By Gabby Neal
If you know anything about Romance Was Born, you know it’s a label which is incredibly creative and theatrical that when attending their shows, you can never know what to expect. Like most shows at fashion week, we went backstage, but this time we followed hair stylist Alan White (if you don’t know who he is, read our interview here) to have a look and learn a bit more about how a show like Romance evolves.
To give you a bit of a background, Alan is a veteran when it comes to working with Romance. He goes ‘way back with Luke and Anna, having previously worked on about 6-7 of their fashion week shows. And I mean you can imagine why, he comes out with some of the most crazy-beautiful concepts (which I might add, actually have an in-depth reasoning and meaning behind them all) to walk the runway.
Alan explains that the whole idea surrounding the hair came to him within two weeks of being approached. Luke and Anna came to him with inspiration stemming from artist Del Kathryn Barton, a somewhat perfect fit for him. She’s a lover of hair, big and flamboyant something which when it comes to Alan, he’s got that pretty well down pat.
The challenge this year however, was to make it more relevant and appealing to the consumer without losing the Romance ambiance. Romance Was Born as a whole has had to transition and begin to balance consumer demands with their creative flair by producing somewhat more wearable designs. So obviously, this is something that the hair and make-up for the show also had to reflect.
This year the designers showed on site, featuring 6 different looks on 31 models with an extra 2 models body-painted by the artist and an additional 4 dancers. Yep, bit of a mouthful but you couldn’t have expected any less from Romance.
I rocked up backstage just after lunch, even though the call time was 12pm they didn’t get any models through until 1pm. As usual, everything runs late at fashion week – the actual show didn’t start until 8pm. Even so, there were plenty of people rushing around. Make up was on the right, hair on the left, and in the middle tables with accessories and about 10 different wigs all set out.
In terms of the hair stylists on site, there were 4 that were hand-picked by Alan, with the rest a part of the KMS team who were sponsoring the show. On average there were about two stylists working on each model, and toward the end about four racing to get them finished.
As per usual, pre-show Alan gets the stylists together and preps them on what they’re meant to achieve and how they’re meant to do it. Explaining which brushes do this and what products do that. There were only a few variations for the models hair; some wore wigs, others a tight top knot with a coloured fringe or big, soft hair that was meant to appear ethereal like in its movements on the runway. Along with accessories and hats which needed to be carefully placed.
With Del Kathryn Barton the inspiration for the show as a whole, Alan said they went back and forth with concepts for the hair. Initially they started with a reference to Grimes; using a pop of colour and burst of energy representing youth, but upon revision that was pulled back, going more in the direction of Daphne Guinness. Grimes made the models look too youthful; Daphne provided that extra level of sophistication. As Alan said, “the commercial reality wants more Daphne Guinness than Grimes”.
I asked him how many wigs he thought he owned in total but he couldn’t tell me for sure. “Maybe three hundred” he said. All archived under his house into long, short, cut and coloured. Funnily enough to my suprise, they’ve managed to stay in tact despite the fact that they’ve been used on all various shoots and sets over the past few years. So it’s no wonder he’s got about 10 set up backstage with him, a sort of just in case or backup plan.
With the girls starting to pile in coming close to 2pm, Alan is quite calm considering they’re all walking in with multiple creations on top of their head; slicked back, teased, coloured, cut and tangled. Of course there does come the time when he’s got his eyes narrowing with the toothbrush out, fine combing back any fly-aways, but overall he’s quite playful and chatty. There’s no yelling or screaming just yet.
It’s quite interesting actually watching the hair stylists work their magic. There truly is a science behind it all. Different brushes are used for different types of hair, various gels are used over sprays and for those of you who didn’t know there is actually a difference between a thickening spray and a thickening gel..
By 6pm the producers, call for a run through and by now though, things are heating up. Make-up artists are chasing models and hair stylists are trying to fend them off, each clearly trying to get their job done but each fighting to do it first. We sat down for the run-through and of course, in the purest form of sideline encouragement, a phrase which epitomises the identity of Romance Was Born was shouted at the models;
‘Forget Fashion! It’s a movie – the whole time. Performance upwards and forwards”.
When you watch the show from the crowd, it’s hard to imagine how many hours have just been spent on hair and make-up alone when you’re staring at a gorgeous set, intricately detailed and expressive clothing and listening to what sounds like an effortless soundtrack. The franticness that was going on back stage moments before the show has evaporated into what appears as a completely seamless operation.