On a blustery night last week we lined up on rue Marbeuf tightly wrapped in coats and scarves in an effort to protect ourselves from the Parisian chill.  But as the doors of the Pavillon Champs-Elysees nightclub were opened, we were transported to a “Tropical Paradise” courtesy of the Swarovski summer show.  Guests were greeted with glasses of champagne, warm pink lights and glittering crystals decorating the tables.  The décor embodied the spirit of Carnival, the same annual festival of debauchery and dancing that inspired the collection.  The references were evident in the oversized floral and leaf prints presented in fluorescent pinks, greens and yellows on simple summer dresses, bikinis and bejeweled cover-ups, save for one intricately fish-scaled white gown.  Of course this being Swarovski, the jewelry pieces were the showstoppers:  big, bright and bold.  As the models pranced and danced down the red carpet runway, the crowd cheered their favorite looks – one particular sexy skater carrying a crystal-encrusted board made the audience go wild.  For the guests escaping the cold autumn evening it was great party with fun fashions that came across seamlessly from the front row.  

But for the 14 IFA students that were working backstage as «habilleurs » it was a bit more chaotic.  “The models just walked out and looked great and it seemed so easy, but backstage there is yelling and pushing the girls around to quickly get dressed,” said Frederic Schuckert, an undergraduate Fashion Design student.  For Frederic, it is the fourth time as an IFA student he has worked backstage as a dresser at a Paris fashion show.  “It’s always so fun to watch the video afterwards, just super cool to see the difference between how it looks to the outside and what’s going on backstage with the preparation and all the drama and excitement.”  

For this event, the students went directly from school arriving about 17h30, two and a half hours before the doors opened.  “They introduced the collection, and we worked with the assistants who showed us how to put the jewelry on the model, what goes together and stuff like that.  We were each assigned a model to dress for the show and then we had a run through with just the changes, no music, so we knew how much time we had backstage to get ready for each look.”  

“It was an interesting experience because it was held in a club we didn’t have a real backstage area to work in, so it was a different arrangement.  We were working in the staff space and some of the dressing space was upstairs and downstairs, so we had to move and the models had to remember if the first look was upstairs and the second look downstairs,” said Annie Leung, another student dresser.  “But in the end everything rand smoothly and the staff and models were really kind.”

Backstage dressers have a unique opportunity to see a fashion show as it comes together – working with the designer and stylists backstage to prepare the models in between their runway turns.  “As a student working at a show you are able to look closely at the garments and the details of how it is made, see what the problems are wearing it or putting it on, to really see the construction,” said Annie, who is also studying Fashion Design.  “It is also a great experience to see how a fashion show runs.  As a Fashion Design student, I hope to have my own show someday, but it is not easy and you see all the things a designer has to consider and how a big brand runs.”

“It’s a really good experience for students to meet people working in the industry as well, to build relationships,” she added.  

“It can be a bit tense because you never know how the people will be when you are there as a dresser, but after you interact with them they turn out to be really nice.  You get to work directly with the stylist to tell you how the look is supposed to be presented, how to put on the garments down to how to roll the sleeves,” said Frederic.  “It’s always exciting and never the same, and to do something hands on is really cool.”