Fall 2012 - Kiss, Kiss - Bang, Bang!
Betsey and I playing dress-up!
The first show I ever did with Betsey was the Fall 2010, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang! This was my first experience with New York fashion week after being hired from intern oblivion into the world of Betsey Johnson. The small hiccups, quirky moments and hilarious missions are what made this show happen! Here is a little inside info about how Betsey puts on a show!
Where to Begin? Divine Inspiration?
Well not quite divine inspiration but a series of team meetings, happenstance, and constant hope that we will find a new show concept every six months! So where did we start? We started from where you can always learn from…the past. We brought out stacks of DVDs of our past runway shows and looked at what worked and what didn’t. From production to lighting to scenery and clothing we picked apart every aspect until we had talked all the elements to death. At the end of visiting the past, we had not come to any conclusions, but somehow we were closer to a concept.
Nailing down a theme...
One thing unique to Betsey’s shows is that each one is like a mini dance recital, with characters in a setting all doing their part to tell a story. There is always a handle, a reason for the art. This is probably the toughest part of putting on a Betsey show. Betsey never allows her self to opt out of the fun and just have a regular show. So we brainstorm over about a thousand different themes and until she really feels it and it “cooks” in her brain she won’t be satisfied.
For this particular theme we came across an old show with hay on the runway and Steven Tyler toting fake pistols. (Betsey tells a funny story about how Steven Tyler almost did not make the show because he had attempted to bring his own real pistols through airport security. You have to love authenticity.)
Why not the hay? Why not the pistols?
The idea of doing a cowboy show had not completely formed until Betsey brought in a Bridget Bardot movie called Las Petroleras which featured the actress as an oil drilling cowgirl decked out in a pastel petticoat and bustier! A totally impractical western ensemble, but oh so Betsey!
Las Petroleras - Betsey's show inspiration
After this inspiration discovery the pieces of the puzzle began falling into place…
…The Show Name - Since our fall show typically takes place on Valentine’s Day, we always try to tie love into the theme so it was called Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang. Kisses for love and Bang Bang for the pistol waving cowgirls!
The program – Instead of naming the clothing with typical “fashion mumbo jumbo” like Look #1 – Silk organza gown, we named our looks, “The Widows” or “Bankers” or “Banditos.”
The finale – Each model came out with a large plastic blow-up heart that they threw into the audience at the end of the runway.
The Music – a mixture of old and new and kitsch and cool beginning with the sultry Bang Bang by Nancy Sinatra and ending with the up beat “All Is Love” by Karen O & The Kids
Our show mentality had been transported back to the old west and we began to style the show accordingly. Choosing the looks for the runway began by sorting through the vintage racks that were parked in the show room, the current line and new line. We made piles and color stories, mix and matched and played dress-up and slowly molded what eventually made it on the runway.
The very last look in the show was made two days before the show as a tribute to Alexander McQueen who committed suicide during this time.
In retrospect we probably got a little too costume-y, but hey it’s Betsey and we pride ourselves on being a little extreme. Just the other day, Betsey said, “excess is more and more is what I like” and if that includes a toy gun as a prop well then so be it!
Kelly Osborne - Pistol Toting Cow Gal!
Another fun addition to the show was the very rockin’ Kelly Osborne who led the Runway with a Yee-haw and strutted her stuff as a Banker with a mustache, bowler and her own real puppy. Backstage with her was a riot, especially when she presented Betsey with a singing valentine dressed as a pink monkey, who ended her performance with a cartwheel a la Betsey style.
Kelly Osborne - she was such a good sport about wearing a mustache, in fact she was stoked about it!
...Behind the Scenes...
Because Betsey is always down for a party, our back stage serves as a giant party and is like no other backstage at fashion week. There are always balloons, candy, a DJ and champagne! Don’t get me wrong there is a lot of work and urgency going on but we do it in style. This show was especially busy for me because I was walking the runway as a model and working as a design assistant at the same time. One moment I would be in make-up and the next I would be helping prep for the show. It all became rather funny when while waiting in model line up for a pre-show run through, I leaned over to Betsey and began explaining to her what we needed to do after rehearsal and she looked at me utterly perplexed and asked “who are you?” I replied, “I am Stef your assistant.” She burst out laughing and said that she had hardly recognized me in all my hair and make-up!
My first time modeling at New York Fashion Week!
Sometimes Betsey likes to use guys in her shows and because of a tight budget that year the crew of Betsey faithfuls did our part to save the company money and went bar hopping to pick up dudes. (Total drag, right? Wink! Wink!) The reason for male models was to hold the long coat tails and trains that Betsey had styled into the show. Where do you go for the hippest looking guys?... Williamsburg of course (center of young America). At favorite local bar union pool we handed out business cards to any hot guy we met up with and towards the end of the night, as we kept the PBR’s coming, just about anyone. Every guy who got a card was instructed to come go the showroom for casting. We only needed five guys and we already had two one of which was my, very-best-long-time-friend, Andrew (he sometimes takes pictures for this blog.) When casting time came we started getting worried that no one would show up or that in our drunken state we may have picked a not so handsome looking fellow that we would have to turn away. Luckily the guys showed up for casting and we dressed them in union suits and taught then how to walk down the runway.
My very-best-long-time-friend, Andrew!
…What happens when something goes wrong?
Even if you have checked and rechecked and then just because you can’t fall asleep at night because you keep thinking about all the details, checked again and everything seems like smooth sailing, there is always at least one thing that goes wrong and this years was a doozy. Long story short our DJ showed up under the influence of something that made her unable to get the music cues right. After the first DJ botched rehearsal we brought the DJ from backstage to run the show while Ashley stood in the DJ box and cued him. Luckily, the crisis was averted and everyone who saw the show loved the music and was none the wiser.
…Then “BOOM” It’s over…
At the end of every Betsey show she likes to send a message like vote or bye-bye. This year it was love! I am the L.
This being my first fashion show I was shocked when the short and sweet 15 minutes of runway chaos was over. All the work for so little time! Those 15 minutes were so precious! Immediately I felt that I could not possibly wait six months to do this again! That feeling made me certain that for the rest of my life I wanted to be putting on a fashion show. Betsey was just as pleased with the show she told us over a celebratory dinner at Tanuki Tavern in the Gansevoort Hotel. After a nice dinner and a lot of champagne we headed the after party at the Griffin where we finally had a chance to watch the show! There is always a rush copy sent over to the after party because Betsey cannot wait until the next day to watch it and neither could I.
x - Stef