T here's a certain incongruity in staging the main London Fashion Week event at the Natural History Museum, which is the epitome of Victorian establishment, a grand edifice to the rules of nature, while fashion knows no rules and plunders nature unashamedly. "But it's a beautiful place to do it," says production manager Tom Brunsdon. "The lawns where we place the tents are fantastic. And the location is very central for London."
Brunsdon has been running this annual event for many years and has a wealth of experience as a producer. "This show is very different. All the facilities are paid for by the British Fashion Council. The designers who exhibit here during the week pay just 6,000 Brithish Pounds [$9,500 US] for the privilege."
But that makes for limiting factors. Each designer gets just four hours for preparation, and supplies all stylists and models, for just one hour of catwalk time. "We've had 18 design houses pass through this week," continues Brunsdon, "busy by any standards, but it's gone smoother than ever." A factor Brunsdon attributes to consistency of crew. "I use all the same team year after year. The turnarounds are so tight, it's essential."
Supotco, the show producer, provides everything for the event--set, seating, catwalk, audio--and subcontracts the lighting from Light & Sound Design (LSD). The catwalk was multi-covered, peeling back to the next layer after each parade, making for speedier changes. At Brunsdon's instigation a new element was introduced this year. "I designed a system of drapes that allowed us to quickly transform the interior between black and white, to help the designers differentiate themselves." The drapes are all independent so a small variety of combinations is possible, black ceiling and white walls, for example.
Simon Tutchener is the man charged with lighting, and he has also been doing Fashion Week for many years. "There's one critical factor here: to present the same light level to the cameramen all the time." Tutchener has developed a simple but effective rule for this event. He has a system of over 100 ETC Source Fours, and spends hours metering them all, repeatedly. "We're frequently swapping bulbs and cleaning optics," he says. "One designer brought in some 2.5kW HMIs for an effect, so we put Lee 201 CTB in every lamp to balance to daylight, a move that required us to raise levels two stops to keep things consistent." Tutchener's trick is to be lamp-heavy for level, but never to run anything at 100%, so he always has room to fade up.
The so-called Gucci Look, where followspots are used from each end of the catwalk, presented Tutchener with a further problem. "Normally, because time is so short, there will be three models on the catwalk at any one time. The followspots are hung below the rig so the light is nice and flat, but there was no way I could cover three models consistently. I persuaded the designer to just run two models, and choreographed the followspots to swap targets at the midpoint."
Like Brunsdon, Tutchener attributes the success of the event to his crew. "It's been a learning curve for the guys from LSD. Color temperature is critical, but the difference is undiscernible to the eye. To be frank, I can pay no greater compliment than to say it was all rather uneventful."