In our new WGSN series we’re interviewing fashion and beauty powerhouses: here’s Erin Arai talking about fashion week and her day-to-day role.
We’re in the heart of NYFW, when the city comes alive with shows, talented designers and their teams, plus beauty gurus. And then there’s all those who work behind the scenes to make the shows come together.
We caught up with Erin Arai, from haircare line Bumble and bumble, where she works as the Assistant Manager, Stylist Relations and Production. Here she talks through her typical day, and offers advice on how to make it in her industry.
You are the main contact for Bumble’s production and fashion relations during fashion week, what’s a typical day like when the shows are on? And how much coffee is consumed?
A typical day during fashion week often involves working around the clock – either backstage at shows or glued to my computer ironing out logistics. I generally wake up as early as possible and check my phone to tend to emails and texts from hairstylists, producers, designers, etcetera, etcetera. Depending on how many shows we have, I’ll split my day working backstage with the hair team (as their professional model wrangler and backstage coordinator) and under the glow of my computer finalising our schedules and getting organised for the following day’s shows and hair tests. It’s really just a lot of trouble shooting and logistics on my end. A few seasons back we emptied out one of our filing cabinet drawers and made it an official snack drawer, so we’re set with food in case things are really crazy and there’s little time for meals.
As far as caffeine consumption goes, I’m not one to handle my coffee well – a strong cup could keep me up for days – but during Fashion Week we’re all pretty sleep deprived so I drink the stuff religiously. I’ll grab a cup anywhere I can find one. Seriously anywhere. I’ve had some disgusting coffee backstage, but anything will do the trick!
How many shows a season do you work on?
We generally do 15-20 shows in New York.
Did you always plan to work in beauty marketing?
I’ve always loved fashion and production, so it’s a really natural fit for me. I can’t say that I even knew my job existed when I graduated college, but I absolutely love what I do!
Which internship or previous role really helped you learn the skills you need for this role?
When I first came to Bumble and bumble I actually worked in Global Marketing. I had freelanced during New York Fashion Week in the past, so when I found out that Bumble and bumble had a backstage hair team I immediately volunteered to help out on the shows. I helped the team out for four seasons doing day-of coordination before my current position became available. At that point it was a no-brainer; I was already working backstage as much as I possibly could!
How has social media influenced or changed the remit of your role?
Social media has added another layer of complexity to the entire Fashion Week beast. I manage the hair team and their schedules, while the rest of the Global Communications team manages all press and social engagement. The past couple of seasons we’ve been focused on creating more content – both internally with our social team at Bumble and bumble and also externally with media and social influencers. We’ve been squeezing in Facebook Live How To’s, Snapchat and Instagram takeovers and lots of great collaborations. It really is a win-win for everyone, if not a little extra work and organisation. But in the end, the work our hair team does during Fashion Week is so inspiring; it’s a beautiful thing that we can bring it to life with the immediacy of social media.
How early before the shows in September and February do you start planning marketing activities?
It seems like it starts earlier and earlier every year! We usually begin conversations with producers and designers 3 months out, but everything really comes together in that final month before the show.
How fun is it to work with creative hair stylists and talents? What do they teach you about hair but also about the industry?
It is the most fun. I am constantly inspired by the brilliant work of the lead hairstylists, our backstage hair team, and everyone who is part of the process. Our Global Artistic Director, Laurent Philippon keys a number of shows in New York and Paris, and he is constantly emphasising the true collective effort of a fashion show. The designers, producers, hairstylists, makeup artists, stylists, (etcetera, etcetera) all collaborate together and pour so much passion and energy into each show. Fashion shows are the output of so many diverse talents and the truly symbiotic relationship between them.
Favourite fashion week moment?
I love working backstage at the shows. There’s a moment at the very end of the show when the last model returns from the finale walk, the designer has taken their bow, and the backstage just erupts into applause. It’s this beautiful communal celebration that the entire team shares. Everyone from the models to the lighting techs to the hair team is high-fiving and clapping and breathing one enormous collective sigh of relief because “we did it!”
Snack and beverage that will keep you motivated through the week?
Coffee! Since I don’t always drink it, I really enjoy the rush of caffeine. There’s a shop across the street from House of Bumble on 9th Avenue called Kobrick and they make a devilishly strong cold brew. I’m excited to have one this week…but a little scared, too. (It’s really strong.)
3 tips or advice to anyone trying to get your job?
I don’t necessarily have three tips, but I think it’s all about getting your foot in the door. Get backstage experience. Volunteer and freelance opportunities abound during Fashion Week, so seek out an opportunity to work backstage. As a dresser or work with production, casting, anything! I freelanced with a production agency five years ago and I’ve been working the shows ever since!
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