Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Fashion Dresser For A Day...get your reading glasses on!

In the past I've mentioned my goal of one day successfully working in the world of staging and styling for interiors and fashion. As part of my journey so far, I took part as a dresser in a fashion show curated and sponsored by Selfridges who are one of the UK's largest designer department stores.

The show was part of a special event called Fashion Kicks which was held at the Lancashire Cricket Club in Manchester. Fashion Kicks was hosted by Manchester City and Republic of Ireland International goalkeeper, Shay Given and his wife Jane. It was held to raise money for the Macmillan Cancer Support, Beechwood Centre for Cancer Care in Stockport and the Adopt a school project. In its 8th successful year, this year's Fashion Kicks is said to have been the biggest and best so far, with special guests such as the Manchester City's first team doning some of Selfridges designer menswear on the catwalk as well as international Supermodel Lily Cole making two appearances on runway the in some exquisite Alexander McQueen pieces.The entertainment for the evening was provided by former X Factor winner Alexandra Burke who rocked the house and had the guests on their feet boogieing to her latest hits. It was a glitzy evening where guests were wined and dined by Michelin Star head chefs and chefs from the coveted Academy of Culinary Arts.
Fashion Kicks founders, Shay and Jane Given at 2011 Fashion Kicks
So in my usual daily online search for resources, articles and stories for the blog, I stumbled across this opportunity in an advertisement from Selfridges calling out to people interested in being a dresser for this event. I immediately sent the contact an email with a brief run through of my experiences through LLPA as well as my past involvement dressing and performing in musical theatre productions. I was pleased when I got a response back from the event manager with a reply saying she would put my details down as part of the team for the event...yay!

Please excuse the quality of the photos, they were all taken on my phone as I had to be as discreet as possible.

1pm: It felt like my first day of school, I was excited and and anxious. Was I dressed right? I hope I don't do anything stupid blah blah blah're only dressing Jo, relax! My husband dropped me off at the event. I had to state my name and what I was there for at the security guarded boom gates. I assumed this was so because of the calibre of guests they were expecting. The securite pointed me in the direction of the big white building to the left where I proceeded to make my way. Walking up to the building, men were unloading staging equipment for the event; red carpet, fluorescent green and white resin tulip shaped lighting and other bits of staging paraphernalia. Sheesh, I must be early! 
My Fashion Kicks survival kit! ;)
In the foyer was a group of around 10-15 girls. I assumed they were all dressers. Awkward smiles all round apart from a small group who had already been nattering away. I introduced myself to a girl named Summer, we got chatting. She was a 2nd year fashion student at Manchester University and found out about the job through her course. She knew some of the girls there and seemed to know quite a bit about what was going on. 
1:30pm: Franchesca, the wardrobe manager finally arrived and walked us through a long corridor leading up to the backstage area. We caught snippets of where the event was going to be held. Very formal, very lavish, very BIG! Its apparently the first year they're holding everything in the same room. The dinner and formalities used to be held in a separate marquee.
The backstage area was covered in black fabric and very big. There were rails upon rails of designer clothing, accessories and shoes. Jimmy Choo, Isabel Marant, Balenciaga, Lanvin, Chloe etc etc. I'd never been surrounded by so much luxury! A partition with a wide entry divided the room in two, one for the Manchester Footballers and one for the models. We were asked who would like to dress the footballers, a few eager girls put their hands up, lots of nervous giggles. They were given the pleasure of doing so. We were then briefed on what we had to do, 'get to know' our garments, prepare the next garment after a change, make sure your model does not sit whilst wearing the garment etc etc. We were each allocated with a model with 2-3 changes each and had to find the rail with the model's name on it. My model was Kim and she had 3 changes, 2 evening dresses and 1 swimsuit. This didn't phase me. I had done plenty of dance performances with small dressing rooms to change in so I'm very used to being around near naked girls besides, we're all built the same! Summer who was allocated to the rail across from me didn't seem very pleased. She was given a male model to dress, and was very green to this whole thing. I assured her she'd be fine, and joked about potentially awkward scenarios. This seemed to loosen her up.
Kim's outfits
Amazing Jimmy Choo 'Ellie' Wedge 
Beautiful Phillip Lim black rope embroidered paneled tunic
Jimmy Choo 'Quinze' embelished open toe booties
2pm: After 'getting to know' our garments, accessories and shoes the first of the models rock up. 3 males who were just there to fit suits and see if trousers needed hemming etc. You could feel the nerves all round as they got their gear off down to their underwear to try their clothes on....I tried not to look.

2:30pm: After sitting around trying not to get distracted by the next to naked men changing around us, it was finally time to eat! Meals were in a large carpeted room in the building next door. The models were all there, they guys were scoffing down soup while the girls just sat around chatting. Some little groups were speaking foreign languages, I could pick one of them up as being Portuguese. Food was served buffet style and was all very healthy, raw vegetable crudites, salad, fruit, sandwiches, soup and cold meats. Wasn't too bad. 
Summer and I joined a lady by the name of Sidnie and a friend of hers who were also dressers. We got chatting about how we found out about Fashion Kicks and what we did for a living. Sidnie was a designer who has her own little couture range which she described to be 'Eclectic'. She designs and makes made to measure garments. I told her about my studies in interior design, my goals to get into staging as well as my LLPA blog. Sidnie mentioned she was opening a store in Manchester in June and suggested I come along to the opening. I'd be glad to, my first event cover yay!

3:45pm: After our meal and a bit of freshening up, we returned back to the 'dungeon' (which was what I called it) to press our garments. 

4pm: The models arrived, we all got acquainted with who we were dressing and ran a dress rehearsal. The footballers went first, you could hear them all laughing and joking around on the catwalk, something I could imagine my husband and his rugby team mates doing. Not being a football follower, I had no idea who they were but it was nice to see them act so relaxed and 'normal'. Nothing like the typical Rooney or Beckham celebrity steryotype they're often given over here. I think I got the pick of the bunch with the models as it seemed as though Kim had everything wrong with her outfits, wardrobe malfunctions, shoes not fitting, tears in garments etc etc. All was sorted with a bit of stitching up, swapping and tit tape.
As I was in the footballers changing room grabbing a few bits an pieces, a tall, leggy ginger haired girl with a cute teracotta coloured bowler hat, black blazer and denim cut offs and military ankle boots walked in...heeey I know that face...Lily Cole! I tried to act cool as I listened to a man talk her through the outfits she was going to wear and what she thought of them. I walked back next door and told the girls. Excited by the news, they made their way to the entry to have a peek. Cool, real life Supermodel!
With what looked like her PA, the event manager and the man she was talking to in tow, she entered our dressing area. Sudden silence. We were all trying to look busy but all secretly trying to listen in on what was going on. The silence was a dead giveaway. 
"What do you think of this one?" The event manager asked her as she took the black Phillip Lim number off my rail.
"Yeah it's cute." Lily replied.
They took that dress and proceeded to do the same to an amazing muted yellow, low back, halter neck pleated maxi. It was divine. Unsurprisingly, they took that one too and made their way to her own private dressing room.
The dresses were later returned to the rails but were later taken again at the end of the show.
Lily leaving the room with her entourage in tow
6pm: After a long 2 hours of doing nothing much but pressing garments, chatting, Tweeting, Facebooking and distributing what was left of my snack stash, the models were back with hair and makeup done and we were ready to rock and roll for our 7pm show! We could hear cabaret type singing in another room which meant the champagne reception had started. 
The female models took their time changing while the guys got straight into it. 
"I don't know why they're so eager, we've got heaps of time..." Kim said, "...male models, they're such Zoolanders, they really are." 

6:30pm: The DJ kicked in and we could hear lots of movement in the event room as the guests filtered in. The party was just starting backstage too...for the models that was. They were all dressed up, media photos, mobile phone self portraits, and champagne flowing. Awww I want some! Most of the dressers didn't know what to do with themselves and just stood around. Me being me, danced around to the funky house music without my champagne. I didn't care, just as long as there's music, I'm dancing!
7pm: With Lily Cole at the front of the line in an amazing Alexander McQueen cutout number (the first of two) the show Is just about to start. The MC finishes off his introduction and the music begins. Everyone backstage is applauding, some models are putting their 'sexy faces' on, Lily is the first to walk out on the catwalk and the show starts. 
Before each time Kim gets on the catwalk she looks at me nervously, I give her the once over, a thumbs up and she's off. She hates swim wear, I told her she's got nothing to worry about, she looks great but I guess no matter who you are, it's always nerve racking prancing around on stage in next to nothing.
Lily Cole just about to grace the stage in her second outfit.
First outfit, a Sarah Burton for Alexander McQueen cut out dress
Second outfit, the iconic McQueen butterfly dress by Sarah Burton, which even made a front cover appearance on German Vogue.
8pm: Shows finally over! It went by so fast and without a hitch. The models quickly got dressed and were setting off to catch their coach back to wherever they were going. Kim thanked me for helping her out and was off. Myself and the other girls were told to get dress bags and place each of our garments in a separate dress bag and hang them all on a rail. That was all done, we were all exhausted and ready to go. We said our goodbyes and set off home for a well deserved rest.
I got Sidnie's business card to keep in touch with her about her shop opening. Which I'm really looking forward to! We mucked about in the foyer for a while and took some photos infront of the press backdrop, mucking about pretending we were celebrities. I put it all down to being deliriously tired.
All in all it was a great experience, I got to meet some wonderful people and was able to make a few connections for future work. Shay and Jane Givens and Selfridges did an amazing job of being so organised with Fashion Kicks. The whole experience was so calm. Not at all as chaotic or intimidating as what I thought it would be. Would definitely do it again....London Fashion Week next year perhaps?? Who knows!

xx Jo


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