Fashion: Donna will do it if Calvin and Ralph do it, too: How BBC 2's 'The Look' inveigled its way into the lives of top designers. Jeremy Newson, producer/director, reveals all
Thursday 24 September 1992
July '91: Paris is full. Can't get a hotel room under pounds 180 a night. Budget says pounds 60. Meet more fashion PRs and Press Officers . . . still no sign of any designers. Make contact with The House of YSL to ask for interview. He is not very happy at the moment . . . always nervous before starting work on his collection. Perhaps when he has finished drawing his designs. Wait anxiously for tickets to arrive at our hotel. Finally, invitations start arriving . . . they're all from designers we've never heard of. Ask for interview with Yves Saint Laurent again . . . too busy overseeing the collection . . . too nervous. Perhaps when it's all over.
4 July '91: Finally get appointment to interview Karl Lagerfeld, head designer at Chanel. Told we must be there on the dot of 2pm. At 2.30 PR rushes up to us, 'Karl can't wait for you any longer. He has to go.' But . . . we were told to wait for him. 'Quickly] . . . you can get a shot of him leaving . . . but be discreet.'
Trying to be discreet with a large video camera, sound gear, the crew tiptoes into atelier. We film in fascination as he pins last-minute adjustments to skirt length . . . so that's how trends occur] Interview? Too late . . . Mr Lagerfeld has to go. Just one question? All right, but make it quick. One hour later, Karl is still talking . . . about street styles (as seen from the window of his chauffeur-driven Mercedes).
5 July '91: Film Chanel show . . . not the clothes themselves but the audience. Other crews begin to wonder if they are missing something.
Paris Couture week over, ask for that YSL interview now. Sorry, he's left for his house in Morocco to recover from the collections]
22 Sept '91: Preparing to leave for New York to interview Ralph Lauren, Calvin Klein and Donna Karan. Hotel booked (months in advance . . . this time), flights arranged, crew hired. One slight problem . . . none of the designers has yet agreed to be interviewed] Ralph Lauren hasn't done a TV interview for 10 years and wants to know who else is going to be in the 'show'. Calvin Klein is angling for a stand-alone presence. Donna will agree to be interviewed only if both Ralph and Calvin will. The day of departure we take a risk and tell Ralph Lauren's press officer that Calvin Klein and Donna Karan are also going to be interviewed. He agrees to the interview. Five minutes later . . . five]
Calvin Klein's PR rings, miffed, from New York to say we didn't tell them Ralph Lauren was also being interviewed. We have to think fast . . . the whole NY junket is in jeopardy. Maybe this will work. . . . We tell Klein's PR that Ralph Lauren is in the same series, but not in the same programme. It works. Everyone's happy.
Oct '91: Contact the French cameraman Fred Fabre and ask him if he's covered much fashion. 'I have covered the war in Afghanistan,' he replies, cryptically. Our first ready-to-wear show demonstrates what he means. Hundreds of photographers and camera crews are jammed into a pigpen at the end of the runway and fight for a tiny piece of floor space. The crush outside the Jean Paul Gaultier show is positively dangerous . . . one gate for 2,000 spectators. Former editor of British Vogue hits aggressive and incompetent security man who hits her back. We shoot a dozen other shows and are shell-shocked by the end of the week.
June '92: We have been trying to get an interview with Issey Miyake for a year . . . 140 letters and faxes to Japan later we finally get the OK from Miyake PR. We may interview him between 2pm and 2.30pm next Friday . . . on a remote island off the coast of Osaka. Hire Japanese crew. Fax in the middle of the night informs us . . . 'weather rough - ferry to take crew may not make it to the island'. Carry on editing and are greatly relieved when tapes arrive from Japan.
July '92: Still haven't got YSL interview. Desperate calls to Paris. Apparently, he's not very happy at the moment . . . the stress . . . the pressure. Beginning to see what he means.
20 Sept '92: Time has run out . . . the series starts tonight. For fashion designers - and now us - the seasons are a merciless cycle of unseasonal deadlines and jet-lag. Yves Saint Laurent has had 30 years of it. No wonder he's 'not very happy at the moment'.
'The Look' is on BBC 2 Sundays at 8.10pm. Its tribute to Yves Saint Laurent goes out on 25 October.
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