Brightly dressed and designer-clad show attendees flood the streets outside of Industria, one of New York Fashion Week’s main event spaces. Fashion Institute of Technology design student Grace Peisker recalls racing through the streets outside the venue, wearing entirely black, hurrying to get inside.
Peisker is a sophomore fashion design major who worked the Alice McCall show at Industria Studios in Chelsea last year. With only two fashion weeks every year featuring a range of shows from up-and-coming designers to the biggest brands in the business, everyone in the fashion sphere wants a ticket to one of the private shows, but they’re almost impossible to nab. And when you’re an aspiring designer, knowing what the newest trends are is essential.
Nicole Ruffino, a sophomore at Fashion Institute of Technology, says many students watch livestreams of the shows, but the real way to get close to the action is to sign up to volunteer, which requires all-black clothing, comfortable shoes and absolutely no phones allowed. Students clamor to sign up to work the shows, hoping to be assigned to one of the most exclusive.
“It’s a big thing, there’s a huge thing called fashion week sign-ups and people will wait out there for I don’t know how long,” Ruffino said. “They’ll go to extremes.”
Two of the most common roles filled by interns are as a “pacer” or a dresser. Pacers walk the models’ route on the runway so that producers can make sure the timing and lighting is correct. Dressers work with the models, making sure their clothing and accessories are organized and just as the brand wants them. That role allows many students, like Noelle Decastro, a fashion business management major who worked the Coach show last year, to get sneak peeks of the show.
“Even though you’re on your feet for hours, it’s fun — you get to see the set and we have cards to wear with the information of the model and a picture,” Decastro said. “So we even got to see the looks for them before anyone.”
For students pursuing careers in fashion, the shows can be networking opportunities and important resume-builders — all designed to demonstrate to potential employers that you’re willing to do anything to make their show a success, according to Peisker.
“A lot of it is about passion,” Peisker said. “and showing you care about what goes on behind the scenes and not just what goes out on the runway.”
For those who miss the sign-up fest at FIT, volunteer opportunities are emailed out as well. Sometimes the shows are advertised under a company sourced to help put on the event, rather than the brand, as happened last year with the Alexander Wang show, according to Peisker. Volunteers showed up to the event unsure which brand they would be working for, only to discover they were working one of the biggest shows of the week.
“Oh! I get jealous,” Ruffino said, laughing. “I was super jealous about the Alexander Wang show.”