Maikel Tawadros is a fashion designer we’ve covered previously, including his AW14 collection and runway show. His work is wearable, moody, and sporty with a tailored, luxe edge. In other words, I love it. So when the outcome of our last Coffee Factory-based meeting was that Scandinavia Standard would do behind the scenes coverage of Maikel’s SS15 show, I was excited.
The thing about fashion week is that you plan and plan, you respond to invites and you synch your calendars, but somehow the whole thing feels like it’s a big beautiful accident. This was my first time working backstage and that kind of ethereal blur blends with the military execution of a production team. Jose Saramago wasn’t speaking of fashion shows when he wrote “chaos is merely order waiting to be deciphered,” but he could have been (and that would have made for an even weirder book).
Before I begin in earnest, I want you to envision the Scandinavia Standard personnel. Because even though I’m going to explain, and Freya’s photos are going to illustrate, we’ll mostly leave ourselves out of the narrative. So while you’re reading, just picture me hunched in a corner like a goblin, writing furiously, occasionally going into the hallway for a second or third coffee. Then picture Freya, in perfect photographer stance, camera practically fused to her face, managing to be at once next to the make up artists and then by the clothing racks. I think we spoke a total of five times over a three hour period, my pen and her shutter doing the talking instead.
That’s us; we’re happy to bring you behind the scenes of one of our favorite Danish designers.
Behind the Scenes
We arrive a little breathlessly. Camera trouble held us up for a few minutes but as we walk through the entrance of Rådhuspladsen and through the backstage door, we’re instantly calm. The scene is so subdued as to be disturbing. “Everything okay?” I ask Maikel anxiously. “Oh yes,” he says, gesturing vaguely to the whole room. “you can see.” I certainly can, and it’s weirding me out! Where are the production assistants sprinting to find double sided tape? Where are the people yelling into headsets? Where is the champagne?! Currently on offer: coffee, water, a green tea drink, almonds and fruit. What is this, some kind of health retreat? I nibble an almond and wait for madness to ensue, notebook at the ready.
I see Julie Navne Klitbo walk through the room in a headset (yes! Fashion fantasy complete!). I do a double take, because I recently interviewed her during the Copenhagen Photo Festival, which she co-founded and runs. We chat and she confirms that Blink Productions, her artist management agency, is producing the show. This is a small city sometimes.
It should be noted that there is literally no one backstage not wearing black, including myself and Freya. I like to imagine that we are all extras on the set of The Craft. I actually wrote this down in my notes.
Hair is already done and make-up is starting; a few models drift to the mirrors and chairs. The look is simple; slicked back ponytails with a center part, minimal makeup and two black tar (or whatever the makeup artists used. It probably wasn’t tar) lines under each cheek. Some models wear a sweat-band inspired silver headpiece, custom created by jewelry designer Charlotte Christina Larsen of Facon Facon.
The last of the models arrive and Maikel breathes a sigh of relief. Suddenly things pick up; there are more makeup artists and more production staff. People seem to know exactly what needs to happen next so I just stay out of the way and take it in.
Copenhagen Fashion Week TV comes in to interview Maikel. To my surprise, they do this in English. It’s mostly about his inspiration (the 1930’s and baseball) and a bit about how the fashion industry is moving towards sustainable practices. Maikel seems so laid-back. Oh, what, this TV crew? They follow me everywhere.
Models are lounging, looking from side to side. It’s restless. We hear the music starting and stopping outside; the music is being tested pre-walk through.
Maikel, talking with a few members of the production crew, looks me dead in the eyes from across the room. His face says, “This is amazing” and “this is exhausting” and “I am in control” and “what is going on?” In response, I stick my tongue out (profound).
It’s the first walk through. The models line up while one of the production managers takes them through the spacing and timing. They all walk the length of the runway then practice the final walk. When the manager is satisfied that the models know what to expect, they’re herded back inside for more make up and dressing.
A model is being dressed. The shoes she’s meant to wear are just a hair too small and she squeezes into them in the most professional manner I have ever witnessed. Not even a grimace. She floats past me as though she’s wearing the perfect size Hush Puppies (remember those?!). I need to take notes on this girl, I think. Then I realize that I am taking notes on that girl.
The dressers stand by their racks and the remainder of the models walk over. The dressing takes only minutes; the wearable nature of the clothes means the outfits are uncomplicated. In a genius touch, all the models will be sporting white Vans slip-ons.
The model who will be opening and closing the show, Charlie, is working on her phone while a makeup artist applies lipstick. At the same time, two assistants slather her arms with bronzer and something that gives her a kind of dewy look; perfect for the athletic vibe the show captures. Maikel comes over and gives Charlie a once-over, touching up here or there. He stands back, pleased. All the models are now dressed and starting to gently joke with each other, excited for the start of the show.
Things are getting quiet, which signals to me that I should take my seat for the show. I motion to Freya that I’m going out, give Maikel’s shoulder a squeeze and slip out the door. A production assistant takes me to my seat and I watch the room fill up.
The atmosphere front of stage is calm but full of small excited vibrations. I chat with a few people I know but mostly keep an eye on the backstage door, wondering what’s happening. The lights flicker, the first beats of music play and the room falls into place.
Slow, pulsating music gradually transitions into a faster beat. The opening model stands at the top of the runway, backlit, looking like the most chic baseball umpire you’ve ever seen. The tone of the show is deliberate but also has an irreverence to it. The baseball references, the bright blue fur elbow and knee pads; these point to a designer who is having fun with his inspiration.
The collection is varied but coherent, with pieces ranging from neoprene sweatshirts to slightly deconstructed shift dresses. My favorites are a white vest with a black diamond-shaped asymmetric ruffle hem and a black dress with the same design. They are wardrobe staples with an twist and extremely versatile.
The show ends with the final walk to the tune of “Hey Mickey!” It’s a cheeky way to finish but it works perfectly. Maikel steps out briefly to wave and is met with strong applause (mine included). As soon as the lights go off I weave through the crowd, making my way backstage for the wrap up.
After the show, Maikel is surrounded. Hugs, kisses, pats on the back. Someone hands him a bouquet of flowers. Some of the models look on, while others are already getting changed so they can head to their next show. The production crew members smile to each other, most of them almost physically deflating as the adrenaline slows.
There’s a moment where well-wishers are lining up to congratulate Maikel but no one is sure who is meant to go next. So no one moves and Maikel stands in the center of a circle with all eyes on him. A few cameras flash. He’s alone but not alone.
We say goodbye; tight hugs with heartfelt congratulations. It feels like an ending but we’re really just running to the next show. As we’re leaving, Freya and I look at each other and grin. “It was,” I start, “Great!” she finishes.
See more on Maikel Tawadros here.