Making a successful fashion show
by Patrice Worthy ; Indiana Daily Student  Published Friday, October 24, 2003

The staff of the IDS recently received a letter from someone coordinating a fashion show. He wanted to know how to make his show successful. The letter reminded me of the first show I was ever involved in and of shows I fitted, dressed and watched. A fashion show is one the biggest productions I have ever been to. It takes an endless amount of work, and if one thing is left unattended, the entire show can become a catastrophe. In the words of Deborah Christiansen, IU fashion design professor, "It's more than just pretty clothes walking down the runway."

During my first show early last February, I was stressed and pressed for time. I was out of town right before the show, and the theme of the show was making wearable clothes out of trash -- newspapers, feathers and torn pantyhose. It was a far cry from my style, but I thought, "What the hell, I should try all types of fashion."

The show took place at Bullwinkle's during the Slum Goddess party. My clothes were ready, but I was not. I was terrified. People kept showing up late, my clothes arrived 20 minutes before the show, and I was totally out of my comfort zone. To put it lightly, I was trippin'. The show came out well, but there were lots of things that could have made it run more smoothly.

No event is going to be perfect, but preparation is a decisive element in how successful a show will be. Here are some steps to take to ensure a successful show:

1. Always know your audience. I was talking to a designer the other night about the Bill Blass show during Fall Fashion Week in New York City.  We were talking about how Lars Nilson was fired from his position of head designer by Blass last February because he did not cater to the Blass clientele. We both agreed fashion is an art form; you have to know to whom you are speaking. If your audience is going to be full of college students, then your show should be centered around what appeals to those college students.

The feelings and thoughts you are trying to evoke should be present in the style of clothing, the music, the location and the décor. The show has to have a theme to bring it together.

2. Communication must be open. You are dealing with a lot of different people, and they need to be up to speed. At the Slum Goddess show, I didn't know some of the designers. Not knowing your associates is weird, considering your art is being presented on the same runway. We hadn't decided the order of looks going down the runway until about 10 minutes before the show.

Last minute decisions always happen at any fashion show, but organization and communication ease the tension. All the designers and models should have exactly what they need. Make sure there are enough dressers -- people who help dress the models -- to help with clothes. Helpers are essential; designers and models should not have to leave the backstage area for anything. Fashion shows are hectic behind the scenes, and anything that cuts down on problems is a blessing.

3. All clothes should be fitted before the show so you know they can function. One year at FashBash, a big show in Chicago, there were some disasters because of the clothing. We had one model that could not get out of her outfit, and another one whose outfit wouldn't fit. One model was running around completely naked, and the other one couldn't go down the runway. Put all that together with 30-second changes, dancers, celebrities and alcohol, and you have a mess.

One of the most important elements of the outfit are the shoes. If the runway has a slick surface, make sure the shoes are scored  -- an artificial way of wearing down the shoes so the soles create friction. I have seen many a model make some nasty spills because the shoes were not scored.

4. Everything about the location should always suit the show. The event space should be large enough to hold models, dressers, designers and all the clothes that are going to be on the runway. When you're working at a show, there isn't a lot of room and you have 30 models and all their belongings, things come up missing. In short, make sure there is enough room for everyone and everything. The location should be easy to access and models should not be able to be seen by the audience before the show. In some cases, you can't rent a big space, so make sure everyone cuts down on what he or she brings.

5. Have fun! Get catered food, drink, dance and get buck-wild. The right lighting and everyone -- models, designers and the audience -- looking good can make a successful show last late into the night.

Patrice Worthy

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