KCD’s Ed Filipowski’s Definitive Rules for Fashion Week Etiquette
All this Fashion Week, Vanity Fair’s man on the street, Derek Blasberg, is interviewing fashion’s biggest behind-the-scenes movers and shakers.
KCD is a Fashion Week powerhouse. The P.R. and production agency is responsible for some of the most important and anticipated shows of the season. Their clients include Alexander Wang, Balmain, Alexander McQueen, Marc Jacobs, Calvin Klein, Vera Wang, and Tory Burch. Co-president Ed Filipowski has worked with the company for three decades and has seen his fair share of unforgettable fashion-show moments. I caught up with him on what it’s like to put together a show and how pesky a blogger can be outside a venue.
marieaustralia.com: What is the show you’re most looking forward to this season?
Ed Filipowski: That’s a tough question, but probably the most anticipated is Givenchy because it’s the first time that the brand is showing in New York. Riccardo [Tisci, the creative director] is doing something unprecedented and spectacular.
I know you started working at KCD in 1985. What’s been the biggest change in 30 years?
The divas are gone!
What does that mean? Like who?
I won’t name names, but there used to be a lot of dramatic, pushy, power-crazed editors. I think their absence is a very nice change, and you can quote me on that. The industry today realizes that it needs to be more of a smooth-running business, and people have to acknowledge there isn’t room for that kind of behavior.
What’s the most diva-licious thing you heard?
An editor once asked me if I had a lobotomy, and she meant it. I was left speechless.
Run me through the progression of a fashion show.
Models get to the venue about four to six hours before a show, depending on the show and where they are in the lineup. The girls are staggered, and typically the newer girls have to get there earlier and the bigger girls later. The KCD staff gets there three hours before a show. I get there an hour before the show. Half an hour before a show, we open the doors to the guests.
What’s the first thing you do at a show?
Find out where Anna Wintour is sitting. Anna is notoriously timely and she’s normally one of the first people there. Friends of the designers are prompt, too. Ten minutes before the scheduled showtime is when things get hectic.
Who’s notoriously late to fashion shows?
The French editors.
How long is an average show?
Who goes backstage?
In the past, going backstage to meet and greet a designer was a ritual. But that’s out of style now. I think it’s passé now because of how busy the schedule is, and people need to get going. It was a natural progression.
Besides, nowadays, you can just send a congratulatory e-mail, right?
Yes. And, sure, friends of the designers still come back to say “hi.” Time is the ultimate luxury during Fashion Week, so people really scram out of there.
If you could change one thing about a show, what would it be?
I wish people would just sit in the seat they’re assigned.
Is that a big problem? I’ve never stolen anyone’s seat because I am still scared you’ll kick me out of a show and that’s literally the definition of humiliating.
Well, I’ve never kicked anyone out, but I will kick them back a few rows. There was famously one season when I asked Paris Hilton to move to her seat in the second row at Marc Jacobs, and she pretended not to hear me and acted like she was texting on her phone. That amused lots of editors.
What else is bad fashion-show etiquette?
If you’re on the front row, watch the show as the models come down the runway. Don’t stare into space. Don’t stare at your phone.
What do you think of the recent phenomenon of bloggers?
I have found them to be a particularly civilized group of people to work with. They’re wonderful. I don’t find them pushy or brash. We treat them well.
When you say bloggers, I take it you mean a different group of people than the street-style photographers.
I welcome the bloggers who are educated and want to discuss the shows—may there be more of them! Also, I appreciate street style and think it’s a fascinating phenomenon in the fashion industry. But the pack of photographers outside of a show who stand like obstacles to get to where you’re going to annoy the hell out of me. Outside a show, I bulldoze them and I push them aside. They can be quite rude and aggressive and a nuisance to the rest of us doing our jobs. I pretend they don’t exist—ha, but maybe that’s because they’re not taking pictures of me!
Social media in general has affected the way we see shows now. Do you remember when backstage was just a few photographers? Now, it’s anyone with an iPhone.
If anything, it’s upped the ante. It’s upped the game. Designers are now, more than ever, concerned about their sets because that’s what you see in the picture. That’s become an important part of social media, and they’re very concerned about the very first look that comes down the runway. They’re concerned about the finale and the choreography because people take videos now too. The designers I work with have risen to the challenge of social media to make their shows more visually perfect.
What tips do you have for someone who wants to go into a show and any future fashion editors out there?
If you’re new to an industry and seeing a show, put your phone down and look at the clothes and the models with your own two eyes. It’s important to have that experience of really understanding a show visually, not through another lens. You don’t have to capture everything for Instagram. You’ll have a long career ahead of you to take pictures of yourself. My second tip would be: observe the front row, observe the influential people, and see what they’re responding to. You can always tell what [Vogue’s] Grace Coddington is reacting to or what looks [W.W.D.’s] Bridget Foley is writing down. That can give you an understanding of what is working in a collection. I still do that during shows.
When you retire, what will be your proudest shows and most memorably moments?
Anything I did with Helmut Lang will be my fondest memory.
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