Work The Runway: Seven Tips To Achieve Success Behind The Curtain

Dreaming of call sheets and first looks? We are, too. With New York Fashion Week quickly approaching, we have one thing on our minds: how to get backstage. Whether you are a burgeoning stylist or looking for a career change, there’s one thing that’s for sure—runway styling is for everyone.

To find out what goes on behind the scenes, we sat down with leaders in runway styling. They are: 

– Anne Skubis, Aveda North America Artistic Director for Makeup and Campus Director of Aveda Institute Tuscon; 

– Frank Rizzieri, Owner of Rizzieri Salon and Spa and Rizzieri Aveda Schools;

– Heggy Gonzalez, Creative Director for Inspire Greatness Aveda Institutes.

Here are their top tips to ensure that you are runway ready. 

1. Be prepared to go, go, go.

Anne: If you are a lead artist for a show at New York Fashion Week, a few days before it, you would have had a consultation with the designer called a test. Here, they describe their vision and you bring it to life on a model. The night before the show, you pack your kit, then wake up super early and show up for the first call time.  As a lead, you would then demo the look for the team. Runway makeup isn’t about doing it your way—it’s about doing the look the lead showed and making it look the same on diverse models.

Once you have models in the lineup, a few artists and assistants do finishing touches. You watch the show, snap a few pictures, pack your stuff, and run to the next call time. When you get back to your room that night, you wash your makeup brushes, reorganize your kit and get set up for the next day.

Heggy: Be prepared for the unexpected. Not all of your shows are going to be in the same location. Be mobile, bring snacks and water, and make sure your kit is easy to travel with.

Frank:  It’s always exciting. When I first started, the energy and the excitement from working with beauty editors and celebrities was high.


2. Know the differences between styling in the salon and on the runway.

A: There are definitely some similarities in that some of the time, runway designers are looking for very wearable looks. It’s more about fashion than the hair and makeup—so some of the looks on the models can translate to guests. 

The difference is timing. In the salon, you can take your time and educate the guest as you go. During a show, a look that would have taken you 45 minutes to execute in the salon, you have to do in five.

F: In runway styling, your client is the designer. Your goal is to take their inspiration and duplicate that look amongst many different models.

H: Remember to treat your model as you would treat your guest. You may be in a hurry but taking a little bit of time to ensure that they are taken care of makes a difference in your (and their) experience.


3. Tackle any challenges head-on.

A: Sometimes as a lead, it can be challenging to help people grasp that you don’t necessarily apply everything the same way on each individual face to achieve the same result.

H: It’s important to understand your role if you are not the lead stylist. You are there to support the lead stylist who, in turn, is there to support the designer. It’s not about you—it’s about the work—and you need to be open to feedback.

F: It takes skill to duplicate a look when the models are coming straight from another show. For example, you may have to straighten crimped hair in 10 minutes before first look—and that can be challenging.


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A post shared by HEGGY GONZALEZ (@heggyhair)

4. Be a team player.

F: Be a good listener and be ready to really work and take criticism. Don’t take it personally. If they don’t like something, change it. 

A: There is no room on a team for ego because there won’t be consistency or cohesion. Respect the lead while sharing and supporting each other.

H: Every job is important. If your job is to hold the bobby pins, your job is important. (That’s actually one of my favorite jobs—you can learn so much from handing a stylist bobby pins.)


5. Expect to fall in love with runway styling.

A: I love makeup and fashion, so it’s wonderful seeing how the makeup complements the designer’s vision.

F: I love the process of coming up with the look—from listening to the designer and finding out their inspiration to completing the designer’s overall image.

H: I love the fast pace! I love learning from different stylists, problem solving, and the excitement of challenging yourself to create a style when you have only minutes.


6. Recognize learning opportunities available to you in the salon.

H: Treat every guest like they are going to be walking the runway. Become proficient in any type of styling—practice 1940s hairstyles, practice creating volume, practice sleek styles. Really understand what products to use in different hair types and textures.

F: Start by becoming a good technical hairstylist. Understand how to work with all types and textures of hair. Know what products produce results in the hair quickly. Learn on the go—some things are learned when you’re in it.

A: Focus on the concepts of makeup. Understand different textures and colors. Also, skin prep is so important to the final look. In our face-to-face curriculum with Aveda, we use so much of our technique over and over in New York Fashion Week. They’re the building blocks—you can do all things when you focus on them.



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A post shared by Anne Skubis ??? (@anneskubis)

7. And finally, chase your dreams.

A: Research the ways that you can get that first opportunity. Here at Aveda Institute Tuscon, you can go to New York Fashion Week through a program. With any type of career development, find a mentor and use that person to network and seek advice, to be inspired, to bounce off ideas. The best way to do that is by offering to assist.

H: Start by educating yourself—take classes, research runway trends, practice styles on models. Put yourself out there and be willing to be the person who holds the bobby pins better than anybody else—because those qualities will put you on peoples’ lists. 

F: Get a good comfortable pair of sneakers and clothes because you’ll be moving. Hydrate well. Make sure you are well organized. Make sure your tools are always clean and stored in something you can throw on your back—because you never know.


Ready to start your journey to the runway? Take the first step by applying to an Aveda Institute near you. Find out more here.

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