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Meet Jesse Smiley, the public relations every-person for New York-based menswear label Buckler. Racked trailed Jesse (pictured above with Christina Gould of Factory PR) around backstage as he and his team prepare for Friday afternoon's spring/summer 2011 presentation at Lincoln Center's Box. We found him mostly calm, his boss Andrew Buckler welcoming and cool under pressure, and their models looking great—if not exactly fantastic at following simple directions. Read on for a minute-by-minute-ish outsider take on the action.
11:37: Just got out of Duckie Brown and trying to figure out how and where to get backstage to meet Jesse—Lincoln Center's uniformed information and crowd control guys are not being totally helpful. Several texts between us and Christina from Factory later we hook up, we meet her interns, we get a straight answer out of some guy with an earpiece, and we start our trek outside-inside-around-over.
11:50: We make it backstage after Christina nearly face-plants in her heels on Lincoln Center's treacherous series of ramps.
11:55: We find Jesse. He is dealing with shoes: "[The models] can keep the shoes but make sure you get all the risers back!" He looks at us, we're cracking up. "What?" he says, "Some of the models are short!"
12:01: Some publicist issues ensue but things are more or less in control.
12:05: We meet Buckler's Canadian head of publicity, April Wozny. She notes that three or four of the models haven't shown up yet but only two are actually late for their call times.
12:07: Oh, there's designer Andrew Buckler—we have time to chat for a few minutes. We ask the question that's pretty much on everyone's mind: "How do you feel about Lincoln Center?" More specifically, why Lincoln Center? Buckler hadn't been showing at the Mercedes Benz Fashion Week tents before, so why here, why now?
"The new thing is always, like, interesting," he says, "Lincoln Center is the cultural center of New York—It's like the Louvre." Plus, "it's the first season" here at Lincoln Center so—paraphrasing—why not? Plus, it's "the first time [there's an official] presentation space... We don't feel like we're ready for a show just yet." He was delightful, but also swamped—so we let him get on with his business.
12:11: We've just been informed that each model will be required to wear Buckler's Sexy Bastard underwear—not that anyone will be able to see it. We hope they get to keep the skivvies along with the riser-less shoes.
12:13: NBC's LX New York just got here—host Maria Sansone is majorly loving the male models: "I found the boys of Fashion Week!" "Hot damn I came to the right place! I came to the underwear show!" In the midst of gushing she also discovers that a handful of the models on hand are total Fashion Week-slash-fashion-show virgins—not that you'd ever know. They all seem pretty over the whole charade.
12:15: Backstage is getting packed. Someone supplemented the table of tiny sandwiches, Pepsi and Pop Chips with some very pretty macaroons. And, oh, if you don't think male models are encrusted in make-up, well, think again.
12:20: Everyone is connected to each other via a series of earpieces and their Blackberrys. We can't even get directions on ours.
12:21: Jesse has a moment—we accost him: "How late did you work last night?"
"What have you eaten today?"
"Coffee. Iced cappucino and a chocolate biscotti."
"How are you? Okay? Stressed?"
His answer consists of a nostril flare and a widening of eyes.
12:24: Two models are still missing. "Were they walking at Duckie Brown?" Jesse's "maybe" was accompanied by a grimace. Let's change the subject! "Expecting any names?" Why yes, Britsh actor Oliver Jackson-Cohen and Olympic medalist Tim Morehouse. Funny story re: Jackson-Cohen: After his fitting—he'll be wearing Buckler, of course—Jesse met his sister, another publicity director. She's at Alexis Bittar. Their lunch date is forthcoming; she's coming to the show.
12:26: LOLOLOLOLOL: Jesse tries to eat a mini-sandwich, realizes there are photographers everywhere, and ping pongs around fruitlessly trying to avoid being photographed while eating. Meanwhile, with 64 minutes to showtime, Fashion Week staffers are still painting over scuffs on the runway with a Dixie cup of white paint.
12:30: The show is in an hour and the space does not look ready—how many staffers does it take to screen a logo to a runway backdrop? Well, four, actually—all currently and collectively branding that white wall.
12:32: Hey, brand-spotting! Models and backstagers are currently wearing G-Star, Cheap Monday, Chanel, Converse, Birkenstock, Hermès, Dr. Marten's, Louis Vuitton, Yves Saint Laurent (vintage), Christian Louboutin, Superdry, Vans, Red Wing, Levi's, Nike, Old Navy, lots of Buckler (duh), and tee shirts emblazoned with "Let It Bleed" imagery, Batman and Snoopy. We're alone in wearing Viktor & Rolf (per usual).
12:35: A few of the earlier models begin dressing, hiding behind a scrim to pop on those briefs. A few girls with backstage passes are slithering around trying to see what's happening behind the paper.
12:40: Just about the only time Jesse sort of loses his cool for two seconds is—understandably—a short rant on show production and exactly who is doing what.
12:44: A bit of confusion between us and Jesse: "Do you need to go to the bathroom?"
"Do you need to go to the bathroom or anything? Do you need your pass?"
"Like, do you need your pass?"
"Uh, right now? No, I don't need to go to the bathroom."
"Then can I have your pass?"
"Do you need to go to the bathroom?"
"No, I mean, if you don't need it right now I'm going to take it."
"Oh. To get to the bathroom?"
"No. To get someone else back here."
"Oh." It was an exhausting exchange and considering there were probably already close to ten professional photographers and videographers backstage we weren't sure who else needed access—but we surrendered our pass.
12:45: A model with very curly hair is getting his hair curled. Another is drinking a Pepsi (not Diet Pepsi!) We're sick of models so we went to fondle the clothes, a Bauhaus-themed inspiration board, and the looks. All cute! There's a navy crew-neck sweater with a breast pocket and trimmed in red and white stripes. We're already planning on wearing that to February's show.
12:50: Gino Taverino, model wrangler, is one of those people who can really seriously whistle. It took little more than that to garner the entire room's attention and gather the models—texting, snacking, chatting, two were even reading!—for a run-through. Taverino's like a fashion Pied Piper. We watched as he and Andrew began the not-easy process of getting 20-odd inattentive, attractive and very young dudes to follow basic instructions. The scene was both comical and slightly tragic and we couldn't help but wonder if some of the boys even had it in them to actually pause and count all the way to three at the end of the catwalk. Their names were all so perfectly model-y—Franklin, Sebastian, Miles ("with the short hair"—two guys named Miles?), Lucho, Sergei, Sasha, Trevor.
12:57: With 33 minutes and counting the lights were turned down and the music turned up for a first full run-through and, well, the models had no idea what they were doing. In their defense it was kind of complicated—sitting and steps and alternating were all involved. We asked Jesse how he was doing as he appears pretty unimpressed. He replies with an eye roll.
1:00: OMIGOD crazy dancing psycho model from February's Billy Reid show is here! How is this guy getting work? He's humming a march right now and jigging and jumping about and some of the other boys are clearly petrified.
1:07: Returning backstage we find the food pretty much wiped out and photographers mounting chairs to photograph straggling models (the tall ones who don't need risers).
1:09: Time to really get dressed, guys.
1:14: Mayhem as the boys all sign their releases at once—April is seriously trapped in a sea of semi-dressed male models. Some might dream of such a situation but she appears frazzled.
1:17: Patrick McDonald is backstage and wearing purple pinstripes and matching Paul Smith wingtips. As soon as we start talking to him all the photographers realize he is someone and a deluge of camera flashes ensue for several minutes. We chat about his "50 pairs of unworn shoes" and the fact that the one bedroom in his apartment now sleeps rolling racks of clothes while he sleeps in the living room.
1:20: "TEN MINUTES! WE NEED ALL RELEASES!"
1:22: Per April, guests are being allowed in—we go check out the scene.
1:29: Guests are pretty much assembled—we spot Tim Morehouse and menswear mavens from Bergdorf Goodman, GQ, Details, Esquire, T, the list goes on ?
1:31: Models are lining up and getting touched up—a brush of foundation, a tweaked cuff.
1:34: And we're off—basically right on time. Straggling VIPs are ushered up to the front lines and cameras are popping.
1:42: Backstage is pretty much a ghost town minus some chatting stylists and a few interns cleaning up the ravaged food trays.
1:55: A goodbye hug and a thank you to Jesse—we're off to Costello Tagliapietra.
All photos by Randy Ceballos for Racked.com