KLFW 2016 : What Goes On Backstage

8:23:00 PM

And KLFW 2016 is officially done! 5 days filled with a visual feast of fashion and it is THE time when all fashion lovers unite for the love of fashion here in Kuala Lumpur. aere's second participation at Malaysia's biggest fashion show just wrapped up two Wednesdays ago and our show was in the opening slot so it meant that I was able to attend other invites from other labels and designers too. I finally have a little breathing space now! Phew... But wait, I just found out that aere is invited to 2 more fashion shows this year and so my team and I are now busy preparing for the next 2 shows. 

But before that, I just want to express that I'm glad everything went well for aere's KLFW show this year and I'm quite proud of the young and new team for making the show a success and the positive response from those who have seen a sneak peek of aere's HOPE collection. Happy and blessed :)

Captured from where I stood.
Models queuing before the stage entrance.
A final check to make sure that all the models are dressed properly as they had to change from other outfits just before they step out. I didn't get to take a photo of all the looks because everything was too quick backstage and I had to make sure that all are perfect before they go. This is even with the help of professional dressers as well as my team members too.

The looks in sequence with all the tags with the models' name. 
Sometimes interviews are conducted backstage and looking at this reminds me of how super nervous I was. Excited too of course!
Captured by Yana.

This year's KLFW is only aere's 9th fashion show. Yes, I've done 8 fashion shows for aere in the past 2 years including the small ones with just 6 looks only. But every fashion show means a lot to me: someone who is still very, very new to the industry and trying to grow aere into the best that it can be.

Somehow, when reflecting on how aere has managed to be at KLFW, I'm always taken back to last year's KLFW show for aere. Just being invited to participate was a great big deal for me. I really didn't expect to be at KLFW so soon! When I started aere, I was aiming to be there at least in aere's 3rd year. But we were invited at the last minute just about 2 months before the show in 2015 when aere was barely 6 months old and I said "yes!" without hesitation even though I know the preparation was going to be crazy. 2 months! I named the collection Essence of Grace and went for the dreamy, whimsical, princessy, feminine and romantic concept playing with powdery dusty blue and blush pink colours which later became the pantone colour of this year, 2016.

Deepa the Designer checking to make sure that every thing is in sequence and okay before the chaos starts.

Before I started aere I only attended fashion shows as a guest and could never imagine how it was like being backstage. I shared some photos of me attending the shows in 2013 and also bloggged about it (here KLFW RTW 2013 : Pu3 & Yadotsa and here KLFW RTW 2013 : When Our Eyes Met & Mimpikita). Didn't manage to blog about all the other shows I attended including the ones in 2014 though but I did post it on IG.

From the front row, a fashion show looks like an artistic expression of the labels and designers. Glamorous, effortless, and of course very exciting as we are treated to a visual delight. We watch the way the gorgeous models work the outfits, walk elegantly on stage and their confidence in front of thousands of viewers and guests. The bright lights, the music, all the eyes and camera lenses focusing on the looks and outfits. Truly, an amazing experience viewing art in motion, on stage. 

But since I started aere,  being involved in Malaysia's biggest fashion show event of the year backstage was quite the eye opener! First of all, what you see for that 10-15 minutes of a fashion show takes months and months of preparation. There are lots of people involved, a lot of sleepless nights, sweat and tears too. Nothing can quite prepare you for the madness and craziness that goes on backstage. And I thought I'd write this just to share my personal experience so far.

Below are some of the backstage and then runway view of the looks.

Look 1 backstage captured by me just minutes before she hit the runway
Look 1 captured by Maryam from the front
Look 5 backstage captured by me seconds before Rita Suraya hit the runway.
I loveeee her new hair look. It fits the theme perfectly.
Even for the sketches I wanted a short haired look so I was so excited to see her in this silver coloured short hair.
The only way I can see whats happening at the front is this TV backstage. So sometimes I get to steal looks of how everything looks like at the front by looking at this TV which is placed just before the entrance of the stage where I stood.
Rita captured by Maryam. I asked her to take off the sequins jacket when she reached the end of the runway and she rocked it extremely well!
Look 2 backstage
Look 2 from the front

Last year, I remember when I found out from the organisers that the models were going to be wearing black lipstick for our slot that we shared with 5 other brands. When I found out, I begged them hoping that it will be changed. Black lipstick would have totally killed off the look that I wanted to go for. At the same I was also shy to ask because it was only my first time and I didnt want to be asking too much but I just had to. I asked a few people at the time for it to be changed and at the time there was no confirmation that it will be changed prior to the day of the show. I can't even imagine how it would look like. I tried to visualise to see if it could work but it would have ended up like a goth / rock princess kind of look which is not what I wanted to go for last year especially for aere s first ever introductory runway KLFW collection. It would look cool, I know but it really wouldn't have fitted the concept for that collection and just wasn't very, me then.

So on the day itself, during the backstage chaos I went to see Tinie (who they call Mama and who's basically in charge of the models, choreography and the backstage) and discussed about it and begged Tinie for the lipstick to be changed to nude. To my favour and aere's, she allowed it. I felt like jumping with joy when it happened, but things move at a really hectic pace backstage, so I had no time but to quickly relay the instructions! So after the models changed to their aere runway outfit, they were told to quickly rub off their black lipstick and the make up artists quickly changed their lipstick to nude. Phew!!! Tinie was really helpful and so kind even though she is also very strict and firm with everyone at the same time. She is really respected by everyone in the scene. I just found out that she won the model of the year at KLFW this year and I feel that she really deserves it for the professionalism, effort and all the hard work that she has put into her career. Congratulations Tinie!

Anyway, back to what goes on backstage, it didn't end there. I remember one of the models forgot to purse her lips when she put on her outfit and the black lipstick stained the nude blush coloured dress she was wearing. We tried to rub it off and it became worse! She's supposed to go on stage in a few minutes. One of us ran to search for water and quickly tried to rub it off before the dress got on stage. We got most of it off just before she was literally pushed to go on stage!

All the sleepless nights for months in preparation for that collection paid off. At the time, I worked with Ina who assisted me with the designs and production of the runway samples. We gave it to different sample makers at the time to sew everything according to how I wanted it to be.

There was this one unforgettable personal moment backstage when all of the models were already lined-up and ready to grace the runway last year when it hit me. It all felt so surreal. I was thinking about just the year before that when I attended the shows as a guest and suddenly at that exact moment it finally sunk in that I was not there as a guest but I was there backstage, showcasing my own collection for aere for all the guests who were waiting outside. It wasn't something that I had ever imagined. 

Chatting with Elena Cheurina. She didn't walk for us this year but she has been modelling for aere for the longest time since 2015.

This year's KLFW's experience was no different. Filled with lots and lots of drama, excitement and chaos. I remember there was this one moment when one of the models was scolded for wearing pink underwear and everyone stopped whatever they were doing and looked at the poor model. Wearing pink underwear is a no-no and apparently it is such a big thing. Yeah, I didn't know that either.

We had to revise our looks for the models because on that day, at about 2.00 p.m. on a fricking 3.00 p.m. fashion show, we discovered there were pen markings on one of the light coloured runway pieces which were white and blue! None of aere team members know how it got there! It was just fine the night before. It was really obvious and there was no way to remove it before the show. Everyone backstage panicked and tried to think of an alternative. We had to rearrange the looks and designs. Luckily, we prepared more looks and we had a few alternatives for the show. So the 2 pieces below which was also some of my favs were not on the runway that day.

This is after the team had arranged everything to be in their individual garment bags for each individual look until really late the previous night.

We also had to do some alterations for some of the models the day before. Some of the models did not attend the fitting before the show and when they tried on our pieces, it didn't quite fit them. Doing last minute rushed alterations in the overcrowded backstage full of makeup artistes to touch up the models, hairstylists, helpers, professional dressers, ironing boards, railing, different teams of designers and labels, backstage videographers and photographers and all the many, many models rushing to change as the models are on rotation really wasn't easy. Luckily this time around there were not many alterations. Adjusting seams, pulled out threads... Scissors are really handy backstage. I remember a number of times I screamed for scissors just seconds before the models hit the runway as I found a 1cm thread jutting out from one of the seams of the pieces.  It's really noisy backstage with so many people at the back so sometimes there will be instances that we need to shout to get our voice or message across.

We also had to play the prince in Cinderella backstage. Some of the shoes we allocated for the slot didn't fit the models. Most of the models would be wearing size 39-40 shoes so the sizes of the shoes we brought for the models were size 39. They were peep-toed shoes though. But when it came to it, some of them were a size bigger at 40. So we had to see which models could wear which shoes too... Just for some of the looks that we wanted them to wear silver and gold shoes. The rest wore nude pumps provided by the organisers.

There was also a last minute panic attack as some accessories that we have planned on using were moved by someone else and we couldn't find it! The chokers and some of the rings that we got for some of the looks went missing!! And I was informed by the front desk aere team members that the "HOPE" note card that we prepared for the guests together with the goodie bags were accidentally left behind as they had to brings so many many things. The note card is something that is indeed very personal to me and is basically the story of the HOPE collection. So one of my team members had to brave the lunchtime traffic to go and get it!

Not to mention, we received the paper bags on the day itself so 2 of aere's team members had to put in all the goodies in the bag and arrange everything just hours before the show.

Really, the backstage chaos is an eye-opener. I had two new team members (Maryam and Yana) with me who joined just after Raya and were thrown into this KLFW madness. I don't think they really understood exactly what happens backstage or even at the front at fashion shows and they were thrown right in! All the hustle and bustle, the shouts and manic screams to get messages across. I think they were a bit shocked but they worked hard and fit in really well I feel for their first month into the job. 

It's not for the faint-hearted, that's for sure. As much as I tried to capture BTS moments through the camera, the atmosphere can't be captured.  And if you think all the above is everything that goes on behind the scenes, trust me when I say that I haven't even scratched the surface. 

People think that fashion shows are just something fabulous but when we go backstage we see how much work is put into it. From the front it looks so smooth and organized (unless if anyone trips), the models strut the runway so perfectly and they usually follow the choreography so perfectly. It looks so effortlessly beautiful.

But behind that, there really is a lot of pressure. Its really overwhelming and demanding behind-the-scenes. To make everything look so glamorous, well organised and well put together. There are so many different teams that work tirelessly and through many sleepless nights to make sure the show goes on smoothly. 

At least now, we have photographers or videographers capturing the moments behind the scenes backstage. Even before all that though, it's actually the many many months preparing for the 15 minutes show. But of course there are a lot of last minute requirements or activity which is suddenly needed to make the event all better which has to be fitted in a very tight schedule. 

As this show was done with KLFW, the things like stage construction, sound, lighting, registration systems etc are all handled by the organisers  (Andrews Models) which takes a lot of burden off from our side. So it really is an excellent opportunity for designers and brands to be a part of this prestigious event.  Hats off to Andrews for organising the event. 

Wow this post is so long already. I also planned to share how long it takes from conceptualisation of a collection to the runway. I initially already wrote it as one post, but I decided to break it into two posts because it's too long! Gosh, I really miss writing and blogging. I shared some photos backstage, but I didn't take much because most of the models were changing backstage, and it's really super duper hectic back there. I really have soooo many more stories to share. Till my next post!

All photos captured by me and aere's team


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