Behind the Scenes: The DAAP Fashion Show

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The DAAP Fashion Show is a legendary event around these parts. Every Spring, seniors in the University of Cincinnati’s Fashion Design program present their collections in the biggest runway show of the year–and the work that goes into producing that show is a huge undertaking. I got in touch with DAAP Fashion Show Director and Producer Laurie Wilson to see just what goes on behind the scenes in preparation for the big night.

Racks on racks on racks: behind the scenes in the fit studio

What’s your official title?

Associate Director of Non-Academic Programming and Adjunct Instructor.

I serve as the DAAP Fashion Show Director and Producer. I have also had my own consulting and production company since 1999 and am now on staff at DAAP.

How long have you been working with DAAP?

I’ve worked with DAAP as a consultant for 16 years–and have been producing the runway show each year.

Cincinnati DAAP Fashion Show

Tell me about the fashion show production process: when do you start preparing and what are the various steps?

This question is a big one! We really begin preparing for the next year’s show right after the show is finished at the end of Spring Semester. We have a debrief meeting right after the event to make sure we take note of things we want to stop, start or continue for the next year.

During Fall semester we begin talking about our next year’s event, and I begin reaching out to resources for things we want to include. Macy’s is our presenting sponsor, so we make sure we incorporate them every step of the way.

By January, “The Show” is a part of our everyday conversation. We send out Save the Date emails in early February, in March we hold an open model call for the show, and in April the students complete their designs and their pieces. Then we await the critique, which is the first time I get to see any of the clothes. There is so much that cannot be done until the final weeks before the event!

All this time we are also working on the show program, which is the printed piece that every guest receives.

 Show producer Laurie Wilson fits a model in a custom design

During show week we load into the Campus Recreation Center. I spend several days putting the looks in order, determining how we want to “tell the story” of this year’s designs. We fit over 30 models to make sure they can fit the garments, plan the choreography for each collection, and make this show SHINE!

On the day before the show we do what is called a tech rehearsal, where we block the collections, practice the runway portion—there’s an 88-foot catwalk, the longest in the region—and the models begin to learn the show. That night we open the doors for what we call the Reality Rehearsal Experience, which gives us a chance to work out all of the kinks before the big night.

Then, on the day of the show, we fill the goodie bags, put all of the programs on 1,500 chairs, set the dressing room, and Aveda Fredric’s Institute has a team of 40-plus hair and makeup artists that come and transform the models for the runway. Meanwhile, the Center Court Café is transformed into a festive atmosphere for the after party.

Finally the pre-party begins, and the doors open for the show. We have over 150 people behind the scenes working to put this show on!

What’s new for this year?

Well, each year the show is brand new because every garment is a new creation. Another great new element this year is our stage set and lighting design coming from the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music team. We’re so excited to see how they transform our space!

What will you do to relax after this year’s show is over?

I really miss my time with my family leading up to the show.  I’ve done it for so long that it is part of our life, but I look forward to time with them. My nephew—who is like a son to us—is getting married the day after the show, and the week after, we do the Go Red! Event, two other fashion shows, and then it is my daughter’s senior prom. “Relax” has very rarely been part of my vocabulary!   -T.S. & J.I.


I had a chance to visit DAAP to meet some of the student designers and see what goes into putting this event together, and let me tell you, you should get your tickets for this year’s show NOW! All next week, we’ll be profiling talented young designers each day leading up to the show on April 25th. Be sure to follow Cincinnati Magazine on Facebook and @cincinnatimag on Twitter so you don’t miss anything!

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