By Giulia Piceni. Cover image: photo Lucas Possiede. Courtesy of LuisaViaRoma.
RUNWAY WALK WITH THE STARS
The morning of 14 June was all about rehearsals: each of us was assigned three models, and all we had to do was help them wear their shoes. Some outfits still needed to be defined on the ever-changing photograph’s line-up.
Apart from little dramas, including a model who had ripped the zip of a pair of boots, shoes that were too big and a sleepy mood reflected in never-ending cups of Americanos backstage, everything went smoothly and with high hopes and expectations about the event.
One of the models wearing tartan lilac platforms by Vivienne Westwood asked for help because the freshly new sole risked being slippery on the runway.
Another dresser named Vittoria and I tried to collect double-faced tape and stuck it underneath; quickly after that moment of panic dictated by the fact that rehearsal time was running out, we realised we had just helped Stella Maxwell. We felt our hearts leap.
At some point, while I was helping the models climb up the stairs, someone had to replace Irina Shayk for the final looks, as she wasn’t there for the rehearsals.
And yes, the ones who had to replace her and other models were me and other dressers, with a walk of shame, well aware of our inability to hit the runway like the pros around us.
Despite that, the situation got me closer to Edward Enninful OBE, the former Ghanaian British Vogue Editor who recently stepped down from the magazine and was sitting in the front row, hyping up his model friends. Meeting such an industry heavyweight is truly exciting for an aspiring fashion journalist.
BACKSTAGE IS LIKE A CHOCOLATE BOX
“You never know what you’re gonna get” (cit.). After our lunch break, another dresser named Elsa and I found a way to improvise ourselves as styling assistants: whenever someone needed a nude triangle bra, a pair of clips, some makeup remover and other urgent supplies, we were always available in the fitting area.
They felt to us like the most exciting quests to follow. A game taken with seriousness accompanied by the pure eye joy of staying there in the middle of our dream wardrobe.
Rose-detailed stilettos by Magda Butrym (who sponsored the VIP dinner that happened the night before), incredibly precious leather jeans by Bottega Veneta and even an entire silver metallic floor-length puffer jacket by Moncler: what a dream to be able to wear those garments and what a lucky opportunity to get to touch those dreams turned into clothes.
SAVING VALENTINOS FROM SOAKING
It was almost four o’clock when the tragedy happened, and it was hard to recover from it. A series of thunders, the sky getting darker, and giant clouds covering Piazzale Michelangelo.
The rain fell for over an hour, and the felt-covered backstage floor was thoroughly soaked in water. It was tough, but Elsa and I had just been promoted assistants trying to impress their superiors efficiently. Despite getting soaking wet, we immediately started covering accessories, shoes and clothes as best as possible.
Heroes of the day, we found ourselves waiting outside the backstage area, covered in bathrobes to avoid catching a cold, and anxiously waiting for the situation to return to normality.
After the rain, the hangers with the final looks were placed outside, as the sky was making room for a colourful sunset and sweeping the clouds away; the rain might have complicated our job, but we were determined to work a miracle.
DRESSING MODELS ISN’T LIKE PLAYING WITH BARBIES
With no phones for security issues, the first dressers available had been paired with the most influential models of the moment, the ones opening the show, who also had a second look.
While waiting for their arrival in the improvised backstage, I took a look at the full-look panels in my section: I was going to share the space with runway professionals such as Vittoria Ceretti, Ashley Graham, Stella Maxwell, Irina Shayk and Mona Tougaard.
Eventually, I discovered I was going to have the huge honour of helping supermodel Natal’ja Vodjanova wear a white piece by Giambattista Valli with matching shiny ribbon shoes: the amount of tulle in that dress was scary to handle, and the double inside bustier wasn’t going to help.
Among the last ones arriving backstage with a sleek bun and scarlet lipstick, Natal’ja was very kind and patient as I had to keep fixing the heavy garment on her shoulders or it would slip down while also taking care of those endless layers of tulle. It was the opening outfit, so I had to seek perfection.
To downplay the anxiety of the runway, Mariacarla Boscono appeared wearing a backless Bottega Veneta dress with a fringed yellow gown. She captured her lifelong friend Natal’ja’s attention asking: “Where are our daughters?” who they had brought backstage. Mariacarla started talking with Vittoria about how a dresser had mistaken her for a staff member and reminded her of the time she was on the cover of Vogue Paris but wasn’t allowed in the party dedicated to that issue despite her face being all over the place.
THE FINAL TOUCHES BEFORE THE SHOW
The famous makeup artist Pat McGrath dashed from one model to another, followed by her assistants equipped with body lotion, bronzer and highlighters for body contouring.
From the stairs, we could see the lights and the almost unnoticeable steam coming from the stage where Andrea Bocelli was singing. The models carefully listened to the music, trying to relax. Natal’ja had to enter halfway through the fourth song, and in the meantime, I was still adjusting a few layers of her dress; she was stretching her neck like a ballerina, a white swan ready to hit the scene.
A signal, a rustling of the dress and the show began. The rest is history.
Giulia Piceni is an Arts Curating undergraduate student at Istituto Marangoni.