By Katrina Valcourt
Photos: Eli Schmidt
Twenty-four models sit around circular tables, some munching on fruit, sandwiches, salad, chips and mini pumpkin tarts. Their hair and makeup are done—they showed up at the Hawai‘i Convention Center hours ago—and are waiting to head behind the curtain to get into their first looks for Live Aloha. The show starts in half an hour.
Behind the stage, a large, square room is lined with racks of clothing in order of each outfit’s appearance on the runway. Look No. 6, modeled by Tara, is a Rumi Murakami off-the-shoulder top, rolled-up pink pants, a Jana Lam clutch, Dolce and Gabbana sunglasses and lace-up sandals. Each item is on its own hanger, separated from Tara's next look, No. 27, by a numbered tag. At the front of her items, Tara’s look board lists her name, height, shoe size and instructions for each look, accompanied by a photo.
There are 24 models for the show, and 51 looks, which means some models have as many as three outfits to change into. That’s where the dressers come in.
Each model is assigned one of 30 dressers whose job it is to familiarize themselves with the looks ahead of time, get all the pieces ready to be worn (zippers and buttons undone, tags removed, wrinkles steamed out) and assist the models. The more experienced dressers, those who did it at last year’s HONOLULU Fashion Week or have helped at other fashion shows, get the more complicated looks and quicker changes. Stylist Don Sumada walks around to make sure all the dressers are set before the models come in because, once it starts, there’s no time to lose.
First looks are no problem—despite a few last-minute tags and pins to remove, makeup to touch up and hairspray to keep everything set, the energy backstage is calm. The models line up and wait.
And then it begins.
What seems like mere seconds pass before the first models are off the runway and running to their racks, throwing off jewelry as dressers start yanking off their clothes and pulling the next garments on. Adrenaline pumps through the room, fueled by the booming music of the show, as everyone scrambles to get the next look ready in less than 30 seconds. Bras are lying on the ground—there’s no time to be shy—and shoes kicked everywhere. It goes by in a flash and, just like that, the models run back in line and get into the right order before sauntering gracefully onto the runway.
The whole show lasts less than 10 minutes.
Afterward, models take their time getting back into their own clothes. Dressers hang everything up, making sure it’s all accounted for. Less than two hours until the next show, when they’ll have to do it all over again.