanted experiences from the fashion capitals of the world – Paris, London, New York, and Milan. Even with no contacts in any of these places, I felt there was a possibility that I could go to the New York Fashion Week Fall 2020.

From dream to reality

Now, with seven NYFW Fall 2020 fashion shows backstage experiences under my belt, I want to share how I turned my dream into reality. It began with my desire for the experience and my ability to utilize my professional network. As a member of the Association of Image Consultants International AICI, I have access to a network of members around the world. I am grateful to those colleagues and AICI New York Tri-state chapter President Anne Stills, who generously tapped into her network which afforded me the opportunity to work backstage at NYFW 2020 Fall Season. Yes!

After securing my NYFW 2020 backstage access and reviewing the locations of the shows, I began searching for accommodations that met the following criteria: 

  1. Safety 
  2. Central location
  3. Inexpensive by New York standards 
  4. Clean and comfortable-ish 
  5. Bonus: Breakfast included (I am a breakfast person)

After extensive online research, I settled on a hotel. It was not my preferred hotel, but it met all my criteria and it scored 10 out of 10 on my location-scale. To keep the cost to a minimum, I chose to travel by bus to New York. The cost of my return trip was $0. This made me very happy. I traveled on the late bus, slept most of the way, and arrived in New York on Saturday morning. NYFW 2020 coincided with the Westminster Dog Show, and my hotel, which was located across the street from Madison Square Garden, was packed. I checked in around 11 am, ate lunch, rested, and went to my first show. Filled with anticipation and excitement, I arrived an hour ahead of schedule. 

It takes a village

My first impression was “OMG, there are a lot of extra people backstage.”  Many were carrying clipboards, some were talking on their walkie talkies or cell phones. Photographers were snapping pictures of designers and models. Media personnel were interviewing artists and other dignitaries. There were many people in charge. 

I realized that pulling off a successful event like showing a collection at NYFW fashion show takes a large village. In addition to the designers and models, the efficient backstage crew included security, producers, production and casting teams, event planners, caterers, hairstylists, makeup artists, clothing stylists, dressers, supervisors, and a host of volunteers. Planning and executing a NYFW event takes more than a desire. It’s about being organized; effectively executing and managing down to minutest details.

Working backstage on seven shows during the NYFW 2020 Fall Season gives one a pretty good grasp of how things are done. The shows were amazing, but backstage is where all the action happens. Having the right village and superior organization skills makes the event flawless-ish. I concluded that although backstage was exciting and hectic, it can also be very stressful. Therefore having a top-tier team in place prevents things from running amok. 

My role

A dresser’s role is relatively simple. However, this role needs to be executed with precision.  I identified several qualities of a great dresser. 

  • Attention to details – follow styling board instructions to ensure that models are dressed and styled according to the styling board and get models dressed on-time for the runway. 
  • The ability to remain calm when everything is happening quickly. Backstage can become stressful very easily, especially when models have to make quick changes and the looks are intricate. 
  •  Flexibility and willingness to assist others. 
  • Be prepared for the unexpected. For example, if a model is running late, you might be asked to participate in a rehearsal. This can be a very nerve-racking experience.
  • Expect the unexpected and stay focused. Sometimes famous celebrities, politicians, media personnel, and photographers are invited backstage prior to the show to view the collection and to be photographed. Dressers must remain focused on their tasks and not get distracted by the presence of visitors, or try to engage them in any way. 

Although working backstage is hectic and stressful, if you have the right personality you will thrive in that environment. Each show is very different but the time goes by very quickly. It is indeed an experience to cherish. Edited by Emily Harris

Read about my other NYFW 2020 episodes:

Episode 2: Part 1 Fashion and Makeup Trends at the NYFW Fall 2020

Episode 2 Part 2 Makeup trends at NYFW Fall 2020

Episode 3: NYFW Fall SS 2020 The Venues 

Click on this link to learn about my image consultant services

Spring 2020 Newsletter Articles:

  1. Physical Distancing: An extraordinary Gift
  2. Video and Teleconferencing Etiquette
  3. Wardrobe Detox Offer
  4. Menswear Spring and Summer Looks


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