30-01-2014 | By Phuong Lam

Follow Phuong Backstage

Julian Zigerli at Armani Teatro

Zigerli 1

Earlier this month, Arne and I joined the Julian Zigerli entourage in Milan for the young designer’s AW 14/15 runway show at Teatro Armani during Men’s Fashion Week. Julian Zigerli first captured L’uomo Vogue Editor Roberto Rabbensteiner ‘s attention with his playful take on men’s sportswear and ultimately landed himself a coveted spot on the publication’s most promising designers list. From the talented bunch, Mr. Armani picked Zigerli to share his famed catwalk inspiring a whirlwind of media attention and interest from important buyers. As I was slated to work with Julian on the styling for his presentation during Berlin Fashion Week, I jumped at the opportunity when asked to join him earlier in Milan.

From the moment I landed, I was put through my paces arriving just in time for the model casting with previous Zigerli collaborator and show director Yannick Aellen, whose resumé includes the founding of Mode Suiss and casting for Germany’s Next Top Model.

Zigerli backstage

One by one beautiful boys from Independent Men Milano streamed into our makeshift runway as Yannick dissected their features and studied their every movement. The man obviously knew what he was looking for and without haste sent away models who didn’t meet his criteria. I’ve done plenty of Go-Sees as a stylist, runway casting is a bit different and requires a lot of mental juggling as you decide whether a model works with the overall concept, how he fits within the model ensemble, and to which runway looks he’s most suited. In the days leading up to any fashion week, these models are frantically zipping through the city to handfuls of auditions each day. Despite their professionalism, the atmosphere in our casting foyer was quite chaotic.

Thankfully casting was split into two days, allowing Julian and I to do the initial fitting and make some outfit choices when things quieted down. Zigerli poster boy Sven Stoop and his model roommate Victor Gorincioi did us a huge favor stopping by after their casting calls for a pre-fitting of the 29 looks we put together.

This season, Julian worked with Paris-based graphic design collective Golgotha to create a honeycomb print in variations of vibrant colors. The collection also included some elegant mesh looks, the more sensational Zigerli beaded briefs, playful garment covers, convertible leather clutches, wallets, backpacks and lightweight raincoats made from a water resistant cotton. We were so utterly grateful for Sven and Victor’s patience while we labored over every small outfit decision, before giving Julian’s intern the go ahead to snap a photo of the looks. We ended day one with 29 tentative looks to try on the models the next day.

Day two started early as we arrived to Julian’s Italian PR Agency to continue with casting calls and to prepare the looks for Roberto Rabbensteiner who would later drop by for a preview. By the late morning, Yannick had already posted his tier one model choices and we printed out the different looks to present to Rabbensteiner. If you’ve ever seen the September Issue, you know how terrified designers are when Anna Wintour drops by for a studio visit. Julian, on the other hand, looked quite relaxed and this ease and calmness disarmed us all.

By the time Rabbensteiner left the office, giving Julian his praise and Vogue stamp of approval, we went full swing into the last strides of casting, followed by a final fitting as the hair & make-up crew arrived to test out some of Julian’s ideas. The initial concept was to create a full-blown manga look with enlarged and expressive eyes. Ultimately, Julian decided to go for a tamer version of his initial idea, leaving the models with carefully placed splotches of yellow and pink painted eyeshadow–a playful complement to the bright Golgotha prints. With styling and hair & make-up decisions behind us, we quickly made our way to Teatro Armani for set up. The astounding minimalist space with its exposed concrete walls and beams was once a Nestlé chocolate factory that was later converted into a theater by Japanese architect Tadao Ando for Armani’s use. With a handful of garments to steam and a short list of show prep to-do’s for the following morning, I bowed out early at midnight to get some rest for the exciting day ahead, but not before my boyfriend and I roamed the cavernous theater halls awestruck by the beauty of it all.

As an anxious person, I rarely get a decent night’s sleep before a photo shoot or important deadline, so it was no surprise that my rest was punctuated by mild terror at the thought that I might’ve forgotten some important detail. When I arrived early the next morning Julian’s mom was already on top of it all–steaming raincoats and giving orders. Mama Zigerli is the sweetest woman and throughout our Milan days, she was up front and center taking care of business like no other.

As the backstage scene teemed with excitement, I quickly briefed the dressers on the looks and paced around nervously before joining Julian, Yannick, and Arne for one last run-through down the Armani catwalk. I was elated to retreat backstage where all the models were now fully dressed and waiting for their last minute style check. We were finally ready.

The show, like all great runway shows, flew by in the blink of an eye leaving memorable impressions and curiosities. Tired, sleep deprived, and battling a bad cough, I quietly exited the theater as the swarm of press gathered backstage for photos and interviews with Julian. It wasn’t until now, as I upload the pictures for this post, that I’m finally seeing the runway images for the first time. I have to say, I’m utterly proud of Julian for another incredible collection this season. Have a look for yourself:

[portfolio_slideshow id=2535]

*Behind the scene photos: Matthias Haase