The madness. The mayhem. The models. The highly anticipated second edition of Hot Couture promised to be a spectacular affair and boy did it deliver. Did you see the glass swimsuits? The barely there bottoms? Those abs?
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. I have to admit when I first started attending rehearsals at the Johnsons Centre in Beausejour, I wondered how it would all come together. The area was a nondescript, sweltering warehouse, with thick air rivalling a Louisiana summer.
By Wednesday, the team from Landmark Events had transformed it into a London Fashion Week replica, with the help of some white draping and flooring for the ceiling and runway. A large LED screen would serve as the backdrop and pièce de résistance of the glossy setup. The day before, mannequins with strategically placed accessories had been hoisted onto the roof at the entrance, overlooking the mural of models framing the doorway.
On Wednesday morning more mannequins lined the freshly laid red carpet. Upstairs, the designated hair and make-up area was all a buzz. Emile and his team were deftly coiffing in one corner, while faces were being perfected with Sacha Cosmetics courtesy of M&C. Designers milled about making last minute adjustments to their creations; the dressers steaming and ironing furiously in their wake. The models appeared relatively calm, considering this would be the first major show for many. Dressed in colourful Sea Island Cotton Shop wraps, they practiced their routines, a couple of the guys took quick naps on makeshift cardboard ‘mattresses,’ and one young man played barber to his colleagues, marking and lining with precision.
Elsewhere the production team was in overdrive. Charts were being analyzed with a fine-tooth comb to ensure no detail had been overlooked, no stone left unturned. More shoes were being ordered by special request. Mae Wayne was a woman on a mission. Charged with the responsibility of shepherding this event for another year, she was resolute in her desire to see this one surpass the previous effort by leaps and bounds. Runway Creative Director, Richard Young, was also on the move, fielding last minute queries from the models and giving final pointers.
What seemed like an infinite amount of time passed in a blur. Suddenly it was half an hour before showtime and the models were lining up in their first looks. After a last minute pep-talk, a prayer circle, and the arrival of the Governor General, the imaginary curtains rose on Saint Lucia HOT Couture 2014. On the large screens backstage, we watched as the models strode confidently down the catwalk in their sky-high heels, gazing flirtatiously at the audience, throwing the occasional knowing smile.
Behind the scenes it was a flurry of limbs and quick change magic as dressers hustled to get them prepped for the next line, mindful of protecting the designers’ delicate property. Hair personnel hightailed it down the stairs as they caught wind of the imminent toppling of a towering hairpiece. The makeup team was on full alert, refreshing faces constantly. Above the din there were random shouts of, “More hairpins! Any safety pins? You have deodorant? I need baby oil! Where are the green figs?” Like I said, random.
At intermission I took a quick peek at the crowd to gauge the reaction thus far. By the looks on their faces, and the snippets of conversations I overheard, all was right with the world.
After a whirlwind first half, the models were clearly much looser and nerves had dissipated. They seemed to be genuinely enjoying the experience. As well they should.
If there’s one thing I have learnt throughout this process, it takes a lot of courage to walk in their shoes. Especially those size 15’s one male model was sporting. The models had a lot thrown at them throughout the evening and still managed to be as cool as the other side of the pillow as their sashayed before our notoriously critical public; in some cases flashing various lady parts.
Upstairs, post show, a gaggle of noise erupted as everyone congratulated the other on a job well done. A beeline was being made to the VIP food service area upstairs, cellphones whirred to life, and deep discussions were being held on the perfect spot for an after party. Downstairs special guests and pseudo-fashionistas were holding court with the media, giving their two cents on the production.
Models reconnected with their family members and one mama model rushing off to breast feed her newborn. Real life had resumed.