Frantic scenes behind London Fashion Week

Behind the scenes at London Fashion Week an army of make-up artists frantically apply finishing touches to models before they stride out onto the catwalk.

Behind the scenes at London Fashion Week an army of make-up artists frantically apply finishing touches to models before they stride out onto the catwalk.

Time is running out before Turkish designer Bora Aksu’s show and the models are not yet ready to face the flashbulbs.

“We need everyone to speed up!” shouted Janeen Witherspoon, the chief make-up artist. She is firm and authoritative but betrays no sign of nerves or stress, having been here countless times before.

The Irish Canadian, who works in the shadows to bring the magic to the catwalk, knows her job and keeps a cool head. Hairdressers, junior make-up artists, photographers, producers, dressers, stylists, technicians and other members of the backstage team are dashing about around her.

The make-up tables bear large mirrors fringed with lightbulbs, where the models, wearing Aksu’s outfits, or partially undressed, sit patiently, indifferent to the whirlwind around them.


Make-up artist Janeen Witherspoon works on a model’s hair backstage ahead of the catwalk show by Turkish designer Bora Aksu at London Fashion Week.

The clock is against them: they are due to present London-based Aksu’s spring-summer 2018 collection in under an hour.

“We’re always up against the time,” Witherspoon said, skilfully flying her brush across a young model’s face. “There’s always a lot to do with make-up. We may have girls coming from other shows and they have a full face of make-up and we have to get that off and do the new look.”

Running a team of 10 make-up artists, Witherspoon is charged with transforming the faces of around 20 young female models about to step into the spotlight.In keeping with Aksu’s collection, she uses a make-up style inspired by Maude Fealy, a US silent movie actress famed for her beauty. Each model’s make-up takes around 15 minutes, and besides applying it herself, Witherspoon checks and signs off on the work of each of her make-up artists.

“I’m sort of the conductor, and it’s about my team and having all of them very close to me. They all understand me and they know how it works. It’s about me going in and taking control,” she said.

“It’s quite relaxing,” Birthe Harms, an 18-year-old German model with blue-grey eyes and long, straight brown hair, said of getting her make-up done.

“I think about the show and try to prepare myself.”


Behind the scenes at London Fashion Week, make-up artists apply the finishing touches to the models before they stride out onto the catwalk.

With the show about to start, Aksu rounds up the troops, the models queueing in single file ready to hit the stage. Leaving the tables, the make-up artists take up their palettes and continue working on the models seconds before they march out.

Claudia Savage, 32, one of the team, said: “It’s very exciting. It can be tough but it’s enjoyable.

“It’s adventurous, it’s creative, it’s fun. It can be very stressful at times and very challenging. But to do a job that you love, you don’t feel like working.”

Right on time, the show starts. And the make-up team can breathe at last. Mission accomplished.

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