Fashion Week, Part 1
By Jasmine Lord
Fashion is not the world I thought I would end up in. As a twenty-year-old-something, I had worked at a hip fashion company in Sydney, Australia and while my personal experience with that company was extremely positive, I never considered myself fashionable and I most certainly was not on trend.
Yet, here I was, almost 11 years later, in New York City at Fashion Week. In the glory of the Lincoln Centre of all places, nestled in at end of the runway, surrounded by the world’s best fashion photographers, editors, buyers and bloggers, armed with a video camera, squished like a sardine in a tin, I was eagerly waiting for the new Vera Wang show to commence. Even I, the most unfashionable camera nerd, knew who Vera Wang was and part of me squealed inside with joy.
There is a fashion week almost every week of the calendar year. The fashion week calendar starts with New York, London, Milan, then Paris, and commences in the fall (September) under the collections of Spring/Summer for the following year. Many other cities around the world hold Fashion Week, i.e, Berlin, Amsterdam, Beijing, but the ones listed above, they were the main ones the company I worked for covered. The collections are seasonal: Spring/Summer, Autumn/Winter, Resort/Cruise, Swim, Bridal, Menswear and, of course, Haute Couture. My co-workers are mostly Italian, some Australians, French, British, Germans and Spanish, mostly male, very international, but all like family. Almost everyone is bilingual except for me. This was one of the contributing factors that held me back from shooting the European circuit. Not only did everyone speak at least two languages, they could get around all of the European cities in a hurry on the metro or a moped with no assistance to the next show. I had a pretty good run though – over a six year period I worked as a camera operator on shows in New York, Miami, Sydney, Los Angeles and Toronto, almost exclusively with the one company (Los Angeles being the exception).
I had trained in Acting in Film and Theatre at University, so when I left theatre and acting after graduation to pursue a career in the camera department, I didn’t think much of the change. The 1st AD was like the Stage Manager, we had a director, actors, lighting and sound technicians, some just went by different names. But the feeling of family was the same.
Fashion Week is its own beast that somehow fits easily into a similar category of a live event. There is always someone running the show and calling the show; we have lighting designers, sound designers, techs, hair and make-up; actors are replaced with models and it’s like a production that worships the costume designers of everyday life.
There are tight schedules, the audience is truly fashionable, wearing their Chanel handbags and Christian Louboutin shoes, there are stunning sponsor lounges giving out free samples, well-dressed security, fancy bars, it’s quite the production. One girlfriend noted that the freedom of expression at a place like Fashion Week is similar to the freedom of expression at Burning Man. Anything goes. Only at Fashion Week, people go loud and proud in designer wear that most of us could not afford.
My primary job at Fashion Week was to shoot the shows but at first, I started out covering backstage, getting B-roll of the hustle and bustle of hair and make-up, shooting rehearsals, the designer interviews, the models getting ready (with the exception of shooting them in their underwear, no cameras allowed). The idea being that I was covering what was about to trend. In the beginning, it was a real treat to see the latest and greatest makeup artists and hair stylists up close and personal. To see such fine talent of designers and fine threads. It was hard to not get caught up in it all. Suddenly I found myself eyeing up gowns that were a quarter of my yearly paycheque. (Pro tip: fashion is fun but it doesn’t pay very well if you’re not the company).
After a year, I graduated to shooting the shows and I took a lot of pride in my job. I enjoyed being a reliable shooter, having a good relationship with my fellow media folk and the crews of the event. We shot off all kinds of gear depending on the budget. From Sony EX3 to Sony F55’s, Reds, Alexas, you name it. One major fashion outlet only required one camera operator, other times we’d have two operators, someone shooting the wide/master, the other shooting the details. If the budget really called for it, we’d have anywhere from three to five cameras running on a show, with a jib and all. It really came down to how much the designer wanted to spend on their video.
There would be editors backstage working like mad to get the shows cut, quick grade, fix any errors, i.e: model falling, nipple slip, operator error, new music, titles, client approval, then to the next one.
The Sony EX3 was the true workhorse of these events. So much so that I purchased my own tripod and microforce. I frankensteined my rig (they don’t fit together otherwise) so I had my own zoom control of choice with my tripod of choice. Both were lightweight but steady and reliable, allowing me to get to do my job to the best of my ability. The company I worked for did have their own tripod and zoom controls but, quite frankly, I didn’t like them. Being someone who freelances, who’s talent is based on my last mistake (or lack thereof), I didn’t want to run the risk of using gear that I wasn’t happy with. I was happy with my little investment. We rented the cameras either from a rental house or some operators rented their cameras to production. Sometimes we would live stream. Live streaming is my preferred choice of shooting the shows as it gives the director and the camera operators an opportunity to work and flow with a tight rhythm. The live stream would be broadcast online and throughout the venue.