Fan Fare

Entertainment behind the scenes

You! Get on Paul Smith’s catwalk now!

September 19, 2011

By Marie-Louise Gumuchian
I am usually accustomed to sitting far away from the catwalk, rows behind the fashion elite and squeezed between other reporters. Sometimes, I don’t even have a seat but stand with media or production crews, straining my neck to see a designer’s offerings for next season.
But this fashion week in London, I got to taste the real deal as I was catapulted onto the catwalk itself, strutting with other models. Not exactly something I had ever imagined doing.
As part of our coverage of London Fashion Week this weekend, I had just finished interviewing British designer Paul Smith backstage ahead of his spring/summer 2012 womenswear show.
I chatted with my colleagues about how friendly he had been with us and how with 40 minutes to go until show time, how amazingly calm everyone backstage was – a rare sight during the fashion week frenzy. We watched as models lined up preparing for their rehearsal with music blaring in the background — a required ritual ahead of any show. Suddenly the lady lining them up called out loudly: “You! Come over here.”
I was not sure who she was talking, but it seemed she was facing my direction — “You, come here” she said, now clearly looking at me.
“But I’m not a model,” I protested as my TV producer colleague held onto me to prove we were part of the same team. “I’m a journalist, I’m here to cover the show.”
“Doesn’t matter, come here, we need one of you here,” she answered, waving me over. Confused, I obliged, not quite sure what she wanted me to do.
“Stand here,” she said, placing me between two young models. And then she walked off. I looked in front and I could see models, one by one, making their entrance on the catwalk just behind the screen.
I was horrified. “What do I do now? Do I actually have to walk down?” I cried out to my colleagues. They laughed, one even whipped out her phone and told our cameraman, in place at the end of the catwalk, to get ready to film.
I desperately looked for the lady who had placed me in the line of models, questioning myself as to why I had come over, but she was busy fussing getting other girls in place. She even placed another girl — not a model — in the queue. Phew I thought, I’m not the only one. But this girl seemed a lot calmer than I was, clearly accustomed to such impromptu moves in fashion show rehearsals.
“What do I do,” I asked when the choreographer lady finally came round to me, noticing the line in front of me was getting alarmingly shorter.
“Walk down the catwalk, just enjoy it!” she said.
Okay I thought, I’m not 100 percent sure about the ethics of hitting the catwalk, but to avoid any drama, I’ll play along.
I thought, this will be fine, as three, then two, then one and then no more models were in front of me anymore. And so my turn came. A friendly looking man, who was timing the rehearsal, held onto my arm, clearly seeing I looked a little nervous: “Just enjoy it, it’s only a rehearsal,” he said. “Now go.”
And so I went. And there was the huge catwalk in front of me. A dozen thoughts suddenly crammed my head — Where do I look? Do I strut down? Do I sway my hips? Do I pout? Do I smile? Panic spread so I just held on tightly to my blackberry.
I must have walked three steps when a new message arrived – not now I thought! I quickly looked down at it but realised that was not very model-like behaviour so I looked back up and straight ahead.
I could see the few people sitting on the sidelines looked confused at my presence as I clearly was not a model. While I like to think I had made a stylish effort for Fashion Week, I clearly was not wearing designer clothes. But I stared straight ahead, thinking what a surreal experience this was — – especially as only weeks ago I was in North Africa helping out on our coverage of the Libyan conflict with fashion the last thing on my mind.
The lights were blazing and I could not make out the photographers nor cameramen in front of me. So this is what it feels like to be a catwalk model, I thought, it’s quite easy. Then I recalled I was actually wearing comfortable wedges and not skyscraper heels.
The catwalk was not an average up and down runway, but a rectangle shaped around a central seating space. As I approached the TV and picture crews, I looked straight ahead –and swiftly turned my heel round.
Phew, I thought, halfway done. The walking back down the catwalk was a lot easier – mainly because this part of the huge room was practically empty. Although I must have walked a little too fast as I could see I was cutting into the approaching model’s space. I held back, let her do her thing, and then calmly made my exit.
My colleagues greeted me with beaming smiles and applause. Our cameraman rushed back, confused: “What was that all about?” he asked. “I have no idea,” I replied, laughing. “But it was fun.”

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