Contrary to popular belief - I am still alive and writing. I’ve been working a lot on Mr. Boy’s next steps as a blog, website and hub which compiles my ramblings on personal style and the fashion industry, and will as of later this year (TBC!), also feature some of my work outside Mr. Boy and some extra special editorials and interviews, which I can’t wait to reveal to the world (or at least the small world that decide my website is worth five minutes of their time). So please keep your faith in the workings of this site - I haven’t quite decided to abandon all ye faithful as of 2014.
Back to some more behind the scenes work, I wanted to highlight some very special moments from London Collections: Men that I got to experience working with need-no-introduction Toni & Guy and shouldn’t-need-an-introduction Johnnie Sapong and his grooming team. My experience with working backstage at LC:M has always been pleasant - it’s never quite as manic as its female counterpart London Fashion Week, and there’s usually a lot more room to be manoeuvring about (depending on the venue). This season however seemed to be extra special - whether it was being there for the incredibly manic moments seconds before the show begins, or capturing Johnnie’s calm presence when resting his hands on each model’s shoulders for the final check up. Either way, it’s always great to be a fly on the wall the hours before a show begins, when you can really appreciate and see first hand the work that actually goes in to making those five minute catwalks as “flawless” and memorable as possible.
Toni & Guy teamed up with AOFM on the Matthew Miller show, which had both male and female models subject to grooming processes involving nets & lots, lots of heat
Starting off the three days I delved into the chaotic depths of Victoria House to preview the mania going on at Matthew Miller’s show. My friend Marqee does the production for all Victoria House shows (where Matthew’s was), and when he’s working you’re pretty lucky to get a hello in. It’s crazy. I mean, within the small space at Victoria House’s backstage, somehow there are over a dozen models getting pampered by a mix of grooming and make-up pros three times in numbers, wangling through a sea of arms compiled of keen backstage photographers and video interviewers. Then there’s the production team who work with everybody to make sure things are on schedule, and by everybody that means it could be the door staff, the security, the lighting team or the sound team. Last but not least, the designer is there somewhere, either monitoring the pre-walk, or talking to his team of stylists and on-set tailors to provide final alterations to the clothing. I’m sure I’ve missed someone but the image should have been painted - organised chaos, like I’d imagine a World War I telegram room to be.
Skipping forward to five minutes before Matthew’s show begins, when the audience would have already sat down (or planted their feet standing as close as possible) eyeing up their surroundings with judgement, you’d think that everything would be well under wraps and the models would be ready to present the clothing. Unfortunately, that’s not quite the case (and often so). The speed ramps up significantly and clothes are thrown on with voices shouting through walkie talkies. “FIVE minutes guys, FIVE MINUTES" Marqee shouts across the room. There are no sighs of relief though and no bouts of silence, instead, Toni & Guy are powering ahead with a swarm of hair-dryers replicating the sound of a jet engine taking off. Even as the models stand and you can sense the main room dim their lights in preparation for the walk, the grooming team are still at it making sure things are as grand as they could possibly be. It’s a sight really, and almost makes for a better show itself: seeing the calm finesse of professionals in their element in what seems like the peak of pressure. Skipping to the end of the walk, the team applauds and disperses in what seems like a fraction of the time of the prep. Then it’s on to the next.
casually talking on the phone, the model seems pretty oblivious to the mob behind him at Oliver Spencer
Oliver Spencer’s show was a pretty different experience. It’s the first show I’ve been to where I’ve worked backstage and actually decided to stay there, rather than watch the final show. Showing at the Old Sorting Office meant that the backstage team got over double the room, which makes perfect sense as those who have seen Oliver Spencer’s show will know that there was a live drum ensemble, as well as a fiesta of carnival dancers.
The vibe backstage was somewhat different to Matthews - as there was more space it was probably easier to read people’s facial features. William Gilchrist (an ooze-cool stylist) was brought in to style Oliver Spencer’s show, and both him and Johnnie Sapong have this incredible relaxed appearance and aura about them, which is either reinforced or is of a result of their decades of experience. Combining that with Oliver Spencer’s casting, who has become somewhat known for choosing “real people” among agency models as his walking mannequins, the atmosphere seemed very chilled. And bizarre. Backstage photographers became more obsessed with the extremely colourful (in both personality and outfits) carnival dancers, who almost took my eyes out a few times with their headgear during their warm-up before waltzing on stage.
Being backstage during the actual walk is a pretty interesting experience. It’s like pressing fast forward on the TV remote. The models will queue up and walk around the catwalk at their casual speeds, but the second they are behind closed curtains they are ramping up for the next change. You’ll have one person throwing a shirt and jumper over your head, and the next person will throw on the tie, and before you even get something fully over your neck someone is already pulling your trousers up for you. I imagine that’s what walk-in-wardrobes will do in a Futurama-like world, except instead of robot hands you have real people. There really is so much work that goes into a show I think people often neglect, who instead choose to complain about the distance they have to travel from show to show. I’m by no means saying it’s under-appreciated, but heck, I think the behind the scenes crew deserve to be somewhere in the spotlight by the designer as well.
I wanted to write something about the experiences of backstage but somehow I’ve ended up with this odd narrative. I just wanted to thank the Toni & Guy team for having me, as well as Johnnie Sapong & Naz who I’ve been working with as part of Return of the Rudeboy. That’s it for LC:M this season though - until next year!
- Mr. Boy
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