photographing the world outside the fashion show
Stumbling upon the wild atmosphere outside of fashion show by chance, an Italian photographer made it his mission to create a humorous document of the people, paparazzi, fashionistas, and street style stars who turn the sidewalk into catwalk.
What happens outside of fashion shows is just as exciting as what goes on inside: the strutting peacocks tailed by hoards of photographers, the flash of cameras, the desperation to get in, the desperation to be seen, the outrageous looks, the weird looks from the general public. It's a strange, singular, hyper-real situation.
If anyone knows about the strange, singular, and hyper-real, it's Italian photographer Pierfrancesco Celada, who has spent much of his career documenting the strange surrealness of the cities we live in — from the frightening loneliness of megacities in the Far East, where the landscape emotionally dwarfs the people who live in them. He's shot the landscapes of Tokyo, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Seoul. But, on a break back in his native Milan, he stumbled upon the crowd pouring out of a fashion week event and turned his lens on them. An outsider, his images reveal something candid and funny about the fashion circus.
Can you remember your first encounter with the fashion pack outside a show? Was it by accident? What were you initial thoughts?
Before starting this project I didn't know much about fashion, I've never really had a particular interest in it or followed its trends. So I started working on this series out of pure curiosity; I wanted to understand a fashion week's impact on the city and its people in the European fashion capitals. I've always considered my unfamiliarity with the fashion world as an advantage: a way to analyze this system with a fresh eye, unaware of its rules, players, and influences.
When did you start shooting the series?
My first encounter with fashion week was about three years ago; at that time I wanted to take a break from my ongoing research documenting living conditions in the largest megacities of the world. I begun this new project in my home city, Milan. Since then I've followed and documented the interactions outside the venues of the most important fashion shows in Europe.
Would you describe your approach to it as an outsider? Is that why some of the images have a layer of humor to them? You can find the odd and surreal that maybe some more involved in the fashion industry wouldn't.
I initially approached the topic without really knowing what was going on. I tried to react to the situations as they were developing in front of me — perhaps looking for the contradictions and interactions between the city, fashionistas, photographers, paparazzi, and passersby. Over time, my perception may have changed; I'm more aware of the key players and rules, but I still like to think of my self as an "outsider" — still looking for situations that insiders perhaps don't see, or don't want to be seen.
What were the photographers like? Did you build up a relationship with them? Did they mind being photographed?
The photographers outside the venues are the ones that most clearly animate the "before" and "after" each show, often working and moving together as a single unit. Down the years I have met several fellow photographers. I've befriended some and argued with others, but I think I've mostly being ignored; I've never had any problems pointing my camera towards them and I am sure I've been photographed, too.
What did you make of the street style stars and the members of the fashion industry who the photographers were trying to get pictures of? A few make their way into your images.
It took me several seasons to begin to recognize the key players, but I am still fairly unresponsive to their presence. I am not interested in the products they wear; I am attracted to the overall dynamics, expressions, movements, interactions, and contradictions.
What are your favorite images from the series?
I like the ones where you can perceive a clear distance between who is in and who is not but would like to be. And also those pictures where the "subject" is the multitude — a group of people erratically running in every directions, some trying to get the desired shot, some trying to be seen, some simply trying to belong.
What did you learn about the fashion industry from shooting outside the shows?
I've learned to recognize a few faces, styles, and dynamics. I am more aware of certain brands but I still don't understand most of it. I still have the necessary curiosity to continue the project in the seasons to come. Especially at these times, when the current, often considered dated, fashion week format is being challenged.
Text Felix Petty
Photography Pierfrancesco Celada