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How to Put on a Fashion Show

Updated on February 6, 2015
Victoria's Secret 2007 backstage
Victoria's Secret 2007 backstage | Source

Fashion show production

Fashion shows are exciting and glamorous. Many people love fashion and want to be involved in the fashion industry. When done well, a fashion show can be a great promotional tool to help build a designer's brand.

Fashion shows also take a lot of hard work to stage and produce. I have been producing and managing fashion shows in New York City for years. Now I want to share some basic tips and advice on how to make your show a success.

Runway models

What makes a good fashion show model? The job of a model is simple: to sell the clothes. Physical attractiveness and body type is important for male and female models. But it's not just about being good looking. They must also be able to do a great runway walk and pose. Some of the best runway models are not the most "beautiful." Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but modeling is a skill. The walk and pose is what sells a look.

Wherever possible, get models with the same body type. A person's body type affects how they walk and stand. When all models have a consistent body shape and size (whether petite or plus-size), they can walk in a consistent and uniform way. That uniformity from model to model is one of the distinguishing features of the top fashion shows.

Components of a fashion show

Every fashion show has three essential elements:

  • Models
  • Venue
  • Clothes

The venue is where you hold the fashion show. For the actual experience of the show, the models and the designs are most important. In the worst case scenario, you could do the show in a humble/ cheap location, but with excellent fashions and excellent models, you will have a great event. If money is an issue for you (which it probably is), opt for high quality models before a high quality venue.

For years Mercedes Benz Fashion Week was held in a series of large temporary white tents in a park in midtown New York. Many designers that did not show at the tents rented similarly basic venues, opting to invest in high quality models. At the end of the day, it's not the building, location or décor that really sell the clothes, it's the models wearing them.

Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Tents in Bryant Park

Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week tents in Bryant Park
Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week tents in Bryant Park | Source
Baby Phat Spring 2008 backstage
Baby Phat Spring 2008 backstage | Source

More runway show elements

There are four additional components that are almost as important:

  • Lighting and sound
  • Background, runway and staging
  • Hair and makeup
  • Staff

Each of these elements can have a significant effect on your show, either positive or negative. Good lighting over the runway helps the audience see the clothes, and is essential for high quality photos and videos. And if the post-show audience will be much larger than the in-person audience, you will want good photos and videos.

A good background and runway will really tie the whole presentation together, and give you a prime location to promote the designer or sponsors.

The hairstyling and makeup on the models are the most variable of these elements. Hair and makeup can be anything from super simple to extremely ornate. They might enhance the garments, or they might sully the whole presentation. Be cautious with hair and makeup, and decide what kind of look you want before hiring and instructing your hair and makeup team.

Last but not least, the staff of workers are the ones actually producing the fashion show. They are your foot soldiers executing all of your plans. You will need team members to check in guests, seat guests, direct the backstage, dress the models, setup before the show and cleanup after it, communicate between backstage and front of house, and many other tasks.

Philosophy Fall 2008 backstage
Philosophy Fall 2008 backstage | Source
Alexander Wang backstage. Organizing garments to clarify which model is in which garment is a simple but effective way to help the show run more smoothly.
Alexander Wang backstage. Organizing garments to clarify which model is in which garment is a simple but effective way to help the show run more smoothly. | Source

Preparation and Communication

Two practices will make all the difference with your team: preparation and communication. These are absolutely essential. With thorough preparation and frequent communication before and during the show, you can put on an excellent production. With inadequate preparation and poor communication, you will quite simply have a mess.

You should be preparing with your team at least 2 to 6 weeks in advance, depending on how big this show is, how many people you have working, and everyone's availability. Communicate frequently to ensure that everyone is on the same page, fulfilling their role, and working toward common goals. A fashion show is one of the most intense and high-pressure moments you will ever experience. Good preparation and communication will make it an exhilarating, productive accomplishment you can be proud of.

Yigal Azrouel runway show, 2008
Yigal Azrouel runway show, 2008 | Source


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