Early mornings and good intentions. The start of every true fashion show.
It was 10:02 am when I arrived to the St. Regis Hotel for the Nikhil Thampi show at Lakme Fashion Week. I had one thing on my mind, and that was coffee.
Twenty minutes later, coffee in hand, I made my way to the green room where I was met with a room full of hair and makeup artists, donning 50 shades of black — per usual. I took my seat among the other models, and within minutes a team of hairstylists came at me, sectioning my hair and tying it into (very tight) ponytails around my head. Hi, nice to meet you too. An abundance of hairspray and gel. Inward sigh at the thought of washing my hair later.
The vibe was chill. Models sauntered in and out, photographers snapped behind the scenes pictures, and the design team peeked in occasionally to make sure everything was in check.
The show was meant to have an Avant Garde theme. Meaning my hair and makeup would surely take hours. Oh, and there were nails as well.
My mini team of hairstylists worked on me for a little over an hour, taking tiny sections of hair and wrapping them tightly around large bobby pins. Each section was then wrapped in aluminum foil and ironed to heat set. Other models had equal fates – braids pulled tightly against the head, loops of fake twisted hair shaped with wire, and teased hair extensions that can only be attached to the head in such a way that gives you a first class migraine.
2:30 pm – Lunch break. Much needed might I add.
3:30 pm – Return to green room, now at least five degrees hotter and covered in a thick haze of hairspray. Three hours left until the show and models were scattered backstage in various stages of pre-production. My hair was not yet finished – it was still setting and I looked like I had just escaped from an insane asylum (did I mention my eyebrows were covered in glue?)
Time becomes very precious those last few hours before a fashion show. It also becomes extremely blurry. At this point, I remember being handed off between various make up artists, each of whom were assigned different tasks. There was moisturizing lady, foundation lady, the girl who plucked my eyebrows, the girl who slicked my face in highlighter, and the woman who glued tiny red jewels onto my lips.
5:30 pm – Quick rehearsal with all of the models, most of whom are not even halfway ready. I start to wonder if a 6:30 pm showtime is doable. I also wonder how much longer I can last with 10 pounds of hair attached to my skull.
30 minutes later – Back to the green room. Hair and makeup wrapped up. Nails applied. Clothes on. Heels strapped. Belt strapped. Bolts bolted. Wait, what? Did I forget to mention…we’re walking with life-size frames attached to our waists? Oh, yes. This is not your average fashion show.
Nikhil Thampi pulls out all the stops. A cheeky runway walk would not suffice. Instead, we were bolted into life-size frames fitted precisely to each of our measurements. The frame was to be pushed – no hands – down the U-shaped runway in the center of a pitch black room. Try your best to weave around show-goer’s legs sprawled out halfway into the center of the runway. It’s like a new version of “Mario Kart” … but you don’t get three lives.
I haven’t even mentioned the clothes yet. This line was clearly created for a woman in power. The shapes were strong, and constructed with suiting material – yet some pieces were more appropriate for work, and some for play. The colors screamed fall. Emerald greens, burgundies, creamy whites, and golden hues adorned with tiny golden metal links. Squared off shoulders and slashed skirts. In my head I was deviously plotting a way to smuggle all of the garments past the security guards, and Nikhil himself.
But first, the show needed to happen.
6:30 pm – All the models are lined up backstage, strapped into our frames and anxiously waiting for the show to begin. The heat and claustrophobia was
clearly getting to the girl in front of me. Someone
tried handing her a sugar packet, which she refused. Another someone was walking through the line handing out chocolates.
7 pm (I think) – The show starts.
5 minutes later – The show ends.
I didn’t trip. The girl in front of me didn’t faint. People applauded. Cameras flashed. The designer cried. I cried tears of joy when the mounds of hair extensions were unpinned from my skull.
Life was slowly coming back into focus. The enormous amount of energy that goes into creating such a production is draining for everyone involved, but the feeling is so rewarding.
All I can say is Nikhil Thampi is a creative genius. It was an honor to walk for his show. I say that with all sincerity.
That night I rewarded myself with a glass (ok, three) of wine and spent the better part of an hour stalking Instagram for show photos. Life of a model.
And the next day I woke up and did it all over again.