The Man At The End Of The Runway
At the end of the runway, behind what professional photographers refer to as “the pit” where they cram themselves in trying to capture the perfect shot of models clad in a designer looks, in a booth filled with sound and lighting equipment, is show producer Hans Koechling.
You are only as good as your last show.
I found myself nestled in with a collection of photographers one show during the final installment of Toronto Fashion Week (back when it was organized by IMG) just within ear shot of a voice I have come to recognize having had the pleasure of zig zagging my way through Toronto’s fashion scene. It belonged to Koechling and he, after having worked with his team to create the perfectly designed show to meet the needs and wants of the designer, was standing directly behind me in the booth. As if holding a gun, he fired each model down the runway whispering perfectly timed directions into his headset. Each model’s name was stated followed by “GO.”
At the end of the day it all comes down to a good cup of coffee… or champagne.
Above photo from Mikael D show.
In some cases extra directions such as telling the model to speed her walk up, or slow it down were added. I snapped photos in awe hearing the directions come from behind me and seeing it play out in front of me. That pause in the middle of the runway, that seductive look over the shoulder, never part of the show’s original plan, but rather the model reacting to direction to slow things down a few steps.
Above photo from Romona Keveza show.
Bouncing between Montreal and Toronto, Hans Koechling calls both cities home while constantly on the road producing high profile fashion events for clients from all over the world. Koechling entered the industry as a male model spending much of the 80s on the catwalk before falling in love with the hectic behind the scenes work of producing shows.
In this #stmINTERVIEWED I chat with this fashion industry veteran about his experiences, what it takes to make it and why at the end of the day it all comes down to a good cup of coffee… or champagne.
STM – How did you get into the fashion industry?
Hans – I was discovered as a model in the 80’s and worked in the industry for many years with simply the best and most creative people that the industry had to offer – who in hindsight helped me find my inspiration.
This is the time when fashion shows were sometimes very theatrical fashion shows that cast models that could walk, I mean models that had attitude and expression, that could really bring the runway to life, walk like a cat and sell the designer’s brand down the runway. I worked with some of the world’s top runway stars including Jerry Hall, Pat Cleveland, Claudia Schiffer, Yasmin Ghauri, The IT 4 Super girls, the Versace gals, Th Ferre clique, Karl’s top ten…Models made a show and still do!
I will always remember where it all started…
I was hooked, and so I worked my way up the ladder from assistant to stylist and artistic director to producer.
I had the great pleasure to work and learn from some of the best lighting designers and sound, stage and make-up – hair artists along the way.
My mother client – the IGEDO Company was the best teacher! I really learned and earned my reputation as a show producer working with the company in Germany, with producing international events in China, New York and Miami celebrating fashion from around the globe.
From very humble beginnings to being honored to work with some of the world’s top designers today, I will always remember where it all started and that you are only as good as your last show.
We all need to be on the same page.
STM – Walk me through the steps of producing a show start to finish. What is your favourite part?
Hans – It may be easier in to say that there are 3 steps to producing a show.
My favorite part is when it all comes together and I call the first model and she steps on the runway and the show goes live…
My incredible team always makes miracles happen but we all need to be on the same page to keep the constant schedule moving. I rely on them as they do on me to keep it all together.
It’s like the long and sometimes sleepless nights and hours and collaborations with the designer and in house teams, all the creative vision, stage design, lighting, sound, casting, styling meetings, fittings, and hair & make-up tests, tight rehearsals and lots of patience, much love, lots of rush and adrenaline have finally turned into the vision you had from the beginning to a live performance that takes your breath away.
…if I see one more cold slice of pizza.
STM – You have worked many a fashion week. What are your top tips to surviving the craziness of the non stop week?
Hans – It’s fashion week diet for all of us and no late nights at parties.
Adrenaline is not enough to keep oneself going through these crazy long, sometimes non-stop days.
I always say early to bed, early to rise, exercise, and do eat well and keep hydrated, or you may run out of steam.
In other words, – if I see one more cold slice of pizza or a cold dry sandwich and a soft drink… please get me a hot meal or a hot soup and a good coffee instead. Or a glass of champagne …
…what miracles and tricks we have.
STM – What is your favourite behind the scenes story?
Hans – In truth! Shh – don’t tell anyone, but the backstage behind the scenes is where the show really is and starts !
I have a couple of stories but I can remember vividly as we had to sew a model into the opening couture dress as the show music track had started, and her zipper had just busted – she made it out on the runway just on cue, but we had to cut her out of the dress for her next look…nobody sees behind what miracles and tricks we have to get the model ready or in a quick change without losing a beat.
They were stars and gave it their all.
Above photo from Zac Posen show.
STM – What is your favourite past project? Why is it so special to you?
Hans – I have to give this moment to Zac Posen. Keeping it real and asking models to be outgoing and be stars on the runway.
Refreshing loving and inspiring! Models felt like they were stars and gave it their all to a standing ovation.
Be on time, or don’t bother showing up.
STM – What is the one mistake you see entrepreneurs make and what advice would you give them to help them correct or avoid it altogether?
Hans – In our world today, I see entrepreneurs or “newbees” – wanting immediate success and recognition.
Everyone wants to be star – when in my world – we are behind the scenes and make it all happen without much applause.
The designer or the client is the star – they hired you to make their dreams come to life.
Hard work and showmanship will make your dreams come true. Assist your mentors and bring it on and learn every day and listen, understand teamwork, and can I say be *on time, or don’t bother showing up.
Canadian Fashion needs to export itself as a brand!
STM – What is the hardest part of working in this industry?
Hans – Longevity and budgets. Know that when working in this industry, you will need to be sensitive to the client’s needs and listen. Fashion is here and gone tomorrow, as a show producer you have to be flexible and know your place how to lead the team and the client into the show.
The bottom line is you have to dream BIG and get out there.
Above photo from Rudsak show.
STM – The one thing the Canadian fashion industry needs to do right now is?
Hans – Canadian Fashion needs to export itself as a brand! The world awaits your fashion !
Now more than ever can Canadian Designers be proud of their 150th heritage and make their way to other global platforms to launch their collections.
It defines who we are and where we are going in our daily lives.
Above photo from UNTTLD MBSU show.
I have supported and mentored many Canadian Designers directly or through design programs. Christopher Bates, UNTTLD, Dalla, Mikael D., Elama Furs, and many more.
The bottom line is you have to dream BIG and get out there.
Thank You Suzanne Rogers’ Fashion Institute and Studio at Ryerson for stepping up and supporting these fabulous select talented designers to brand themselves internationally.
(Hans Koechling left on the Toronto Men’s Fashion Week Runway with show creator Jeff Rustia)
STM – Why is fashion important?
Hans – Fashion is what we all wear every day. It’s one’s expression of our personality and the time we live in. It defines who we are and where we are going in our daily lives.
It’s also a multi million $ industry in Canada that supports many lives and communities.
So the next time you find yourself sitting front row, flipping through the pages of the paper or scrolling down your favourite fashion site covered with runway images, don’t just admire the clothes, models and makeup. Remember the teams of people behind it all and their passion.
To learn more about Hans Koechling jump onto his company website the-image-is.com and be sure to follow @theimageisofficial on instagram to join him on his journey down the runway, past the pit, and into the booth.
Photos courtesy of Hans Koechling’s selection. Credit given where known.