What it’s like to key a show at London Fashion Week?!

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Last season for AW19 I got to fulfil a dream that I felt was out of my grasp. I was on abroad on holiday, it was a week or so before fashion week when I got an email in my inbox from the ladies at Poster Girl. whom I had done the makeup for their most recent look book.

Many thoughts crossed my mind, excitement, *squealing* then the dreaded voice at the back of my mind. Really Lisa... you. Before I knew it I had emailed Fran & Natasha back, yes, of course, I would be honoured!

Oh man, this means I actually have to do it, I've committed to doing it which scared the hell out of me!

What is working fashion week like?

I have worked at many seasons of fashion week over the past 11 or so years and over 100 shows. To describe the backstage environment is really hard as it is a truly unique one. You are working to create magic together to enhance the designer's vision alongside many others who all have their specific role; from the designer, their assistants, stylists, dressers, hairdressers, nail team, models, production, security and the photographers. On top of all that working with people, you have never met, due to my tenure I normally see a few familiar faces on the way. You run on adrenaline whilst remaining professional and calm, leave your ego at the door and knuckle down.

Louise Gray backstage workstation

Louise Gray backstage workstation

Working backstage at fashion week the ultimate concentration

Working backstage at fashion week the ultimate concentration

Back to the nitty gritty

We exchanged emails with images, mood boards and spoke about the inspiration for the collection, which was a 60's spa. I had an idea of the looks that would complement the collection, I also knew I had to get a team together that had the skill and etiquette that I needed. As the old saying goes you are only as good as your team! This couldn't be truer in this situation, as you simply don't have enough time to do all the makeup yourself with 12 models and 2 hours for hair and makeup. I messaged fellow makeup artists to assist me and many of them were on hold for or working on shows already. Thankfully I turned to Instagram to post a story saying I needed a team and managed to get a few artists to confirm which was an absolute blessing!

Fabric swatches from the AW19 collection

Fabric swatches from the AW19 collection

Inspiration images for the AW19 collection

Inspiration images for the AW19 collection

Sponsor for the show

I wanted to secure a sponsor for the show, emailing a variety of brands PR that would fit with the show and be brands that I trust. I had many replies saying it was too late to do this or they weren't focusing on fashion, at which point I was really panicking. I then reached out to Dr Dennis Gross, a dermatologist lead skincare brand who had not long officially launched in the UK that has one of my favourite skincare products the Alpha-beta universal daily peel pads, the universe had answered my call! They were secured as a sponsor with the help of the PR Tape agency and a courier was arranged. Things were getting really real and the clock was ticking.

Kit prep

Using the reference images I had a clear idea of the texture and colours required. I played with the textures and tested them to ensure they translated. I packed a separate bag within my kit with these key colour products to recreate the look. We would usually conduct a test, which would be a day or so before the show, where we do a test run of the full look with hair and makeup to ensure it interprets the feel of the look. On this occasion this wasn't the case, there was no dress rehearsal, only show time.

Show day

The morning of the show is when I felt the nerves, feeling restless and trying not to overthink every detail. Armed with my kit, the sponsor's products and 3 assistants I head into the BFC show space. I greet the designers and have a quick chat to confirm everything. I breif the team on what's needed to set up their station. The look is spa skin, that's supple, plastic and glossy, with a punchy pink metallic flush on the eye. There were a handful of models with a pastel coloured face mask and cucumbers on their eyes as they would be led down in the presentation show. I demoed the key features of the look which were the skin texture, eyes and brushed up eyebrows, then answered any questions about the look they had. I called the designers to ensure they were happy with the look as we didn't do a test, they asked for more of a metallic texture on the eyelid. So I do as I am asked, it's not a time to get precious, simply act. I find a MAC eyeshadow in my kit that I barely use called Phloof, wash that over the pink and boom that the final look!

Poster girl LFW presentation AW19

Poster girl LFW presentation AW19

Poster girl LFW presentation AW19

Poster girl LFW presentation AW19

We had a list of all the models and who required the face paint, that we use to keep track of who has been done and by whom. It was time to dive into the makeup. Whilst I am doing makeup a team member asks me to check her look, it hits me, that I am keying my first show, the responsibility is on my shoulders to deliver this creative vision! So communicating with your team is essential, polish the skin more, take it down, blend the eyeshadow more, brush the brow up... ahh perfect! In the midst of all this chaos, you have photographers coming in taking pictures and filming the backstage action. The models were being ticked off in a swift manner, phew!

Poster girl LFW presentation AW19

Poster girl LFW presentation AW19

Poster girl LFW presentation AW19

Poster girl LFW presentation AW19

Before we know it, 5 minutes until show time. I brief the team that we need to check bodies for bruises, redness to cover them and moisturise limbs to finish the looks. The models start dressing and we all work together to get the job done, all hands on deck with palettes and adding final touches in situ to ensure the look is executed to perfection. Wow, we did it, I did it! Keyed my first show. What an experience and honour, thank you to Fran and Natasha @Poster Girl for trusting me to execute your vision. My team of assistants Jenna, Charley, Sam (who popped her LFW cherry!) and finally Dr Dennis Gross and Louise@TAPE team. You made the start of the year so wonderful by making a dream come true.

I hope you enjoyed this post. Please share your fashion week experiences below, I would be interested to hear about them.

Love

Lisa x