alexander lewis aw16 collection

Ever wondered what putting on a fashion week show from start to finish entails? We sent a journalist to follow Alexander Lewis’ London show and uncover the gory details. (There are none.)

The backstage photographers for Alexander Lewis’ AW16 presentation are due to arrive at 9.30AM. Hair and make-up will be underway by this time, which will be their focus – an attractive aspect before it’s even finished, and one that’s predictably similar at every show. However, if your curiosity runs to behind-the-scenes in its entirety then you’ll need to arrive with production, and today this is at 7AM.

7AM. The first hour of the day sees Omega Studios, where the show will take place, tick slowly into life. Lighting designers Renegade are arranging lights around a two-storey photography studio cove, while production company 6up prepare the backstage area.

From 7.25AM onwards, the Wyliewood team builds the set, a metal structure inspired by the inside of a pinball machine. There’s a brief pause to fit plastic shoe protectors to avoid mucking up the newly painted cove.

At 8AM, designer Alexander Lewis and his studio coordinator Katharine Kaufman arrive with the AW16 collection. While they arrange rails of clothing and unbox Paul Andrew shoes, the hair, make-up and nail teams arrive, along with the first models. For anyone wanting to grab an avocado toast from the healthy breakfast table, now’s the time. At 8.15AM hair lead Mari Ohashi briefs her team with a demonstration.

Front of house, the set is taking shape. The low skeleton resembling an octagon-cut gemstone has now grown legs and feelers, giving the desired effect of interwoven ramps. The next task is to build two platforms either side, while lighting tests periodically bathe the room in neon pastels.

By 8.30AM the make-up team has started their briefing and for the next two hours hair and beauty work through 12 models. The atmosphere in the room is calm.

Up until 10.30AM, Alexander and Katharine borrow models periodically for styling, with stylist Tamara Rothstein joining them. Swarovski pinball-themed patches are fixed to knitwear with double-sided tape, a striped shirt dress is pinned open at the collar and attached to a bra top, and shortly before rehearsal there’s a call: ‘can all models please remove their socks?’ Lines have been noticed around ankles.

From 9.30AM two small teams focus on promotional materials and canapés. One is tediously sliding sheets of stickers into plastic sleeves, while the other prepares gluten-free, dairy-free and refined sugar-free canapés.

At 10.15AM the set is complete. The metal platforms have been polished and the cove has been repainted for the second time by a lady who started off in her socks and has since resorted to overalls and bare feet. Set designer Robert Storey of StoreyStudio arrives to see it in situ.

Backstage, one of the models has arrived late after walking in the Toga show and is swiftly attended to by three hair stylists and a nail artist.

10.30AM and it’s time for rehearsal. Models are positioned on set, overseen by Alexander, styling and production. Alexander briefs the models on how to act during the presentation – his collection has been inspired by the Japanese Pachinko parlour and he asks them to affect an air of nonchalance, as though they’re waiting for their boyfriend to finish playing pinball. Confident, faux fed-up, with a dose of kawaii.

The next 45 minutes sees the finalisation of hair and make-up, and all the models dressed into their first look.

At 11.30AM the studio’s metal shutter is raised and the presentation begins. Industry guests see the product of the previous four and a half hours’ work, while being offered canapés and coffee. Alexander’s role is split between talking to guests front of house, and re-dressing models backstage one by one to cycle through the looks.

When the presentation comes to a close at 1.30PM, the models leave in the eternally curious combination of their own clothes and the show make-up. Two stay behind, for while the main event is over there’s still a lookbook to shoot. A small area of the set is lit and a photographer runs through the looks, while elsewhere anything that isn’t needed is packed away.

4.30PM. The lookbook is finished and the day is done. Everyone has until 7PM to move out.

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