Sunday morning I get to the tents in Bryant Park at 10:00 a.m. sharp to go backstage at Derek Lam. When I get through the crush in hair and makeup, I reach the dressing area, where I encounter an army of dressers in black. They all work for Barbara Berman a professional dresser who’s doing 55 shows this season (she doesn’t say no to anyone unless there’s a scheduling conflict)—from Oscar de la Renta to Jason Wu to Joseph Altuzarra (she loves helping out the young ones). People travel from all over the world to work for Berman. Today there are fashion students, image consultants, stylists, and others, all looking for experience in the industry, and, says Barbara, “some New York cachet to bring back to their clients.”Most of the time we're so preoccupied with models and designers that we forget about (or simply don't know about) all the other vital people who toil away behind the scenes. A person like Barbara is so integral to fashion week because without her the shows literally cannot go on. How do you think a model manages to change into 2 or 3 outfits within the span of 12 minutes when I know that it takes me at least 30 minutes to put on one outfit in the morning?
Berman, who’s done fourteen New York fashion seasons, takes her job very seriously. All of her dressers have to sign confidentiality agreements: “No Twitters. No Facebook” (in this age of technology, someone with a camera could post photos of the clothes before they even get out on the runway). Plus, none of them are allowed to talk to the press—which I learned firsthand when I tried to ask them questions for this story. Some of Berman’s pros know different languages, and if she knows a model speaks, say, Portuguese, she’ll give her a dresser who does, too.
So it’s no surprise that all goes smoothly on the dressing end. “It’s my job to help the designer have a cool, calm backstage environment,” says Berman. Just as the lights are dimming in the tent, I dash out to watch the show and see Derek’s (and, in a way, Barbara’s) latest work.
In all seriousness, I hope the spotlight is projected more often onto people like Barbara. I bet she's just full of interesting stories and privy to more gossip than anyone sitting front row. I have so much admiration for people like her who do their job year after year with little to no recognition. That type of dedication and passion deserves as much, if not more, respect than that which we bestow upon fashion's visible personalities.
Here are some old pictures of Freja dressing/being dressed for your time:
Image Credits: fashion_shows, hintmag, celebritycity