15 Things You Never Knew About Backstage at Fashion Week
Fashion Week is rarely a mystery these days. Back in the '90s, reporters and buyers attended VIP events with a pad and pen, ready to take vigorous notes on what they saw. Photos weren't released until glossy magazines printed them three months later.
In 2016 the Fashion Week scene looks like this: Outside of the tents, street style stars parade around in front of flocks of photographers. Four hours before the catwalk, beauty editors arrive to get a first peek at the hair, makeup, and nail looks — which are teased on social media. Once the lights are lowered at the actual runways shows, phones and tablets are whipped out while guests share the looks in real time via Periscope, Snapchat, Instagram, and Twitter. Privacy is a thing of the past.
Though you can easily follow along via #NYFW, nothing replaces actually being there and experiencing the high-energy sartorial event. Since there is so much you can't see about backstage beauty via our smartphones, we decided to share what it's really like to be a beauty reporter during Fashion Week. You just might be surprised by what you discover!
1. Editors don’t dress up. While the front-of-house guests are dressed to the nines, backstage is supercasual. No one is in heels except for models, celebrity friends of the designer, and on-camera hosts. The rest of us wear sensible sneakers, boots, or flats. Often the beauty reporter crews are carrying laptop bags so we can live blog between shows, bike helmets since grabbing a Citi Bike is the quickest way to beat traffic, and loads of layers to deal with different temperature climates. That said, a swipe of red lipstick for beauty editors is a must (it’s still a place to see and be seen!).
2. Backstage is crowded. In fact, you need to get a special pass to get inside. There are probably about three to four beauty pros per model as well as editors, publicists, the designer’s entourage, photographers, and runway show producers. Occasionally you’ll spy an unidentified hipster-looking dude among the fashion gang (he’s probably dating a model). The bottom line: be prepared to elbow your way through.
3. Backstage can feel like a closet. Often the primping rooms lack windows and AC, so it gets really, really hot with all those people and blow dryers blasting. See the first rule: wear layers!
4. The lead hairstylist and makeup artists don’t do everyone’s looks. You know when you read those how-to breakdowns of the backstage look? Well, the main beauty gurus spend most of the hours leading up to the show talking to reporters and overseeing everything. So they have to train their teams ahead of time on how to re-create their vision, and this is called a “beauty test.”
5. The scent backstage is a mix of hair spray, burned hair, nail polish remover, and gourmet sandwich wraps. We sometimes bring essential oils in our bag. And deodorant.
6. Models actually eat backstage. Those sandwich wraps aren’t just for display! You will see the long-legged goddesses chowing down while getting their hair done. There’s always complimentary tea (perhaps to keep everyone zen), hummus and veggies (a model favorite!), and cookies and cupcakes (an editor favorite).
7. Models really do wear all back. During NYFW, you’ll spy gaggles of them in dark jeans, tees, motorcycle boots, and leather jackets riding the subway between shows. Their hair and makeup is usually done from the previous show so they can appear like they’re headed to a Halloween party.
8. Backstage turns into a hair salon. Don’t be surprised if you see models getting shampooed between catwalks so that their hair can be totally switched up.
9. Minifacials are happening. The scene is filled with micellar water, makeup remover, sheet masks, and moisturizers to prep the models’ skin between runways. While most of them have flawless faces, they are no stranger to breakouts from all the makeup. That’s why estheticians from skin care brands are back there for quick complexion fixes.
10. Concealer is the new foundation. Though models can get some zits and redness from all the makeup, they still have better-than-average skin. So makeup artists stray away from using heavy foundations in favor or tinted moisturizer or spot-treating blemishes and rosacea with concealer. Many designers wants to feature women with glowing, dewy skin!
11. There are pop-up nail salons. Be careful where you step! Manicurists will literally be crawling on the floor to give models quick pedicures, while others focus on creating the nail art trends we all will want to copy next season.
12. Drugstore products reign supreme. While plenty of pros use the high-end stuff, many rely on trusty favorites like L’Oreal Paris Elnett Satin Hairspray ($13), Rosebud Perfume Co. Rosebud Salve ($6), and Embryolisse Lait-Crème Concentré ($28) to create the looks. Mario Badescu Rose Water Spray ($7) is another affordable backstage staple.
13. Backstage photos are not always revealed in real time. For the most part, backstage photos of the final hair, makeup, and nail looks are embargoed until the show happens (and don’t even think about releasing looks of the clothes before the main event!). So the behind-the-scenes images on Instagram were probably taken hours earlier. Reporters get around this by posting on a piece of the puzzle in real time, so a red lip here and a braid there are allowed.
14. There’s a model wrangler. Models go missing. Some need extra care to remove the last show’s look. So there always a stressed-out person with a clipboard and a headset, checking off each model's whereabouts to make sure they all go through hair, makeup, and nails according to schedule. A roster is often posted backstage with photos of each model so they can be identified quickly.
15. Fashion shows are actually 10 minutes long. Though it takes months of fashion design prep, hours of beauty primping, and at least 30 to 45 minutes to get everyone seated, the runway show is usually no more than 15 minutes long. And then it’s on to the next!