Fashion Week FAQ
Your nagging questions answered.
8) Who gets the front row? (And who gets usually stuck in back or in the standing section?) Is there a hierarchy among fashion editors and journalists, fashion buyers, and celebrities? Does the publicist decide the seating arrangements, or does the designer usually insist on looking at the placement?
Publicists and sales teams generally review the guest list, and they apportion the seats accordingly; they work their way back, putting the most important people in front and from there following the natural hierarchy of the guests (editors in chief before associates, store presidents before buyers, etc.). Celebrities, who have been wooed by invitation months before, either make a grand entrance in the final moments of a show and are shepherded to their seat by a PR escort, or they park themselves in their seats before the show begins for added paparazzi time. The idea, of course, is that a shot of a celebrity at a show will give added value to that designer's cachet. As for the designers, most give a glance to the front row seating plan, but any designer too concerned with that ought to go back to his fittings.
9) How much does a model get for a show? How are the shows cast?
Top models like Daria Werebowy and Gemma Ward can get up to $20,000 for a show, plus a 20 percent commission to their agencies. The fee includes up to three preshow fittings and the show itself. Designers hire casting agents, who specialize in runway shows and advertising campaigns, to cast the shows. Every show wants the top models, and there is often a tug of war over certain stars when shows overlap. In the end, a model's agent determines the better career move. Relationships—between agents, designers, the modeling agencies, and the models themselves—play a big part in assembling the ideal cast. Conflicts do occasionally occur between houses, as the models are booked in advance of the listed show time to have their hair and makeup done, which makes appearing in every show impossible.
10) Do the models get to keep the clothes?
Models often work for clothes rather than money, especially when the designers have small houses but growing prestige. While fashion can be a brutal business, support is shown by the modeling agencies and by the models themselves when the shows are cast. Models generally do not keep the actual clothes they wear in the show, as those pieces will be needed for sales appointments or magazine shoots. But they do order clothes, which are sent to them later.
11) How many models does a designer generally use in a single show? And how do they change clothes so quickly?
The current runway vogue is for no more than 40 looks (or "exits" as they are often called) and for one model per look, with no backstage changes. However, it's often hard to find that many suitable lovelies, and so some models might have two outfits to show. In cases where a change is required, each model has her own dresser to facilitate a fast turnaround.
12) Where do the models get their shoes? Some of them must wear 11s and 12s—and yet these sizes are almost impossible to find. Do they hobble around in shoes that are too small? Or is there a secret stash of big-foot shoes?
Shoes are generally designed specifically for the runway, in collaboration with shoe designers like Manolo Blahnik and Christian Louboutin. (Houses that sell shoes under their own label, like Donna Karan or Gucci or Prada, tend to use their own shoes.) Shoes complete an outfit—some would say they make it—and so they are an integral part of the design process. They are designed months in advance and are paired with the clothes during fittings. Top shoe designers generally do make shoes in sizes 11 and 12, but the average model size is 8 and a half.
Josh Patner has written about fashion for Slate, the New York Times, British Vogue, Glamour, Elle, and Harper's Bazaar.
Photographs of: Anna Wintour and Zac Posen by Paul Hawthorne/Getty Images; model on the runway at the Zac Posen show by Mark Mainz /Getty Images; models on the runway at the Sarah Blumenthal show by Shannon Stapleton/Reuters. Photograph of Naomi Campbell on the Slate home page by Seth Wenig/Reuters.