Friday, February 1, 2013

#2288 Throwback Thursday – Sneaking Backstage at Chanel Haute Couture

Karl Lagerfeld, Lara Stone and Baptise Giabiconi backstage at Chanel Haute Couture, July 2009.
Clothes fly in all directions. Hair and makeup artists rush to touch up and de-wig models as they sprint off the catwalk. A perfectly calm bride and groom stand chatting in a corner. I'm backstage at Chanel Haute Couture, the biggest show of the week, and it's all happening. Pre show, 70 photographers stood crammed into a tiny velvet-roped area. I was in front of New Zealander Michael Ng holding a heavy bag filled with equipment. The photographers were getting antsy. Normally they rush into a show venue the moment they arrive and stake claim on the best pieces of podium real estate. But not at Chanel. Chanel is the Fort Knox of fashion shows. Everything is controlled. Eight security guards policed a narrow entrance through which four airport-style metal detectors could be seen.

Finally the chief of security stepped forward. "Invitations, s'il vous plait!" 70 fed up men barged forward. "Invitations, S'IL VOUS PLAIT!" The security guard screamed. I stuck close to a particularly aggressive Italian and pushed as hard as I could. By some stroke of luck the the two guards to my left and right looked away as I stormed past the front door and through the metal detector. I was in.

I couldn't believe my luck. I'd penetrated the impenetrable fortress. I followed the photographers up to the podium and put the bag of camera gear down to mark a spot. Then the shouting started. "Move your ****ing box!" "You're blocking my lens!" "I'm going to stick this monopod up your ***!" Grown men, most over 40, screaming like furious, territorial teenagers. A couple of harsh words were thrown my way. I looked around for help and found backstage photographer Steve Wood waving at me from across the room. It was time to move.

"Are you coming backstage?" Steve asked, like only Steve can, as if he was enquiring whether or not I'd like to take a stroll in the park. I grabbed my usual prop - a one metre squared white sheet of cardboard (otherwise known as a reflector) and followed him down a set of stairs towards a gap in the curtain. "Walk slowly," Steve cautioned me. "Don't look like you're trying to get backstage."

We wandered through in an aimless fashion and found that we were behind the backstage tent. But waddaya know? So were the models. Sitting on a concrete plinth, smoking and chattering, were Sasha Pivovarova, Freja Beha, Abbey Lee and four other girls. "Look at this," Steve said, "we've been very lucky. Very lucky indeed."

Not one to miss a beat, Steve immediately set to work shooting beauty, while I held the reflector. The girls posed willingly and we made it through them all in a flash. A few metres on another group sat around. We shot them too - Vlada Roslyakova, Lara Stone, Magdalena Frackowiak, they were all there. A producer came out of the tent. "Girls, come now please! It's time!" We followed them inside. Nobody said a thing.

Steve and I helped ourselves to the catering while the models got dressed. A couple of minutes later we started shooting again. Then Karl Lagerfeld came in. Steve turned him round to pose with Lara Stone and Baptiste Giabiconi - the Couture bride and groom. He was mere inches away. I could have touched him. Instead, I snapped the above photo on my Blackberry for proof – rest assured it was duly inspected and approved by the man himself.

This post originally appeared on the blog on July 8, 2009. Each Thursday I'll plunder the archives for stories, photos and posts that haven't been seen for a few years. Think of it as Throwback Thursday, the Isaac Likes version.



Iñigo Abadía said...



isaaclikes said...


IAm Westie said...

Isaac AKA Covert Operative Extraordinaire :-)

jim said...

just read over 100 blog post this morning and this is by far the best read. somebody give this guy a book publishing deal.

isaaclikes said...


Lahiru Perera said...

Probably the best blogger living (:

passionforfashionphotography said...

Hey Issac, great story. I was just talking to a friend about getting back on the show circuit, must be Deja Vu! Mike Ng