Can you tell me about designing the pink set for Marc Jacobs last season?
The reference from Marc was utilitarian and military so that's where it started. We were thinking of barracks housing. We wanted to do something in the middle of the space that felt like it had just fallen out of the sky. More like an art installation, so we came up with the idea of doing this house. Marc loved this basic idea of a house, but he also wanted a twist on it and pink was this kind of happy colour.
What are some of the more complicated sets you've worked on?
Three seasons ago when we did this Victorian surf, a kind of decayed beach for Marc. The scale of that was really intense, with so many different layers, the runway, the different dioramas the different sets and props. They always are intense but that one was really intense.
What made it so intense?
We brought in a bus and cut it in half and brought it into the space. We were pretty much like, "Oh, we can't do it." But we did in the end. We started on Craigslist looking for buses and we found one in an abandoned farm upstate that was perfect. We cut it in half, had to take the engine out and brought it down to the city and it barely fit into the armoury. It was crazy. There's always something like that.
Anything that's been super last minute to put together?
It's always last minute. I mean, one time, in three days we literally fabricated 500 soft sculpture clouds. Years ago I did a runway, it was all green walkways and silver rolling hills and we did 500,000 pieces of candy on the ground. We had to find their right candy and the cellophane that looked the best because it was supposed to simulate water. Last season trying to find pink carpet was impossible. No one stocks thousands of yard of pink carpet, so we had to have it dyed in Georgia and trucked up at the last minute. I don't like the word no.
Do you ever have materials flown in?
Oh yeah, we had handmade silver leaf wallpaper flown in from Japan.
Do you have a checklist? Certain things you have to think about when designing a set?
Yes. I mean, seating is super important. How far the audience is and the audience's perspective to the show in general. You can't forget that. We've done some runways where the audience is quite far and its not always the best. It sets the tone for what kind of show it's going to be. Is it intimate or is it a big spectacle?
How long to do you have to build the set?
Sometimes two months, but with Marc, usually two weeks.
And how much do these things cost?
It could be anywhere, with rigging, up to a million dollars.
Do you see the clothes beforehand?
Sometimes yes, sometimes no. It could be a shoe, it could be a colour range, by the time we're starting the clothes usually aren't finished. A lot of times it's less information--it could just be a mood or feeling that the designer wants. You want the design to be true to the collection. Maybe it's not literal, maybe it's abstracted, but it needs to make sense.
Do you always go to the show?
I do, I do. I always get really nervous, because more than anything I want it to be well received, not necessarily for just what we do, but I want the clothes to look great and I want it to make sense. I don't want the model to trip on the runway; I want everything to be perfect. I want the girls to get the stride and pacing right. It's a piece of theatre in a sense, a performance.
Obviously there are trends on the runway, but are there any trends within runway sets?
People want that sense of fantasy, whether it's modern or not, they want that kind of experience. It's very expensive to produce something. You try to do it cheaply but you're dealing with labour issues and construction crews. Not a lot of houses can do that, but the ones that can, Dior, Chanel, Marc Jacobs, they want to transport the audience and the viewer into this experience. That's becoming more and more important.