Va Va Volunteer: Surviving Show-prep for NYFW
As we all are still in the Fashion Month spirit, we can reflect and look forward to the next season of NYFW. NYFW is both the most celebrated and the most dreaded part of the season in the fashion community. There is a lot of commotion behind the scenes and in between shows. Teams try to go through the motions seamlessly in order to ensure that the clothes look picture perfect both on the runway and on all of the fashion influencers’ Instagram feeds.
Through this installment of The Intern Diaries, I want to share some insight into the grit and glamour that goes along with planning and experiencing the shows during NYFW. It is a very fulfilling experience, however, if you have never experienced these nitty-gritty aspects of the fashion world, these tips can provide some insight to help you prepare before you get your next gig.
1. Know what you want out of your experience: Your experience will greatly differ if you choose to work more closely with a designer rather than if you choose to work with a venue.
Neither of these experiences is objectively better than the other. It all comes down to how you are as an individual. When you work closely with a brand, to produce solely that show (which you might be surprised to learn is a ton of work), chances are you will be going to their headquarters (or a workspace studio) for several days prior to the collection’s debut.
At this workspace, you get to learn about all of the immediate intricacies that go into composing a fashion show: steaming the clothes, casting models, creating runway lineup boards, packing up the clothes to go to the venue, and then setting up the venue itself. Once at the venue, you will perform traditional fashion week volunteer tasks as you assist with the various front-of-the-house and back-of-the-house duties.
If you work strictly with a venue, you will likely perform these tasks over the course of several days for various designers. Choosing which route to go depends on whether you are more interested in learning about the inner workings of a specific brand or if you would rather have the opportunity to work
2. Everyone is frazzled, but, when in doubt, always ask questions
Even though you see your supervisors running all around the venue, trying to get everything in order on time, and trying to get all of the (actually invited) attendees seated, they would much rather have you ask a “dumb” question than make things more chaotic. You are a volunteer, they don’t expect you to be an expert in runway production.
They’re very grateful for the time and energy you save them by helping out, no matter how stressed they look. Remember that.
This is their turf. It is stressful, but chances are they can answer you in a few seconds, like clockwork, and this saves everyone some trouble. As smart as you all are, we all can learn a lot from the people already in the business. It is better to be safe than sorry. You will be happy you asked. Trust me.
3. When in doubt, wear black
In the past, some of my supervisors told the volunteers to wear black (especially when I interned for NYFW through PR agencies). However, I have seen people show up in other colors, probably because they didn’t know that this was the standard protocol. So just incase your volunteer coordinator doesn’t mention it, wear an all-black outfit. Some places ask their volunteers to wear heels and some just want you to be comfortable in flats to run around. Due to this variable, make sure to ask, as this is a rule that is created on a case-by-case basis.
4. Know your strengths and weaknesses going into the venue
This seems like a fairly obvious one, but it is so important to do a quick, self-evaluation before you step into the frenzy of fashion week. It is optimal to apply for the position you want beforehand, but more often than not, tasks are delegated (or chosen by) to the volunteers when they get to the venue.
Some people are better suited to work in the front-of-the-house (checking people in: models, makeup artists,
5. Enjoy the experience, but think of it as a real internship.
Volunteering at NYFW is a real internship. While you may know that going into the experience, the short time span and immediate nature of the shows can easily make you lose sight of that. Here are some things to make sure to avoid! Address everyone in the same professional manner that you would as if you were still in the office. If you do an outstanding job, you just might be asked to come back for all of the shows (and after parties) next season. Like any internship, use this opportunity to make a lasting impression.
Who knows? Do the best job you can do to find out!
Written by: Elisa Lewittes