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The road to the runway is a long one, but the finish — made possible in part by an invaluable nanny, a stock of Red Bull and bedtime massages — is nearly in sight. Here, two p.r. execs, two designers and one production guru show us how it’s done.


This story first appeared in the September 5, 2012 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

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With more than 50 runway shows behind her (fall 1985 was her first season), Donna Karan has fashion week down to a tee.

Do you still get nervous?
“I could probably be the most stressed I have ever been, but if I take that route, it would be the stupidest thing I could do — so I stay cool.”

Do you have a fashion week survival guide?
“Really simple: Nature. And that’s what the collection is all about. The atmosphere, life and something larger than this thing called ‘the fashion show.’ Also yoga, Pilates, juices, aromatherapy — but that’s normal life for me. I get a massage before I go to bed.”

When do you start prepping?
“Three months before. I start to design before the summer.”

What are you looking forward to this time?
“I show early, and I get to leave.”

Where to?
“I am going to be spending Rosh Hashanah in Los Angeles.”

Do you dread anything?
“It amazes me how I am a mess that morning of the show. I think it’s an old emotion that pops up. It’s like going to the dentist — you will never like it.”

What will you wear to your shows?
“Same thing I wear every day — my bodysuit, my skinny pants.”


NEXT: The New Designer >>


Marissa Webb, the former head of women’s design at J. Crew, is launching her own collection with her first presentation at Lincoln Center.

It’s your first show. When did you start prepping for it?
“Being that it’s a new label and company, there have been numerous things to tackle. We knew we wanted to do something for fashion week but didn’t really start working out the details until about two months ago.”

What are you most nervous about?
“I’m keeping myself busy enough to not have time to be nervous, but if I stop for a moment, I could find many things. My philosophy is to stay focused, allow myself to freak out for five minutes if necessary and then move on.”

What are you dreading?
“I’m staying positive. Negative thoughts and ‘dreading’ only slows me down and I do not have time for that.”

What will you do the night before your show?
“I’m sure I’ll be at the studio finishing up last-minute alterations and dealing with unexpected curveballs.”

What are three things you need to survive fashion week?
“My sugar fix, my amazing team and Red Bull.”

What will you wear to your show?
“My appearance is the last thing I’m focusing on right now. I usually don’t plan outfits until the last second. I could really use a haircut — but that won’t be happening!”


NEXT: The Production Guru >>


Julie Mannion, president of KCD, works as a producer and creative consultant during New York Fashion Week. Her clients include Tommy Hilfiger, Marc Jacobs, Tory Burch, Vera Wang, Marc by Marc Jacobs, Narciso Rodriguez, Reed Krakoff, Anna Sui, Ralph Lauren and Calvin Klein.

How many shows are you working on this season?
“Our agency handles 40 shows worldwide. I am more personally involved in 16.”

What are three things you need to survive fashion week?
“Stamina. Passion. An ever-accessible charger.”

When do you start prepping?
“I never stop preparing. As soon as one cycle finishes, we start on various aspects of the next season. The big picture starts three to five months out. Typically, we are fully engaged with locations, research, scheduling and budgeting at two months out through the final process.”

What are you most looking forward to this season?
“I genuinely get excited every time I see a new collection — I love the creative process. I love the planning, logistics and problem solving. I love the team effort and the shared feeling of pride with all for the designer on a great show. A great high…”

What are you dreading?
“The feeling of lack of time.”


NEXT: The P.R. Execs >>


This season, Vanessa von Bismarck and Carrie Ellen Phillips, partners at BPCM, are overseeing the shows for Wes Gordon, J. Crew, Rachel Zoe, Prism, Edun, Suno, Cushnie et Ochs, plus the United Colors of Benetton concept event and the Lady Gaga perfume launch.

What do you need to survive fashion week?
Vanessa von Bismarck: “My nanny, Carrie, and my new Original & Mineral [Original] Detox Shampoo, which picks me up in the morning.”
Carrie Ellen Phillips: “Nothing would be possible without our incredible team — and Vanessa to keep me sane — green juice and an iPhone charger.”

When do you start prepping?
“We started working on time slots and venues back in May, but really as soon as one show season is over, we start talking about strategy on how to improve for the next season.”

What are you most looking forward to?
“Our designers’ new collections and seeing everyone again after spending the summer in Europe on maternity leave.”
C.E.P.: “Thirteen years after starting the company, I am still like a little kid when it comes to seeing what our designers come up with each season. I am also pretty type A, so I love planning everything about the guest experience down to the label on an envelope.”

What will you wear to the shows?
“We are both excited about wearing color this season and supporting our CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund nominees, so expect lots of Suno, Wes Gordon and Jennifer Meyer. And we both took a hiatus from heels over the summer, so it’s time to pull the Atwoods out again.”