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Published June 2006, By Debbie Doerrlamm
As Printed in Nails Magazine, June
Adapted for Hyperlink Document June 2006
Fashion Week Diary: Honey Takes Manhattan
See all the photos HERE
My day was easy in comparison. I caught a 1PM train to Penn Station, grabbed the A Train downtown, transferred to the F Train downtown, walked 3 blocks and called Honey who was still in a cab on her way to the same location, but only 5 minutes away.
Where was I off to now?? Fashion Week. During one Sunday evening Nail Chat, Honey tells me she is the nail technician for designer, Jerry Tam's dazzling collection on display for Fashion Week in New York City. I jokingly asked if I could join her and shoot some pictures, maybe write an article, "of course you can!"
Honey's day started weeks ago. She had at least 3 meetings with Tam, maybe 4, "it's all a blur now" to prepare for the event. Honey and her assistants spent 3 long nights creating the nails for the runway models. At one of the meetings Honey had with designer Jerry Tam, he gave her a length of fabric that would be used in the fashion designs to be shown at the affair. The fabric was actually going to be incorporated into the nails for the models.
She spent several hours online researching the materials she needed for the creations, produced a list of needs for Tam to order and have in hand in time to start the design process. Today she made the trip from Brooklyn to the Lower Eastside of Manhattan, laden down with stuff: 2 suitcases, assorted other bags and cases each filled to the brim with every conceivable item she might need during the event. From past experience, Honey knows she must be prepared for anything to go wrong.
As I waited for Honey to materialize, all sorts of artsy types started to appear; models, hair stylists, makeup people, guests, press, and who knows who all these people were, this was after all my first experience in this world.
It's 3:05PM and here they come - yes they -- Honey, bouncing down the street with 4 assistants in tow, each carrying something.
Once inside this fabulous old church, now an Arts Center, there is some heavy duty greetings going on, hugs, kisses, joking between the designer's staff, theater crew, hair stylists and make up artists- many of these people have worked with each other at other "celebrity events". We're in the basement, it is so very cold, only the brave remove their coats. There are several 8 ft banquet type tables set up very unceremoniously along the outside wall of the room, not even a table cloth on the bare worn wood. Chairs are strewn all about, up for grabs for who ever needs them. There is a live band practicing upstairs, the people down here enjoying every minute of the music. Over on one of the makeup tables is a large poster board with a headshot of each model, her name and which "looks" she will be wearing.
The models start arriving also now, a total of 15, every bit the model types; well over 5'10" stick thin, perfect skin. The temperatures in NYC dropped well below 30 today and with all these people coming and going in this very old building, it is freezing in here too! Even the models are not taking off their coats.
As Honey and her assistants start setting up, she tells me the tips she wanted, silver full well tips, "they had to be the RIGHT silver", were very difficult to locate, "I surfed forever to find just the right ones. The designer generally will order and pay for all the supplies needed for the nails to be created."
All around us there is a huge buzz of activity, 4 hair stylist stations, 4 makeup stations, Honey has one full table to herself, and has now grabbed 6 chairs for her staff and the models. Designer Tam makes his grand entrance and the greetings, hugs and kisses begin again.
3:45PM Panic sets in, but it is a calm controlled panic. There are not enough tips for all the models. Head assistant Naomi gets to work. The other 3 assistants are busy doing some finish work on the remaining tips, laying things out for speed in preparation for applying them to the models. Oh no.. some of the pre-made tips are missing, all the assistants jump and get to work making sure there are not only enough to go around, but a few extras.
3:55PM The first model finally sits down and Honey gets to work fitting the tips which will be applied with special "glue dots" so they will come right off and not damage the models nails. She explains all this to the model as she works. Honey glances over to see my face in sheer amazement at the flurry of activity, "it's calm now, just wait till it gets closer to show time!" The lighting is very poor over here, the hair stylists and makeup artists have a little better lighting, but all these people are very used to working under such conditions.
Crisis #2, Honey runs off on a scavenger hunt for the glue dots Tam had ordered for her to use today and quickly returns with her prize and gets back to work. "Naomi, grab that one and get started.", Honey says without even looking up, I'm not sure how she even saw the 2nd model hovering near by. Makeup stops by to poke at the model in Honey's chair to decide if she is a silver or brown, then scurries back to his area just as quickly.
Honey quizzes the model on which "looks" she will be wearing, colors, type of shoes she will wear, "open toe??" "No, boots." the model responds. "Good." Honey is pleased, less work not having to prepare 15 sets of toes tonight. I never saw nail tips go though so much torture before application, Honey bends, twists, and actually folds, each one to make sure they fit properly. Each of the more than 150 tips being used tonight was pre-filed for length and shape.
I observe one of the models getting her makeup done making nasty faces at the silver nails she is going to have to wear. "If they complain or balk, they probably won't model again.", says Honey when I tell her about the faces being made across the room. The models have no say over what hairstyle, makeup or nails they wear for the show. Another model, totally oblivious to all this controlled turmoil, is reading "The Daily", a trade publication for the fashion industry, as she is poked, prodded, turned by the makeup artist.
The shoe guy shows up, squats down next to the model now getting her nails fitted and applied, and checks size and fit. Everyone is in their own world here, doing their thing, an un-choreographed ballet.
It is almost 5PM and Honey just got started on models 7 & 8. The designer usually provides some kind of food for the artists, his staff and guests. But this food is not much to Honey's taste, so she sends Naomi out for cupcakes from a local bakery, she needs sugar now!
The show director runs down the stairs and announces loud enough for everyone to hear, "I'm taking all the models for 10 minutes soon for a run through." No one bats an eyelash at this proclamation, they keep on working.
5:00PM The lights dim, this old building can't handle the load and something popped. A new high-pitched scurry for the electrician, who arrives with ladders and cords, like there is room for all this extra stuff. He quickly rectifies the situation, no one stops working in the dimmed light and a little cheer goes out when the lights are restored.
Naomi returns with the cupcakes and Honey dives into the bag, pulls out a cupcake dripping with chocolate frosting, a much happier camper now. Carpets and other props start arriving down here now. It's getting cramped, but no one hesitates or says a word, they just step over the new arrivals. More models arrive, some with mini entourages in tow.
The show director appears again, this time a little testy, announcing again he needs all the models upstairs SOON. Honey, having no one to work on for the moment, wanders off to chit-chat with the one of the hair stylists she knows.
5:15PM It's getting very crowded down here now, more guests are arriving, now we also have a film crew of 3 or 4 people in this already tight space. The models are totally oblivious to all this activity around them. A model sits for Honey now, "I have to wear gloves, do I just pop these off?" Honey calms her, "Yes, just pop them off, they are not going to harm your nails, rip off layer or anything like that.
5:20PM Another emergency, still not enough nails, all 4 assistants get to work at Honey's direction.
5:30PM All the models are escorted upstairs in their street clothes, ½ made up, some with nails, for the run through upstairs. During this short lull, the artists all mingle and joke around, straighten up their areas. Some go up to watch the run through, a call is made upstairs for a head rep from hair, nails and makeup to observe. I ran upstairs to watch this part of the process also. The models do 2 complete walks down the runway, the floor director showing them where to stop, turn, what look they should have on their face, how to hold their shoulders. This is done complete with music, so the cues need to be set for that now also. The theater staff is busy setting up the seats for the show, arranging the programs on every seat and some kind of a little gift bag on the 1st 2 rows of seats.
5:50PM The models finally return to the basement set up area. A photographer has set up and starts taking head shots of the models (they are still in their street clothes). Honey now has to chase down the remaining models, I am not sure how she has kept track of them all. Honey and Naomi double up on these stragglers to get them fitted and applied.
Honey introduces me to Jerry Tam, a very gracious man, very excited about the show. I am not exactly sure what Honey told him about my position in life, but she obviously embellished just a little from some of the things he said to me! He is called away by someone and excuses himself.
6:30PM Things are really happening now. All the models are brought upstairs to start getting dressed in their "looks". I look around and see we have TWO video crews wandering around. It's starting to thin out down here, the artists are all cleaning up, packing up, some have gone upstairs to help with the dressing process, repair hair and make up where needed. Did I say thinning out?? I lied! More guests are arriving and once again we're getting cramped down here again. They don't stay long however, they mingle just long enough to say hello and wander back up to the lobby area and mingle up there, awaiting the time when they can get their seats.
The models start to come back down, all dressed in their "looks", to much ohh's and ahh's, cameras snapping, each model is guided to the photographer's area for official photos of the designs for the press and Tam's portfolio. Makeup and hair scurry making minor repairs to the models. The show director, declares loudly, "DO NOT TOUCH THEM". Someone else hollers down to the basement setup area, "HAIR DRESSER FOR HAT PLACEMENT UPSTAIRS", and up goes one of the hairdressers.
6:45PM "Crisis upstairs" is the message relayed to Honey from one of the assistants helping the models dress. Their nails are coming off, one is lost. Honey handles this with a calm professional attitude, never panicking, calling out instructions to her assistants and everything is handled in short order.
6:55PM The show director now announces, "5 MINUTES - ALL MODELS IN 1st LOOK", and disappears back upstairs. Now everyone is in movement. The guests have mostly gone upstairs, the artists are packing, some going up for a quick breath of fresh air outside, some to mingle with the guests in the lobby or already in the runway area, a virtual ghost town down here now. I make my way up to the balcony level to watch the show.
7:30PM I can't believe it's all over so quickly. All that work, time, and 30 minutes, maybe even less than that, I forgot to actually look at my watch, and it's a done deal. It was very exciting to see the models up close like that, the clothes were amazing. The designs were highly praised and accepted, Jerry Tam and his staff are beaming. Back downstairs, the models and artists are grabbing their things and running for the exits, if they hurry they can catch their trains, meet their friends for dinner, where ever they are going, they are getting there in a hurry now! I take a quick look at the train schedule and again at my watch, if I hurry along side the models and artists who are packed up, I can make the 8:15 and be home before 10PM. Honey sees me, and says, "Get going or you'll miss the train, the fun is done here!" While I grab up my stuff, I thank everyone with a generous dose of hugs and kisses and I'm off..
8:15PM I race 3 blocks back to the F Train, transfer to the A Train, dash through Penn Station, snatch a quick look at the departure board. I make it to my train with about 2 minutes to spare. I get take a deep breath, get comfortable and organize my notes on the hour ride back home.
Several days later I did an email interview with Crystal Wright, Artistic Director of the Artistic Director of the Crystal Agency, Los Angeles, CA. Wright represents nail technicians as well as hair stylists and makeup artists, connecting these creative people with bookings for celebrity work.
"Markets that are ripe for this kind of work would include LA, NY, Miami, major metropolises where there are film studios, fashion shows. Remember, there is lots more work besides just working with celebrities. Anytime you see a hand in print or on TV (i.e. Coca-cola, Hermes, etc.) there was a nail tech on hand. Earnings could have been anywhere from $500 - $1,250 daily." says Wright. "That of course opens the door for work in Chicago, Minneapolis, Dallas, TX where there is just a ton of advertising agencies and activity."
Besides the skills and personality it's extremely important to have a great kit according to Wright and Honey agrees. Knowledge about several of the major nail color brands, what they are doing, where they're going and who's doing what is also helpful.
The kit is a killer. "I've met several nail techs in the last few years who were pretty good, but their kits weren't clean, the bottles they were using for things like acetone and such were cheap plastic, the lids were dirty, and in some cases the price tags had been pulled off, and no one even bothered to soak them in hot water to get the sticky stuff off." says Wright.
The kit should be sleek, sexy and absolutely spotlessly clean and well stocked - prepared for every conceivable situation if you want someone to pay you $500+ per day. I will interject here, you have to have an almost completely unflappable personality and be able to think in motion. The issues that came up at the Tam show were minor Honey told me; she has run into problems at other events that would have sent some artists shrieking for the door.
If you fit this personality type and this all sounds glamorous and exciting, I can promise you it is not a bed of roses and buckets of money. It is hard work, long hours, dealing with sometimes very difficult people. You have to be known to get regular work; you have to be reliable and prompt. Honey regularly gets last minute calls to show up tomorrow for a job. We traveled Amtrak a few months ago and her cell rang 4 or 5 times during the train ride - between 6 & 10 PM.
You can find much more information about this end of the business in general in Wright's book "The Hair
Makeup & Fashion Styling Career Guide". Visit http://www.makeuphairandstyling.com/firsthold/
Find an agency to represent you (or more than one), get a portfolio, ask as many questions as you can and go for it! Oh, and as Honey says, "Network, Network, Network." One more note I will add. This end of the business is not anything like what we are exposed to every day in the salon. I have learned a whole new vocabulary set going to the show, during the pre-prep and more during the additional research I've done. Surf around the net, grab some of these new words and get to know them, so on your first job, you don't appear to be a newbie! Honey also just Instant Messaged me as I was finishing this up and wanted me to remind all you readers who got this far, "Celebrity events are different from film & TV, etc. Film and TV have unions and trying to get into the unions is a project and can cost as much as $4000, but worth the money and effort."
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