A Beginners guide to surviving your first New York Fashion Week Show


I remember the first time I came to New York City & accidentally walking by The Lincoln Center where NYFW was happening. It was loud, hectic, crowed and incredible! Its something I never got to experience while living in Boston. My only plan that day was to drop off my stack of resumes to every single Mac location that I can find. To make my situation harder, the first two jobs I listed on my resume were “Rock Climbing Instructor” & “Freelance Photographer”

I remember that day very clearly. A person dressed in all back with a Mac roller case that had light up wheels running towards me heading to the entrance. She bumped into me and apologized. She introduced herself to me she was a makeup artist running to her next show. At that moment I told myself that one day I want to be there doing makeup.

Two years later I achieved that goal. Today as I am typing this article I am going on my 8th season of NYFW. I am very happy to have people and brands that continuously support me and give me the opportunities that I have today.

Trust me if a random straight guy from a small town in Massachusettes (that could never get a call back from a tiny Mac Counter inside a local Macy’s) can support NYFW then you can too. P.S. they did say “you don’t have any qualifications”.

I am hoping this guideline can give you an inside look on what to expect for your first NYFW show!

  1. Show Details

    As much as NYFW is a year ahead of trends, everything comes together pretty much the very last minute including all of the show details. Here are some of the things that you should obtain from your booker prior to the show. The Designer’s name, date, venue address, call time, show time, key artist, your direct contact for that day. This should be given to you the day before the show at the latest. Once you get it, do your research on the designer and the key artist to at least know what they look like. You might wonder when you will get the “look or what products you need”, well unfortunately 95% of the time you will not know what the look is going to be or what key products you will need. =0)

  2. Kit Talk

    This is one of the most requested questions I get. What to bring? I have seen artists come in with a small basic kit that fits inside a backpack —> Zuca case —-> Large Suitcase —--> Two Large suitcases. Please check out “How To Set Up A Professional Makeup Kit & Station For Any Jobs In NYC” . I break down all the specific products and how I set up my kit. This is the way I’ve been doing it for the past 6 seasons and it’s been working perfectly fine for me. I am sure some artist will have a different perspective on things. As long as you have all your basics that allows you to do makeup on all ranges of skin tones and creating different finishes, then you’ll be just fine.

  3. If You’re on Time, YOU’RE LATE!!!

    Can’t stress this enough! In my opinion if you are on time, then you are late. You should always get to the venue 15-30 mins early. Especially during Fashion Week when everyone is trying to get to the same place. Another benefit of getting there early is you can meet your teammates one at a time. Instead of walking into a huge group of people all at once. Most of the time, there will be a check in location to receive your backstage pass. Pro tip: always check the venue and the address on your map the day before including ZIPCODE!! You’ll be surprised at how many street names have duplicates while they are nowhere near each other.

  4. The Set Up

    Once you arrive to the Makeup/Hair room, it is usually divided into two sections. The side with the low chairs are usually set up for the hair team while the makeup section will usually have higher stools. DO NOT SET UP YOUR KIT UNTIL THE KEY ARTIST ARRIVES! Remember, I told you to do your research on who the Key artist is? Well this will come in handy. Always wait for the key artist to pick the area they like to set up along with their assistants. Once they are set up, you can pick any available station. Remember I told you to make friends by arriving early? Well this also comes in handy. By setting up to your new friends, if you don’t have a certain product during the application, you can always reach out!

  5. The Demo

    Get ready to take notes. The Key artist will ask everyone to stand close for the demo of the look for that day. Some will be very specific and talkative while walking you through the makeup while others may not even speak a word. Stand in a spot where you have a good visual of the model’s face even if you have to stand on a chair. Remember to take notes on the exact products and the steps of how they achieve the look. Once they finish, ask the model politely if you can take a photo for a reference. It is extremely important that you do this because you can go back to your notes and picture while you are replicating the makeup if you get lost. The Key will often provide the main essential products that is required to achieve the look so make sure you obtain your samples before returning to your station.

  6. Replicate & Get Approval

    By the time you return to your station the room should fill with models eating and munching on catering. Even if a model is sitting in your stool, do not start their makeup. If there is a backstage manager, they will be the person with papers I hand that will check the models in and direct them to specific stations. Make sure you do that before starting their makeup. After you did your best to replicate the look, bring the model up to the key artist to get it approved. At this time they will either provide you with feedback on what to change or they will approve the look. If they ask you to make an edit, take the model back to your station and correct ONLY what they asked. Bring your model back up for a second approval and remind them what they asked you to fix. Once a model is approved, let your backstage manager know and return to your station and wait for another one.

  7. The Walk Thru

    Usually at a random moment, the designer will pull all the models for a walk thru which will range from 15-30 mins. The models will leave the room for a test walk on the runway. If the backstage manager asks you to let the model go, let them go but do kindly ask them to return back to your station after. (THIS IS EXTREMELY IMPORTANT!) They are almost like lost puppies sometimes they run away thinking their makeup is done while they only have one eyebrows on.

  8. Final Touchups & Lineup

    The backstage manager, the assistants or the key will pick a group of artists for final touchups during line up. This will often happen in the changing room or the line up right before the stage. At this time, the key will give you a run down on what needs to be done. DO NOT DO ANYTHING THAT THE KEY DIDN’T TELL YOU. I have witnessed an artist putting lotion on everyone’s body before asking while the designer specifically mentioned that the fabric is extremely fragile and to avoid lotion at all cost. I honestly was nervous for that artist but hey, you learn from your mistakes right? Also, if the model is half naked while changing, just wait till they finish before you jump in to touch up their makeup. It can wait.

  9. Pack up & Thank your Key Artist

    Return back to your station after the final touchups and wait until the key returns to give you a green light to pack! Don’t be that person that is fully packed, ready to go while the key is still working. Before you leave, always thank your key artist for having you on the team and tell them you hope to work with them again one day! Leave a lasting impression!

  10. Retrieving contents for Portfolio!

    You worked hard, it is important that you get content from the show for your portfolio! If the show is on the official NYFW Calendar, you will find photos on these 2 sites in less than 24 hours Vogue Runway, WWD & The Impression. They have the best quality of work and it’s free.

I hope you find all this information helpful. It was almost impossible for me to obtain this information when I first started out. I kinda just dived right in, hoped for the best and learned as I went. I know this is a long article but I felt like it was extremely important for me to be specific. I hope this can be your guide if your goal is to do NYFW one day! Please feel free to leave me a comment or questions. I would love to hear your feedback. follow me on Instagram! @vanmakeupartistry

PS. Shout out to my amazing friend Tiffany (_beautycrazed_) who is also a makeup artist in NYC for helping me proof read this article so I don’t sound like I am off the boat! So much love for you!