Exclusive: Behind the scenes at Canberra Fashfest 2015


Mairi Hogg worked as our eyes and ears back stage at Canberra Fashfest 2015. She shares with us her recaps of each night behind the scenes…

Rockstars and Royalty ‘s finale gown



Peonynpearl headpieces for Rockstars and Royalty



Day 1

It’s 5.00pm and the thick smell of hairspray fills the air backstage. There is so much excitement and nervousness in the atmosphere. Racks of the designer’s clothes fill the space. Tables are set up with food to cater of the 250+ people working backstage. Models chomp down sandwiches to charge up for the big show and practice poses on the catwalk. Hollywood mirrors fill the area and teams of makeup and hair creatives fuss over the models. Plenty of selfies being taken and prepping for the first big night of Fashfest has everyone energised.

Behind the curtains is filled with an array of creative talent, which adds an invigorating energy to the scene. Around 200 hairdressers, makeup artists and students have created amazing art on the models faces, and hairstyles are perfection. Director of Makeup, Diana Cheetham is a freelance makeup artist and teacher at Canberra Makeup Academy. To the backstage crew’s surprise, Diana asked if we wanted our makeup done by her many makeup artists. As there was still time till the show, we shriek ‘yes!’ and get our re-glam.

Fashfest Producer, Steve Wright, guides backstage tours. It is an amazing chance to take a glimpse of the madness unfolding backstage. The groups come flocking in, eyes all wide and taking in information of the backstage insight. To add to the experience backstage, there is a role-play about dress changing the models, and how you need to be organised and quick. I believe this is the main aspect of being a backstager. You always need to be prepared, even if it is something you don’t expect to happen.

My role for tonight is to queue models on left side of stage. I have five sets coming from my side and memorised them over and over. This was the first night of Fashfest 2015 and I do not want to blow it. I wait and watch for Phoenix (right side queue) to give me the hand signal to wave the models though. I would have to say it is tremendous fun, music is blasting, and live music is incredible. It is a great feeling to be part of the runway. During my breaks from queuing I catch a glimpse of the madness unfolding backstage. Models and backstage crew are running around, dress changing and getting models into hair and makeup to get ready for next set. I literally see a dress change in milliseconds.

After the last set is done, there was a big feeling of energy. You can tell by the loud applause from the audience, we have done a successful event. Overall, being part of the day one has been thrilling. What an exhilarating start to Fashfest 2015!


Nick Ellis and Steve Wright pep talk before the show



Day 2

I arrive slightly earlier for the set up. Tonight is the night for gowns, feathers and hats. The hair is going to be big! Creative Director of Hair, Craig Rhodes and Director of Hair, Darren Jones create the most incredible hair looks for the evening. I watch them going around to every model being meticulousness and checking for any faults. And wow, if you look back on the photos their team did a great job. If there are any big events coming soon, you want to book in with these guys. They deliver perfection.

My role for tonight is to make sure the Rockstars and Royalty models are ready for the catwalk. Vicky Kidd-Gallichan is well-known in Canberra for her astonishing gowns. It is a pleasure to witness the designer’s creation before the runway. The gowns line up for tonight’s set are beyond remarkable. To give the dresses an authentic touch, real flowers are attached to the garments. Vicky collaborated with the professional florist designer, Fionna Tamin, from Peonynpearl. Both collaborators work seamlessly as a team. As I chat to Fionna, she mentions they met at a photo shoot and was later asked by Vicky to collaborate with her for Fashfest 2015.

Throughout the evening, Fionna concentrates on trimming and attaching fresh flowers on the gowns. Meanwhile I look out for my models coming off stage and rush them to get dressed first, then makeup. Rockstars and Royalty have no issues, they are ready for their set ahead of time. While the models line up in order, the hair directors fix any hairs poking out, and makeup artists touch up their lipsticks.

Then it is show time. Models walk out one by one on stage. You can feel the silence of admiration from the audience. It is a memorable and inspiring experience to witness the passionate designers faces gleam up at the sight of the models walking on stage. There is no doubt, women all across Canberra will be filling Vicky’s inbox with requests for their wedding and formal dresses. And Fionna will be a sought after florist with her creative flair.

Once the set was over, and the audience gave the grand applause, our Producer Steve Wright and co-producer Nick Ellis gathered all the behind the scene workers together. We all huddle to listen how we went. Steve confessed,” Since the 10 years Nick and I have been working together. This has been the best show I have ever been a part of!” The producers are super impressed and end the pep talk with. ‘Good night and lets break the internet’ An awe-inspiring night and resounding success for all involved.


Team members of Rockstars and Royalty ‘s show.



Day 3

Already day three, and I can’t believe how quickly the days have gone. As they say, time flies when your having fun! Knowing that day two went so well, there’s a sense of calmness in the backstage environment. But that only means we must make tonight even better. An hour before show time, Co-Producer Nick, gathers the models, designers and backstage crew for a pep talk. He exclaims again how last night was awesome, and we must rule the catwalk better than before. “Every body hands in! ”. Nick yells. “ 1, 2, 3 FASHFEST! ” everyone screams.

One hour before the show, we start getting the models in their outfits. The designer I assist is the lovely Jade Sargent from Sovata. The colours in her stunning collection consist of contrasting yellows, blues, oranges, purples and greens. The models walk with canes and elaborate millinery. Jade’s designs are unique and crafted beautifully. The models selected for Sovata’s outfits are to portray a strong woman in charge on the runway, with an elegant feminine touch.

It’s 9.00pm and the show has started. I have six models that need dress changes for tonight, however, I am so ready for another hectic night. I prepare myself to collect the models off stage. I’m told they must get dressed, then hair and makeup. While I wait for four models to arrive off the next set, I see three models run to Jade to get dressed, but then find out that I’m missing a model. I look around everywhere to see where she went, then finally find her in hair and make up. I hand her shoes to put on, but she is covered with hair and make up teams all around her. There are also photographers around snapping photos to capture the madness. It is a crazy sight to see, especially witnessing three-four makeup artists working as a team. She is the last model that needed to get changed, but time is really ticking to get her hair done. Finally, she runs over to Jade to get her outfit on. While Jade put on the outfit, I put the shoes on her feet. We then run to get models lined up at the catwalk for the last set.


Jade and her Sovata models


Feeling relieved we have all models dressed; we then need a makeup artist to re touch foundation and lipstick. Jade and Nick check every model, making sure they were runway perfect. Minutes later they strut down the catwalk and pose for the camera. The models in this set kill it. The poses look breathtaking, which you can see from the photos captured on the night. Jade looked so pleased watching her creative work go on show. It is truly fun to be a part of it.

After the show we help pack up, get congratulated for our efforts and go home to rest up for the final last day.

Another Rockstars and Royalty stunning creation and real floral hair piece

Day 4

The last night of Fashfest has arrived. I meet backstage will all the crew and we chat about our awesome experience helping with the chaos. There’s one hour till show time and it’s hard to contain our excitement. Nick jumps up on the tables thanking everyone for all our work and wishes everyone an awesome last show. We all huddle in for one last time and scream “FASHFEST!” at the count three. It’s a sad feeling knowing it will end tonight. I’m assigned to help with the Simone Perele models. I only need to make sure they lined up in the right order, so I’m in for a chilled night. Well that is until, I’m approached to help with the final set for Corr Blimey. Straightaway, I think ‘bring it on’. I only need to make sure that once models come off their set, they will be rushed to hair and makeup for dress changes.

The start of show comes around quickly. In the first set, I need to grab three models off the runway for the first dress change. After that was done, I rush to find the Simone Perele models which is set number three. I line the models up in order, while hair and makeup artists put the final touches to their look, then out they go. The Corr Blimey models are still in hair in makeup, but need to start lining up. The first model to walk out on the Corr Blimey set is still getting his hair done. And oh boy, they are cutting it close! There is only one minute left for the first model to get out of hair and makeup. Somehow the model manages to run to the start of the line on time and out they all walk out. “Phew!” is on everyone’s mind.

The last set is done and dusted. All that is left to do is for the whole backstage to join the grand finale walk. The backstage crew line up for our time to shine. Walking out to the crowd is energising. The audience are so pumped, which only makes me more elevated. The last people to come out on the grand finale runway are Producer Steve Wright , Co-producer Nick Ellis, Runway Manager Susie Ellis and right stage queue Phoenix Mae. They certainly ran the back of house and are a blast of fun to work with.

All the shows designers work for months to get their collection together and have one night to show it off. You appreciate the work they put in, and it has certainly paid off this year. It’s great to see Canberra has incredible talents in all areas of the fashion scene. I know next year, Fashfest is going to be bigger and better than ever before.

Signing off,
Mairi x

Did you go to Fashfest? Are you involved in fashion shows? What do you love most about it? Let us know by leaving a comment!

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