Sara Blonstein outside the House of Grazia
Sara Blonstein has been organising and producing catwalk shows for 26 years at London Fashion week and its safe to say that she has seen pretty much everything you could see at a fashion show by now. She came to the House Of Grazia on Monday afternoon, fresh from having staged the very prestigious and glitzy Woolmark Prize awards ceremony over the weekend, with Victoria Beckham in the judging seat.
Sara sets the scene; 'We had our hands full with a very heavyweight judging panel of Donatella Versace, Diane von Furstenberg, Victoria Beckham as well as industry insiders Nathalie Massanet of Net A Porter, journalist Tim Blanks and [friend of Grazia], Harvey Nichols' Paula Reed. None of the judges were able to come and rehearse at the same time during the day so we had to drill each of them individually.'
Natalie Massenet, Victoria Beckham, Diane von Furstenberg and Donatella Versace judge the Woolmark prize
About the ceremony itself; 'The Woolmark Prize is a very very prestigious event - Woolmark is a global behind-the-scenes company which promotes the use and sale of wool worldwide and in the past the prize for best designer has been awarded to both Karl Lagerfeld and Yves Saint Laurent (years ago) - so they are now bringing that back. The idea is that it was a show and an awards ceremony and party.'
Though everything went according to plan on the night, Sara still admits; 'The whole thing was so stressful - with the number of models and complex choreography and also not much rehersal time - so throughout the whole thing I was on edge, waiting to see if all our hard work would pay off. We had 36 models - which was a lot. Especially to get at the last minute, since one of our agencies couldn't come through, so we had to change plans at the last minute and we had very little time to rehearse the models' choreography. Extremely nervewracking!'
Sara on how she got into the business; 'I started as a stylist, and I was working with pop stars like Bros, then Sigue Sigue Sputnik and people like that, travelling around and dressing them up. The first show that I actually was a fashion show with Hussein Chalayan at the Truman Brewery in East London about 26 years ago. Then I met Lulu Kennedy who I've worked with ever since - and produced almost every Fashion East show for 16 seasons.'
On what Blonstein actually do: 'We go into venues that have no set-up for a show, and bring in everything - power, if necessary toilets, the runways and lights - we’ll do everything to make the venue ready and stage the show so the clients presentation comes out slick and professional. Most of the guests never know how much happens behind the scenes '.
'There's such a big team and delegation is everything. Lighting, crew, PR people - is delegated because you can't hold it all in your head.
Really we're creating a blank space for the fashion to sing. Sexy but blank and it has to have a nice atmosphere for the designers and the clothes to shine through - if you know what I mean. We can't have anything that will distract from the collection'.
With Grazia's Editor at Large, Angela in the Matches house
A few seasons ago Blonstein were the company that 'made the TOPSHOP space at the deserted Eurostar terminal - we were thrilled to get it. It was so expensive but Phillip Green insisted, and he paid for it. It was a beautiful light, clean space with a huge high glass roof. But it wasn't easy to secure becuase it was a railway, it had all the rails - and the lines were live! So we had to have big danger signs everywhere saying don't step on the lines or you might die!'
'That space was huge though and a long distance to walk from one side to the other. By the end of the fashion week I'd walked so much that when I went to get a pedicure my feet were so bruised and swollen it was like someone had been hitting me with a stick or something. But that's how much we'd walked, and how long we'd been on our feet.'
Mary Katrantzou's finale at the TOPSHOP show space at the Eurostar
What has changed over the years of working at London Fashion Week; 'In the last 15 years at LFW - things have changed. Health and safety has changed. You can't hold a show without adequate fire safety exits and things like that. In the old days you could go anywhere in London, even in unknown small spaces. Some of the biggest editors don’t like to go South of the river [Thames] so having shows in South London is less popular now.'
'Plus these days there are more shows and the traffic is worse so you can't go to the mad venues in the back of beyond - that's over, really'
On other events that Blonstein put on; 'We did a party at the top of the Shard last year - we thought we'd cover everything in mirrors - amazing at the top of the tallest building in Europe. A real, honest to goodness glamorous party. And we got in there before anyone else . . .
'We also held a huge premiere and afterparty for the Snow White and the Huntsman movie - and the cast with Kristen Stewart and Charlize Theron dancing the night away - till 4am with so many dwarves dirty dancing. Really dirty dancing. Now that sight is something I'll never forget'