Impressions: Behind the Curtains

It’s dark. I can’t see much, aside from the glimpses of embroidered fabric sashaying in the faint light from the other side of the curtains and skin glimmering with bronzer and a thin layer of perspiration. The compact space is as packed as the 30-Stockton passing through the bustling streets of Chinatown— except everyone is towering over me and is impossibly beautiful. I am backstage at my first fashion show. I can feel the thumping bass and the excited buzz. To an apparent flustered fresh face, I make a ‘Don’t feed the models’ joke. 15 minutes until the show starts.

I am a quick changer, which means I quickly redress models coming back from the runway and embellish them in their new outfit — all in a matter of minutes — for them to go back again. I’ve just introduced myself to a girl, and my hands are now picking and prodding her scrutinized surface – checking everything in place to prepare her for her next walk. Someone to my left hands me a pair of gel bra inserts. We have an unspoken agreement: there is no time for modesty when the presentation of couture is on the line.

Backstage, everyone in line tries to keep composed, preparing for the cue to strut down the runway in their sky-scraping heels. Designers look as if they are proud parents seeing off their children on the first day of school. Before the show, I had been expecting to witness a hectic backstage culture — catty models, moody dressers, frustrated micromanagers, invasive press. My precarious assumption is broken by the display of a team working community and  a sense of togetherness. We hold fast to those 30 seconds on the runway. It is our moment.

And just a few minutes, I hear exuberant applause. The show is over.

In the three months leading to Impressions, the merchandising committee has been helping plan a cohesive and distinctive winter show in grounding for Spring 2012 looks and collections. Yet, as I stand backstage, I am unprepared for the kind of adulation I have for the collaborative production, which exhibits heterogeneous designs that fittingly meld with the diversity in casting.

‘Impressions’ can be interpreted in several ways. As a metaphor, it connects the theme of the birth and renewal associated with Spring. More literally, it can refer to the audience’s response to the show and to the feelings each look evokes in the audience.

To me, ‘impressions’ represents the results of my first experience working with talented people in a fast-paced environment.

Backstage, it is dark, and it is frenzied with excitement. I have never felt brighter.

Written by Laura Zhen

(c) All photos courtesy of Jonathan Fiamor