Friday, September 22, 2006

London Fashion Week Day Five

Clothing by PPQ

For the last day of London Fashion week I managed to see a record number of different venues. A record amount for me that is. Navigating around today was a lot easier being familiar with the bus system, the way fashion week works in general and having met a bunch of other friendly photographer types over the last few days of shooting.

The first stop on the fashion agenda was the main tent located next to the Natural History Museum. A mere fifteen minute walk from my hotel. This is where we shot the PPQ collection. What does PPQ stand for you ask? I don't know.

After the collection showcase we went back outside to the main gate of the museum grounds. This is where Enzo and I, as well as a lot of the other photographers, hopped onto the fashion week chartered bus to be transported to a venue featuring Erdem. I didn't pay attention to where in London we were being dropped off. I was in automatic mode, trying to copy files while making sure not to drop any of my gear.

We arrived at a location that was a small, almost house like, Victorian building. The stairs up to the main viewing room on the third floor were narrow, tiny, and dimly lit compared to having just been outside. It was difficult to keep from bumping into people going in the opposite direction. It wasn't too bad as I only had one camera bag, a lens bag, and a monopod to contend with. There were other photographers with a lot more gear in comparision.

Once out of the stairwell the space opened up into three rooms. Two smaller rooms attached to a larger one. They made up a 'U' configuration for the models to walk through. The main photographer area at one end of the 'U' was already filled so I ended up setting up next to the large windows to shoot from the side of the room.

The Erdem venue

It was there that I met another local photographer named Elsa. A six foot something, I had to look up at her, thin towering blonde who was shooting for the designer. She's in the photo (above) on the left with one of the other photographers' arm around her. We talked the usual photographer's small talk "Who are you shooting for?", "What camera are you shooting with?" , "What is the lighting?", "ISO setting?" that sort of thing. She was using the standard D70 18-70mm kit lens so I let her try out the 10.5mm fisheye. She seemed impressed.

Model shot through the crowd

The nice thing (and bad thing) about how London Fashion Week is run is that it takes place at different venues. The downside being that you have to travel, set up and tear down your gear between most shows and find a diffferent space to shoot from for each show. All this while trying to backup the shots you've shot from the previous show so you have enough memory for the next.

The upside is that the traveling allows you to see various parts of the city which you may not get a chance to see under normal circumstances. The venues are also a nice touch to give models in the photos different backgrounds. Because we were on a bus getting whooshed from one place to another it was easy to not know exactly where we were. Later on, when walking around or having the time to look at a map, I would figure out where in London the venue was relative to my hotel. Sort of like putting together a jigsaw puzzle in your head.

The Erdem collection

Once people (the buyers, the writers of the press, the people that could sit down) filled the space it felt a bit cramped. I was standing with my back to the wall on a flight box that another photographer let me stand on. The trick was to shoot the model around the heads of people sitting down while keeping balance. Well it was better than being hunched over withthe blood circulation stopped. I used the wall for support.

My acrobatics lasted for only 20 minutes. I packed my gear and followed the horde of people outside. There was a huge bottleneck at the stairs and it took about ten minutes before I found myself standing in the rain. People from the press were already in clumps waiting for the fashion bus. Some were standing under the doorway (blocking people trying to get out I might add) while others were standing on the street hunched over clutching their umbrellas.

Waiting for the bus

In the picture above you'll notice a girl with a red rain coat. I can't recall her name. She was the fashion bus flight attendant, for lack of better label, and was the one that would help us press types get on the correct bus and tell us the pick up and drop off locations. There were two chartered buses to help the press move from one location to the other. One bus was specifically for photographers while the other bus was for the rest of the press. Usually the photographer bus arrived at the location first to allow a few minutes for the photographers to set up.

The next show was back at the main tent. After getting water from Henrietta (the Evian girl) at the door I got in to find that the photographers section was already filled up. Simon, a photographer from New York, had saved me a space as he got there early. He skipped the Erdem show.

note the sneaker belt

Bora Aksu outfit

The Bora Asku show was odd in that the models would walk down the runway, walk back, walk down the left side of the runway, walk back, then walk the right side of the runway. It was great to get those shots of the model walking right up to you with eye contact but it took a while to figure out this configuration and at times there were three people to shoot or there was a model in front of the model you were trying to shoot.

Bora Aksu, designer

After the catwalk was over I decided to stay in the photographers section for the Hamish Morrow show. The staging crew readjusted the configuration of the benches, the runway, repainted the catwalk with a new coat of white paint, and readjusted the lighting. It was pretty impressive as they only had an hour to do so.

Simon, the chief lighting tech, used a small stuffed dog in a raincoat. He would put on the runway, set up the microphone in front of it and pressed the paw. The dog would then echo a recording of "Singin' in the rain" while wobbling to the beat with it's miniature umbrella. There were a few chuckles from other workers as a result. To Simon's credit the catwalk had a consistent color temperature and intensity throughout the whole week.

"Singin' in the Rain"

Simon checks the catwalk lighting

An interesting hat

An interesting head piece

Hamish Morrow's spring summer collection

After the show it was back to the bus. I met this small Japanese photographer sitting in the front (see photo). Again I didn't get her name. Perhaps it was the think Japanese accent (sounded like "Suki"). I asked her how she seemed to always manage to have the front seat. Perhaps being small she could duck and weave through the crowds easier. Her answer was a shrug saying she would just run to the bus.

The tiny japanese photographer

Shortly after the bus started moving we noticed a guy standing outside the fashion tent. He stood out and got a few comments from some of the fellow photographers. Some thought he should be transplanted to New York and some tried visualizing what kind of medication he may have been taking. I've noticed that London photo journalists are a bit more vocal when it comes to saying what's on their mind. It's like a bunch of construction workers with their colorful remarks. God forbid you are one of the people sitting next to the catwalk with your legs crossed and your foot sticking out in frame. "Hey you! Foot! Move!". Brief and to the point. Remarks about models body parts, sexual orientation and bad positioning on the runway all seem to be fair game for comments.

Fashion guy

The bus dropped us off a few blocks away from the next venue. Either the street was too narrow or it was a street going one way in the wrong direction. Following the photographers that seemed to know where they were going we hiked by some men's club (the Windmill?). I noticed two girls standing outside in lingerie smiling, waving and asking to come inside for a drink. It was an odd sight to see in the afternoon.

We ended up entering a multi-story car park. There were people already lined up. The bouncers were trying to get the press to stand in the same line as the rest of the people. This did not bode well with most of the photographers. "I need to get in." was remarked, yelled, or pleaded from some of the group. The bouncers just ignored us as long as we didn't make a fuss.

Photographers hurry toward the next venue.

Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed a camera on a mono-pod floating through the mob of people. It was the Japanese girl cutting through the other side of the crowd much like a hot knife through butter or a deer running through a thick forest. Her weaving technique was pretty impressive. A few seconds later she was followed by another person of the press and another and another. Pretty soon the whole group of us photographers with our green press badges were making our way through the crowd via the path she created ending up at a small door. A small, thin, well-dressed man checked our badges and told the bouncers we could proceed.

After a few flights of stairs, going up, we came out into a large room. Unlike the previous venue that seemed to be in a house. This looked like it was a warehouse of some kind now converted into a place for a catwalk. There was a bar giving out free drinks with vodka. They were fruity and free. Needless to say I had two. As it is I have a low tolerance for alcohol and not eating anything all day probably didn't help.

Vantage point from standing on the railing

Add to this that I was at the back of the photo pit and had to stand on a railing so I could shoot over the other photographers. I felt a bit light headed. Probably the only thing allowing me to keep balance was that I knew I couldn't afford to fall and break my camera. That was very sobering.

"That's not a janitor!"

A bunch of photographers around me started asking each other if anyone knew when the show would start. I looked down the runway to notice a guy walking down it. He lloked like a normal guy, a janitor perhaps. Then another plain shirt guy started walking down the runway. That's when the lightbulb went off. I exclaimed "Oh my God! That's not a janitor, that's the first model!". We all started shooting.

Side view of the catwalk

The designer with Sonic the Hedgehog.

Plastic shirt, pleated shorts = chick magnet

The show was odd in that it featured only male models and in "ordinary" outfits or outfits that looked uncomfortable. Take the plastic look for example (see photo). I can't see the average guy with a beer belly wearing something like this. Of all the shows during fashion week this Man show seemed the most average and underwhelming. The clothing while colorful at times seemed to lack practicality. One outfit looked like it had the dry cleaners bag sewn onto it. I decided to get out of the photo pit early to shoot from other vantage points then get back to the street to find the bus.

Two photographers manage to get food while waiting for the bus.

The bus took a while to show up. It was to pick us up on the street a block from the garage almost at the same place we were dropped off. As I waited for the bus to show up I watched the crowd of waiting Press get larger. Some of the photographers managed to visit the local McDonalds to get food. The Japanese girl showed up and asked me to hold her camera while she ran across the street to use the washroom. If you're trying to shoot all the fashion shows the schedule is quite grueling. Unless there are two shows in the same venue, you're running around with barely enough time to copy the data on your memory cards let alone get food or use the facilities. I was starving.

There is a washroom on the bus. Another photographer needed to use it and it was through her experience that the rest of usfound the light didn't work and it stunk. When the door to the washroom opened.... peeeeuw!

B-Rude, a Spring/Summer collection by Boy George

So again, back to the main tent, the next show was B-Rude aka the Boy George collection. Yes that same guy who used to sing in the 80s ("Love is love", "Church of the poison mind", etc, etc). Some outfits were made from checkerboard material that reminded me of something you would see on a picnic table. Then there was the street wear that reminded me of something the drug pusher in the 80s TV show Miami Vice would wear. Specifically the purple ripped jean jacket outfit.

Safety-pin prints seemed to be a common theme throughout the collection echoing the punk rockers that maybe the collection was geared toward. I'm only a photographer so keep that in mind when you read these comments.

Some young women checking out... the clothing (uh sure)

Boy George videotapes the crowd

The final show of the London Fashion week (at least that I attended) was the Julien MacDonald show. It took place at a snazzy hotel Hilton somewhere. For some reason out of all the collections seen this week and perhaps because it had different lighting, this show seemed to ooze a magical quality that London Fashion week is supposed to have. At least when you talk about London Fashion Week in Ontario. The evening wear seemed to have an extra sheen to it, or perhaps it was the way the clothing was put together. The lines, the folds, the models that wore the clothing, the custom spot lights. They all added something to this show.

Evening wear

Note the fish purse

Julien MacDonald surrounded by models

By the time I arrived from the B-Rude collection the photo pit was packed. There were photographers that skipped the last show to get good spots. The photo pit was located under some scaffolding that held up the spot lights and lighting operators. I couldn't find any spot to stand to take pictures. Other photographers that arrived after me left. Some felt it wasn't worth being there if they couldn't get a shot.

The pictures you see of the show on this blog were shot while hanging off the side of the scaffold. My left arm wrapped around the pole which I also used to steady the camera, my legs wrapped around the pole to steady myself, and my right hand free to press the shutter. In order to zoom I would roll the camera lens along my left arm. It was very akward to say the least. At one point the sweat oozing out of me made the scaffold a bit slippery and I fell off while trying to reposition myself. My leg started tingling as I lost blood circulation. Luckily there was no one behind me and it was only a meter and a half drop down.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I love your candid shots, and feel for your pain.