Behind the Curtain
Stefan Campbell shares the nitty gritty of producing the house's runaway shows
As if bringing Iman was not enough of a twist for Season 2, you will witness dueling fashion shows on almost all of this season’s episodes, amping up the fashion experience and turning up the volume of the competition. Yes FASHION is back on Bravo and this time its filled with more theatrics than ever.
The first thing you must know is I only have 45 minutes to switch one fashion-extravaganza over to the next (though I do have a small army of art directors acting like well-trained and disciplined soldiers to help achieve these high-charged and beautifully executed shows). During this short turnover I had to: teach the choreography to the models (I cast dozens of models with my comrade-in-arms, Stacy Hallick, to find the perfect 12); reset and explain the lighting direction I planned to our lighting director, Michael Stiller, who wanted to strangling me at times but, thankfully, did not; and work with our lovely tech team to ensure the video references that I selected the night before the show appeared on the LED and rear projection screens on cue. All this while checking in with the designers and helping them get the correct results backstage with hair, makeup, and last-minute wardrobe adjustments. Luckily I’m one who is never afraid of a fashion challenge, and this first episode, with Iman as muse, had many. . .WHEW!
SHOW #1: THE INTRODUCTION
To introduce the designers personal style (some of the clothes were quite, shall we say, interesting, especially David’s somewhat mad-genius ‘80s martian concept, which was in fact held together and constructed with—magnets), I wanted to keep the runway setting simple, basic, and clean, but to slightly surprise the eyes with something a little different, which were the moving elements of the LED and rear projection screens. Putting the designers’ names in white lettering on black gave a sense of instant cool, but when Iman’s name appeared on the screen I wanted a feeling of steely power. For pushing Iman onto the catwalk from backstage (which was a life long fantasy), I thought a virtual confetti drop raining down on the screens would be fun and festive. I knew these 12 designers were about to get a fierce twist when they’d learn about working in houses, so I wanted the confetti to give them a “calm-before-the-storm-effect.”
It was amazing that the houses were selected at random based on the sewing kits the designers chose backstage before the show. My hope with each show is to help the houses create a mood that will excite and enchant Isaac, Iman and Laura Brown, who are all trained in the visual importants of the moment. Mood is everything and can elevate a weak collection, or, at times, destroy a strong one. These designers, now fashion houses, have powerful tasks at hand to achieve together, and I will do my best to help guide them.
SHOW #2: HOUSE OF EMERALD SYX’s SHROUDS AND CHANDERLEIRS House of Emerald Syx (btw, though I worship Prince, this name reeks of a ‘80s girl group that he might have produced, spelling and all) was in total conflict with their concept and needed major counsel. They considered having the models seated at small tables and bars as if at a glamorous cocktail party (Iman goes to mega-galas, I thought) or having the models literally dance down a red carpet (Francine wanted her girl to actually do a Charleston-like jig on the catwalk). The house was all over the place. With my persuasive creative guidance, both of these ideas eventually disappeared. (Models don’t dance unless they are Naomi Campbell, Erin O’Connor, or Coco Rocha, with years of training, or, when Alexander McQueen had professional choreographers train supermodels for months to dance for his 2004 “They Shoot Horses, Don’t They” collection.) Instead, Calvin’s idea to shroud the models like statues and have them revealed one-by-one, got the green light. My challenge was to create a setting that did not look like a haunted mansion with ghosts looming or worse, Abu Ghraib. So with the help of an art director, Lee Clayton, we referenced the ballet Sleeping Beauty to create the reveal. We attached the shrouds of grey chiffon to filament (as to not ruin the hair and makeup). Then I had the designers practice poses that showed the details of the garments (hello, Jeffrey!) with the models to create a shape under the shrouds. Some worked, some not so much, but overall it looked good.
This house is filled with conflicting opinions on everything: make-up, colors, mood, music, even models are at risk. Hopefully, they will grow and learn to listen to each other more, or they may continue to receive Iman’s wrath (“it’s a fashion emergency!”) and Isaac’s critical eye—he remembers and can reference ANYTHING AND EVERYTHING pop culture.
FASHION SHOW #3: HOUSE OF NAMI’S URBAN JUNGLE
Nami’s idea was to modernize Iman’s inner jungle warrior (mainly Mike’s idea). The last time I checked, Iman was a university student, not living in the bush, when Peter Beard discovered her in Somalia. Guided mostly by Cesar and Mike, the house wanted to show a white collection with hints of black and red. I was really impressed by Cesar’s effect of layering chiffon to enhance the animal print motif for his gown. With this in mind, I thought of a layered imagery effect on the rear projection screen, which would allow each designer to have their own abstract urban motif background, in black and white, behind their garments.
Mike’s Halston meets Tom Ford-esque noose gown had a cobblestone image.
David’s diaphanous jacket and dress combo had a wooden shaft image.
Dominique’s rugby dress has bicycle spokes details.
Eduardo’s strapless puff was set against a metal building.
Ro’s leggy gown was in front of twisted wires Cesar’s animal print moment was highlighted with scaffolding.
To create a sleek-chic, modern-jungle meets urban-refinement, I had the model entrance and the lacquer black runway outlined in black bamboo (thanks to the art team for getting to the Flower District at 5 am the morning of the show to find the perfect bamboo). Using only the rear projection screen to create a narrow long catwalk effect for the show, the parade ended with each model posing in her own overhead spotlight (Iman lives in the spotlight) and then being bathed in red light. Note: the room glowed in red throughout their show to pickup on the red details in the clothes, like the line on Dominique’s dress’s waistband. I chose video of a virtually endless red carpet, journeying through an outer space-like tunnel for a space-opera moment to create a true modern and beyond feel (and an ode to Stanley Kubrick’s 2001:Space Odyssey, a reference I love to use when I can) which the Nami house gagged over (which means loved).
The House of Nani has a few strong-minded visionaries competing to win, so I hope Dominique, being the only girl, and youngest member of the house, can keep up with this crew, compete with focus, and not be too distracted by David and his dark wavy hair.
To be continued…