A stylist on what it takes to put together a MBFWA show

Words by Fashion Journal

Photography by Maddie Roux

Blood, sweat and tears.

Countless people work tirelessly behind the scenes to make each MBFWA runway happen. We had backstage chat with stylist Jana Bartolo at BLAIRARCHIBALD (pictured above) to find out what it takes to put on a successful show.

Congrats on a great show. Can you tell us a little about BLAIRARCHIBALD?

BLAIRARCHIBALD is a Melbourne-based contemporary menswear label that explores the relationship between soft tailoring, sportswear and workwear. Each style is developed with timelessness in mind, with the intention that the wearer will have the garment for many years.

In terms of the styling process, can you talk us through your role in the lead-up to the show?

There’s a lot of prep work involved. The stylist’s job is to bring the designer’s vision to life – this includes sourcing the appropriate accessories and footwear and being responsible for the overall creative direction of the show. I’ll review the designs and the overall theme, and together with the designer come up with looks that are cohesive. As a stylist, you need to keep the designer’s intentions in mind, while also making things visually interesting and enticing for the show’s audience.

We also work with the hair and makeup directors and do a trial to ensure everything is in keeping with the direction of the wardrobe.

How creative do you get to be when putting looks together?

I try to have fun with it and play around with the way looks are styled. Sometimes I’ll introduce new ways to wear garments that the designer may not have originally intended – it keeps things fresh and fun. 

How do you go about choosing accessories?

Choosing accessories needs to be something that is complementary to the direction and feeling we want to channel for the show. Blair focuses on the sustainable aspect of his clothing, so sustainability was something we wanted to consider when working with the accessories.

For Blair’s show, we worked with Never Never, who individually created hand-carved jewellery. The inspiration all stemmed from mother nature. The brand created sterling silver chains with an oxidised finish (to create a weathered/worn appearance ), which we clipped on the model’s belts and rings.

Eyewear was supplied by Ahlem – the brand’s style is really conceptual, with details such as no bridges on the noses and all pieces are entirely handmade. Seeing as we were putting the runway on during resort showings, having an eyewear brand added a nice summery touch.

Birkenstocks supplied us with premium sandals to help channel resort vibes. 

What actually happens behind the scenes on show day?

Usually, the call time is about four hours before the show itself. We bump in, meet the head dresser and introduce ourselves to an army of 20 or so volunteers. These guys are so helpful on show day, and without them, the runway wouldn’t be possible.

We then make sure the accessories and outfits are appropriately assembled and ready for models to jump into before walking down the runway.

The last touches before showtime involve pressing, steaming and hemming clothes.

What’s the atmosphere like backstage?

Well, first of all, it’s a lot of fun. But the biggest challenge is usually managing time restrictions. Coordinating outfit changes and making sure the show runs smoothly is stressful, but it’s also so rewarding when you’re working with a great team.

Does the work finish on show day?

Usually the lead-up prep is the majority of the work, and once the show is over, we get to sit down together and assess how it went. You generally don’t get a chance to watch the show while you’re in the midst of the backstage frenzy, so it’s nice to come together and see what you’ve created.

Following that, there’s sometimes an opportunity to continue working with the designer on future projects and lookbooks.

What’s the best thing about styling at MBFWA?

The atmosphere, the amazing photographs from the runway, the chance to work with great local talent, and of course seeing all your hard work come to fruition. 

And the worst bit?

Definitely the late nights and not sleeping. But it’s honestly all worth it when you have a successful show.

What’s next for you?

Quite a bit! I’m working with a few musicians at the moment who are on tour, including Vera Blue.


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