CAREER FILES

Behind Fashion Week

Breaking news, it’s Fashion Month! While you might already be familiar with the industry's top models, designers and editors, some of the most interesting talents can be found outside of the spotlight. This season, Tatiana Hambro goes behind the scenes to meet the unsung heroes of Fashion Month. 

ACIELLE of STYLE DU MONDE

“Some people just have it,” says Acielle, who only goes by her first name and is perhaps better known as @StyleDuMonde. “If I like the look I shoot. It doesn’t matter who they are.” Born in Soviet-controlled Kazakhstan, she moved to Belgium in 2008 and immediately started documenting the avant-garde style of Antwerp’s fashion students. If you view street style galleries (on Vogue.com or the New York Times), chances are you’ve admired Acielle’s pictures. Currently, she’s the only female photographer holding rank among the likes of Tommy Ton, Phil Oh and Scott Schuman (though she assures an increasing number of women are entering the field now). Averaging around 3500 photos per day, Acielle photographs street style “all year round” and can be found outside all the major shows (this coming season she’s most excited about Calvin Klein). But she also seeks out lesser-known names, relying on insider knowledge to discover presentations off the beaten track and “shoot people that others don’t know about yet.” So, who’s her favorite subject? Taylor Tomasi Hill (a former Modette!). Why? “Because she’s always surprising. I’m looking for something that makes you go, ‘Oh I’d never think about that—that’s cool!’ There are no rules.”

How did you get your start?
I started about 9 years ago, taking street style pictures in the streets of Antwerp and quickly expanded my work territory to New York, Paris, London & Milan and beyond.

 

As a child, what did you want to be "when you grew up”?
A photographer.

 

What do you love most about your job?
The excitement of taking pictures, the adventure of travelling and the friendship from my colleagues.

 

What do you dislike about your job?
Weather conditions can be quite tough. Heavy rain is the worst.

 

What would you advise someone today?
Never stop learning. Always look for ways to improve yourself.

 

How would you describe your personal style?
Effortless.

 

Is there a key piece in your closet that you wear to work?
I need easy clothes when I am on the job: Haider Ackermann bomber jacket, Comme Des Garçons coat, Dries van Noten shirts, my Raf Simons hoodie. Good trainers are essential. I love my Adidas Rick Owens Mastodon sneakers for winter and Comme Des Garçons x Nike Air VaporMax for spring & summer. 

 

Do people “get” your job?
It's not as glamorous as it may look. A lot of hard work is involved. Long hours in every possible weather. You really need to love what you are doing it to keep it up.

 

Name 3 characteristics required to do your job well.
Stamina, readiness to work hard, passionate about both fashion and photography. 

 

What is your greatest achievement to date?
Making a good living from what I love doing the most.

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BARBARA FOURNEAU

Spanning the great houses (Christian Dior), the insider favorites (Rodarte) and the hot new labels (Gabriela Hearst), this producer’s client roster is as intimidating as her list of responsibilities. “Set, music, casting, lighting, front of house, back of house…” she reels them off with admirable ease, “The only thing we don’t take care of is PR.” Likening her role to that of a conductor (just imagine a headset instead of a baton and an “orchestra” headcount stretching into three figures) she explains, “You bring all the elements together and then you have this magical result.” A new mother, Fourneau, now back in Paris after living in New York, has worked for the esteemed luxury events company Bureau Betak for 20 years. With around 900 shows under her belt, her experience has given her a backstage pass (literally!) to the evolution of the fashion show. “Before, we wanted to create a beautiful live experience but today what really matters is the picture—on Instagram.” Yet she remains sanguine about the changes, “It’s just a different time. It’s harder to capture people’s attention, so you have to really push yourself creatively.”

How would you describe what you do?
I am a putting life into beautiful projects for designers and luxury houses, taking care of the team, the budget, the vendors and, of course, the client.

 

How did you get your start?
Working as an intern at Chanel and then assisting on shows during the most amazing time in fashion; the supermodel era, a time with amazing creativity.

 

As a child, what did you want to be "when you grew up”?
An air traffic controller on an aircraft carrier. 

 

What do you love most about your job?
To see the project being accomplished with a great team effort within a very short period of time.

 

What was the best advice you ever received?
Never take no for an answer, ignore the word “impossible.”

 

What would you advise someone today?
The same. And I would add to be kind to everyone and to always take care of your team because without a great team you cannot accomplish anything.

 

How would you describe your personal style?
Classic, a bit masculine with a French touch.

 

Do people “get” your job?
I am the one with a headset that runs around like a headless chicken on the day of the show! I’m not sure if people get my job. The idea is to present our work in the most natural and effortless way possible, despite it being such a great amount of work in reality. 

 

Name 3 characteristics required to do your job well.
Organized. Patient. Persistent.

 

What is your greatest achievement to date?
Producing a Dior Show on the Red Square in Moscow.

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LAUREN LEVISON

Rumored to own the world’s largest collection of Delpozo (she buys him every season, without fail), 46 year-old Lauren Levison knows people think “I shop and play dress-up for a living.” Her many “fabulous hats” include co-president and curator of Mayfair Rocks, her family-owned and run Hampton-based fine jewelry store; partner at artist-jeweler Kristen Farrell; and investor in StationHead, a groundbreaking new App set to “save the music industry.” But what’s fashion got to do with it all? “Everything. Anyone who says what you’re wearing doesn't matter is lying.” Understanding the power of appearance has always opened doors for Levison. Fresh out of Lee Strasberg, the young (Prada-clad) actor found work as an extra on TV sets around New York. When she realized the jewelry they used was fake she offered up the real thing, courtesy of the family business. “My friends were working in the Gap I was working at HBO... I was the jewelry girl." Today, Levison's lifelong love affair with fashion secures her invitations to all the big shows, including Couture Week in Paris. As someone who actually buys the clothing—for herself—she's arguably becoming one of the most important people there. After all, the proof is in the placement: she's only ever seated front row.

How would you describe what you do?
I am a jewelry buyer / curator / stylist for my 4th generation family business, Mayfair Rocks. I travel to buy and create the concept for each installation at Mayfair but I also personal shop for VIP clients who want the perfect jewelry wardrobe. I'm also a partner and brand ambassador for the jeweler Kristen Farrell and an early investor at StationHead, a groundbreaking music and social technology.

 

How did you get your start?
Well, I was born doing jewelry: my dad brought me to work and I've been going on buying trips with him since 1971.

 

As a child, what did you want to be "when you grew up”?
Barbara Walters or a ballerina.

 

What was the best advice you ever received?
Stop trying to be so perfect, it's ordinary.

 

What would you advise someone today?
Always dress like you no matter what. If you don't do casual, then just don't do it.  

 

How would you describe your personal style?
Modern ladylike elegance. I would like to think that Edith Head would be using my closet to dress her girls today.

 

Is there a key piece in your closet that you wear to work?
The key to my closet is the Three D’s: Delpozo, Dolce and Dior. 

 

Name 3 characteristics required to do your job well.
Imagination, a knowledge of fashion history, patience.

 

What is your greatest achievement to date?
In 2003 I was the youngest person ever to be awarded the “Key to Italy” by the Italian Trade Commission and the title “Jeweler of the Year” for the work I did with Italian designers and brands. I still hold an active role on the board of Vicenzaoro and the retail advisory council.

 

How do you define success?
Letting go of the idea of what success is. 

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VANESSA VON BISMARCK

It’s one of the great ironies of Fashion Week that show-goers tend to be more interested in who’s sat front row than what’s being sent down the runway. Why do we care? Forget shoulder pads, a front row ticket serves as the ultimate power statement. Enter Vanessa von Bismarck, co-founder and partner of BPCM, a leading agency she explains, whose clients include Derek Lam, Diptyque, Brock Collection and new behemoth Amazon Fashion. Of her role during Fashion Month, "work is being seen and recognized by the appropriate audience.” So exactly who qualifies for a seat? “Friends and true supporters, influential members of the fashion press, key buyers and VIPs and influencers that are relevant to the brand image.” With almost 20 years of experience, von Bismarck (who still attends about 15 shows a season) knows the modern, audience has expanded well beyond any traditional guest list. “BPCM looks at the entire communications eco system, not just traditional PR,” she says. “The consumer is increasingly looking to connect with brands via digital channels. This change has had a ripple effect on everything we do.”

How would you describe what you do?
The agency's strategic approach helps create a narrative that will then be used to connect with the consumer via the most appropriate media channels. We get very involved in our clients’ business and consult on the best way to create excitement around the brand, but also the best way to build the business.

 

What takes up most of your time now?
I split my time between client strategy development and execution, new business acquisition and digital strategy with our new incredible digital director Aaron Paine.

 

As a child, what did you want to be "when you grew up”?
I wanted to work in business—I grew up with three brothers and that made me quite competitive. I wanted to be a commodities trader which I tried for two years and enjoyed a lot!

 

What do you love most about your job?
I love being able to build brands and help the companies we work with build a stronger business. I also love the collaborative spirit in our agency. Every day presents new challenges and there is a little bit of everything these days: psychology, business, traditional PR and all the new exciting opportunities that digital marketing has opened up.

 

What was the best advice you ever received?
The worst thing someone can say is no. 

 

Is there a key piece in your closet that you wear to work?
I often wear black pants, jeans or slouchy pants, white shirt and a jacket. But I do get bored of that look and change it up.  

 

What is your greatest achievement to date?
Having built a company with Carrie Phillips with 75-80 amazing talented people, offices in New York, Los Angeles and London and building a portfolio of clients we are excited about—and being able to do that at the same time as having a life with my amazing kids and my wonderful husband. 

 

How do you define success?
If you build something that people respect, to be considered an expert in your field and being excited to go to work every day. 

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