When I first started as a writer for HELLO! magazine back in 2011, it did not occur to me just how much of my job involved attending events practically every week. My days were a blur of putting pages in the office, writing my features in the middle of the night at home, and running from one brand or product launch to the next. Within my first six months, I had learned the basic logistics of planning a launch event, complete with fashion show.
As the years went by and the events and fashion shows became bigger and more ambitious, I realized that there was so much more to planning such events than just getting the audio, lighting and outfits together. There was the ambience to think about, wrangling the models, and figuring out the seating arrangement — the last of which is probably the biggest nightmare of all.
So when Cho asked me back in March to help her produce her June 11 bridal fashion show for PU3, I had my reservations, thrown in and mixed in somewhere with my excitement. I had never really produced a full-scale fashion show on my own before, and a small part of me was terrified that I wouldn’t be able to pull it off. Also, I was fully aware of what a single-mindedly demanding person Cho can be, despite her laidback exterior, and the pressures of putting on a show which her entire family would descend en masse to witness.
But pull it off I did, and definitely not before I came away with some things to remember:
Fashion shows are like political arenas, if not worse. When I was working for HELLO! and had to work on featuring personalities and celebrities — two terms which I use very loosely because there is no such thing as a real celebrity in this country — the one question I avoided like the plague was “Will I be on the cover?” In fashion, the question to avoid at all costs, on pain of death, is “Will I be in the front row?” Malaysians have an astoundingly false sense of entitlement that plants in their heads that they somehow deserve to be in the front row of a fashion show. And to both questions, I’ve learned to give the ultimate in noncommittal and diplomatic responses: “I’ll see what I can do.”
Someone has to be the bad cop. Putting together a fashion show is literally akin to putting together a circus. There are many different acts to be put together to form one seamless production, and more often than not, at least one of said acts will somehow drag everything down. And when one act threatens the efficiency of the entire production, someone needs to be the circus wrangler, put aside all personal relationships and address the issue head on before the malcontent festers. In this case, I had to write in our WhatsApp group conversation that unless people got hit by a bus, there was no reason for anyone to be an hour and a half late.
Creativity vs practicality. While it is perfectly understandable, even expected, for fashion designers to have very strong ideas about what they want and what they think they should have in their shows, it is also of some help if they recognized that not all of it may be feasible. In a city as limited and an economy as throttled as ours, it would be completely irresponsible to not be realistic about certain things or manage one’s own expectations, because when said expectations are not met, it only makes everyone involved feel, if not look, extremely foolish. The good thing about working with Cho was that she got to be the creative half of this production brain, while I exercised every shred of common sense I possessed into talking her down.
A support system is vital. In every endeavor I’ve taken on ever since I left my last job and started working on my own, I was fortunate to have the one constant that kept me sane and grounded and from wanting to wring a few necks: Dani. No doubt the man has received more than his fair share of grumbling and whining from me about all the projects I’ve worked on and all the people I’ve had to endure, but he has always managed to be the voice of reason — with a working printer and an impressive network of people whom he somehow manages to strongarm into giving him whatever he wants.
Front row ain’t got nothing on the producer’s chair. This depends on which view you actually like. Over the years, designers have been kind enough to give me a seat in the front row of their shows, and it’s an experience that never gets old. To see someone’s hard work and passion stomp past you in more than one direction (usually) leaves you in quiet awe because you realize that some people really can be talented. But to see someone’s hard work and passion surrounded by and infused with your own hard work and passion, and knowing everything that you went through to get to that moment, leaves you in something far beyond awe: gratitude. Gratitude because you were given this opportunity to be a part of something so significant in someone else’s life, gratitude because you were given what it took to see it through to the end, and gratitude because there were people around you to help you along the way.