An interview with the designer Cana Klebanoff.
Phipps: Our hour is almost up. My last question: So, one of the places we were, I said that if you were a photographer, two things you would discover, two things that really contribute to having a successful runway show are good show-lighting and a good model. Maybe those aren't much of a surprise, but the kind of simplicity of it is what surprised me. From my perspective as a photographer, it's something I learned, how much it matters, and I didn't learn that until I actually was a photographer, is what I'm trying to get at. So tell me something like that which I wouldn't know if I wasn't a designer. From a designer's perspective, what's a secret like that. Cana, what is something you have discovered, only from being inside as a designer, about having a successful show?
Klebanoff: From my perspective, definitely the communication. Communication with the people around you. It is much more important than just your garments itself. And the reason I'm saying that is since, without great communication, without being a team-player, models can walk out on you. Dressers can walk out on you. Your hair and makeup people can not only screw up your looks but they can walk out on you as well. So that's the huge thing, communication. So at least everyone knows that, not only are you on the same page, but you're actually there to help and to work and not to sabotage anything.
Phipps: Oh that's exactly, exactly the kind of thing I'm talking about. It seems obvious. You know, you say "communication", and someone would say "well, of course". But it's not something you realize, it's not something you would specifically stress I think until you actually do it, live it.
Klebanoff: I tell the people I work with, anytime I'm out of line, just please let me know. I won't take it personally. But just keep in mind it's a lot of work. Just as long as we're on the same page. As long as you're able to work well with others, that's the huge thing. If you can't work well with the models they can walk out on you, and some of them are not being paid.
Phipps: Your last show was SNOW, did you pay any of the models?
Klebanoff: We did not.
Phipps: Did they get garments?
Phipps: It reflects what I think the San Francisco market is. It's a smaller market. And I didn't tell you this, but the designers have a lot of power in this market.
Klebanoff: I didn't realize that either. I definitely never abused it. That's what I always tell my models, walk out whenever you want. And it's not like every time we put out a show, the models don't get paid. For SNOW they knew ahead of time, and volunteered.
Phipps: You got an outstanding lineup of models.
Klebanoff: We were lucky.
Phipps: No, I don't think you were lucky. I think it reflects that SNOW is a relatively important show here. It's a prestige show, and there aren't many prestige shows here.
Klebanoff: Because Joseph has such good communication with so many people, that was how he was able to get a lot of the agency models.
Phipps: You got models from FORD, from the major agencies.
Klebanoff: We did.
Phipps: I was really impressed with the models. And Cana, also I think I owe you some thanks, right? I believe you also put in a word for me, which got me into SNOW, as one of the photographers. Thank you again for that.
Klebanoff: Not a problem. Because I like the work.
Phipps: So I mentioned photographers shooting flash on the runway, and I'll share what I thought was an amusing story from L.A. Fashion Week. Shooting flash for runway, I've talked about it derisively. So. Los Angeles Fashion Week. And first of all, there is a huge Photographers Pit. Four and even five rows, stacked, stepped. Guys standing on ladders. We were packed in so tightly for some shows, I literally, literally could not move in any direction, left, right, front, back. We were packed in that tightly, with people pressing into you, like we were in a crowded elevator. We're like this growling condensed mob. And there are a lot of us. So. The policy in the Photo Pit is "No Flash", no flash in the Photo Pit. Thank goodness. But some people in the audience would use flash to shoot the models as they came out, as the models came down the runway. The audience would. And some of the photographers would yell out, and I mean yell with hostility, "NO FLASH!" As soon as there was a flash. NO FLASH!! And I mean sometimes with real hostility. Real hostility. And if the models were walking out of the center of the runway, one or more of the photographers would yell, "CENTER!" They would yell it at the models. While they were walking. Or more charitably, "to" the models, I guess. But I just couldn't believe it! Honestly, I was a little bit mortified. And I mean, yelling at the designer's audience! Wow!
At Black V. Photograph by the author.
Klebanoff: I don't find it so surprising because I think that's why they stopped doing that whole thing. Photographers on the side of the runway. Photographers would literally stick their camera out onto the runway, and the models would have to try to walk over it. So I'm not surprised. And photographers, they're there for a job. I'm not saying all of them are like that, but there are some of them, they don't even want to be there. They don't even like fashion. They're just there to get the shot and go.
Phipps: Oh, yes. Yes, it's also what surprised me. I would talk to some of these photographers, and they seemed to have no interest in fashion. They didn't follow it at all, they didn't know designers or models, or seem to care. I couldn't understand why they were there.
Klebanoff: Off the record, like this is off the record.
Phipps: Okay. Going off the record.
If you liked this article, you might also like:
• Farewell Fantastic Venus. An interview with the designer Ilanio.
• An interview with the designer Oliver Tolentino.
Links and More Information:
→ Cana Klebanoff
→ FAMAMOCA's coverage of SNOW 2012
→ FAMAMOCA's coverage of Evening of Hope 2011
→ Joseph Domingo
→ SFBAfn, the San Francisco Bay Area Fashion Network
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