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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL
Fashion Week Backstage Pass
Aired February 19, 2011 - 14:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ALINA CHO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Victoria Beckham, you may know her as Posh Spice or as soccer star David Beckham's wife. But this week here in New York City she's a designer superstar.
Hello and welcome to "Fashion Week, Backstage Pass." I'm Alina Cho. In a moment, Victoria Beckham, yes, she really does design the clothes herself. Also, what she said about being pregnant with her fourth child. She'll also answer questions about the royal wedding. Is she designing the dress?
Plus the new fashion trends, we'll tell you what they are months before they hit the stores. And all those beautiful people who line the front row around the runway, why are they really here? It's not what you think.
But we begin with the biggest trend of the season.
CHO: Call it the "Asian Invasion" - Jason Wu, Phillip Lim, Alexander Wang, Prabal Gurung, today's darlings of the fashion world.
ANNA SUI, FASHION DESIGNER: I think that this is a phenomena, it's not something that anybody planned.
CHO: Prabal Gurung, one of the hottest right now is from Nepal.
PRABAL GURUNG, FASHION DESIGNER: Back in Nepal, arts or fashion design for a guy was unheard of.
CHO: That was then, this is now. His dresses now line the red carpet. They're on Oprah and the first lady. Not bad for a designer who only launched his label two years ago.
GURUNG: I'm a second generation Asian. What their parents when they came here first, they either wanted to become a doctor or an engineer or making it in finance. They did so well that I think they allowed their children to do what they felt like doing.
ERIC WILSON, FASHION REPORTER, "NEW YORK TIMES": It's the most interesting demographic shift we have seen in the fashion industry in decades is a number of Asian-American designers who have become more prominent.
CHO: Take a look at the industry's most prestigious group, all Asian- Americans.
WILSON: You have an idea of a fashion designer as this kind of flamboyant white male standing behind the scenes and telling women what they would wear. No one is going to accept that image today.
CHO: Gurung's big moment came Last March when Michelle Obama wore his dress at the Smithsonian when she donated her inauguration gown made by another Asian designer, Jason Wu. When Nehrum saw his design on the first lady, he called his mother.
GURUNG: It was very, very personal. It was very emotional for her also because Nepal is far away and coming here was a huge risk they took and they took sending me here and to have that kind of validation from the first lady, because it represents not just me. It's about the bigger picture, it's about Nepal. All of a sudden her wearing it represents some kind of hope that they too might have something happen to them and they too with dream.
CHO: And pursue a career in fashion. ]
You have to admit to have so many Asian-American designers at the top of their game is pretty extraordinary.
GURUNG: It is, there's no denying it. There is one thing that I'm happy about is I'm not an exception to the rule.
CHO: Up next, secrets of designers, what it takes to sell the fashions you see on the run way.
JASON WU, FASHION DESIGNER: What kind of personality does it go with?
CHO: Secrets of the runway, what makes the perfect model? Also, are the rumors true? Victoria Beckham, she may be best known as a spice girl and the wife of David Beckham, could she be in the running to design the dress for the royal wedding?
Before his untimely death last year, Alexander McQueen created clothes that were just as much art as fashion -- heavenly gowns, a feather frock that would make a black swan swoon. This is the first look at the designs soon to be on display as part of a special exhibit at the metropolitan museum of art, famed costume institute in New York. The exhibit of about 100 of McQueen's masterpieces opens in May.
CHO: We're backstage with the BCBG show. This is the first day of New York's fashion week. It's so exciting to be here. What is the look of this show?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The look, it's mixed between the '20s and the '70s -- flawless skin and the eye is fairly done up in a soft brown way.
CHO: It's crazy back here. We're making our way over to the lead hairstylist. What is this that you have in your hand here?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's hair extensions which I'm giving to people who maybe need a little bit of extra help. CHO: Why don't the models ever smile on the runway?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They don't let us. They don't let us do it.
CHO: So we're going to talk to the dressers. These are the people that actually help the models get in and out of their clothes in lightning speed.
For people who don't have a sense of what it's like to be backstage, just how crazy is it?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We start and it gets crazier and crazier and crazier. It gets manic, but it's a good manic. But it's a calm manic.
CHO: Yes it can be crazy. And think about it, a fashion show is over in just 15 minutes. And 35 models walk down the run way at least once, sometimes twice. And they pick the models for very specific reasons -- they sell the clothes.
CHO: The glitz, the glamour -- fashion's cat walk is where the clothes come alive and the model is key.
WU: It's almost like matchmaking, what kind of outfit does this go with? What personality does this go with?
CHO: A cutthroat business. Corolla is a rookie. She's on a casting call with the Daniel Peddle agency. It's quick. Two photos, a walk, and it's over. She's competing against 300 other girls for just 35 spots, a one in ten shot at a dream.
KARLIE KLOSS, FASHION MODEL: You just have to really be strong and appreciate it.
JOURDAN DUNN, FASHION MODEL: Not everyone's going to love you. Some people are going to love you and some people are going to hate you, it's just part of the job.
CHO: There are the basics.
SCOTT LIPPS, PRESIDENT ONE MANAGEMENT: There's has to be some measurements, but definitely there's a look there and it's just a feeling that you get. We usually know when they walk in.
CHO: Scott Lipps president of rep management reps supermodels like Iman and newcomers like Corolla, even teaches them how to walk. What all of these models have in addition to beauty is that certain je ne sais quoi.
LIPPS: It's probably a combination of the charisma, the personality.
CHO: Personality? A lot of people might say, well, models just have to be beautiful. Why is personality so important?
LIPPS: They want to make sure that you have energy on a shoot, that you're not just a pretty face that doesn't want to give something back. So it's actually way more important than people think it is.
CHO: In the week for fashion week, Lipps barely sleeps. Designers change their minds, so his cell phone is always on for that inevitable late night call.
LIPPS: They always say to me, are you sleeping? And it's usually a Sunday night and the fact of the matter is that most people are sleeping.
CHO: What are designers asking for on that call?
LIPPS: Certain seasons a designer will say to us the look of this show is going to be for instance, there's sort of a sun kissed look and we want girls that have freckles and red hair.
CHO: Or blonds, or edgy brunettes, even this.
DUNN: I was just about to go into a call, and my agent says don't go in there, they're only looking for white women this season. I was like, OK, OK.
CHO: There's a lot at stake. For walking a single show, models can earn anywhere from $500 to $15,000.
LIPPS: It depends on the level of the girl, it depends if she's opening the show. Maybe it's an exclusive, where she's not allowed to do other shows and then the rate is obviously higher.
CHO: Corolla wants it all and this season she's one of the lucky ones, earning a spot on the run way at the Ruffian show, her first shot as a professional model.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It was such a great feeling. It was like butterflies in my whole body. It was really, really great.
CHO: There is one designer here this year everyone is talking about, Victoria Beckham, a celebrity superstar.
VICTORIA BECKHAM, FASHION DESIGNER: This isn't something that I'm just doing for a few years, something that's just a bit of fun. This is something that my heart tells me that I have to do.
CHO: Plus, what she has to say about Angelina Jolie.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Color seems to be the key, we're seeing a lot of black, but it's mixed with marigold yellow, a deep green, and the silhouettes are very masculine inspired. We're seeing some big gowns, but a lot of people were expecting to see something black swan inspired or Kate Middleton inspired. We're not seeing that.
CINDI LEIVE, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, "GLAMOUR": You're seeing a little bit of a return to modesty, that is, there are not a lot of "Jersey Shore" minis. The skirts the size of napkins that we have seen so much of for the last few seasons. We're seeing longer lengths, the '70s inspiration seems to be continuing, longer flowing skirts and just a little bit more covered up than they might have been two or three years ago.
CHO: Is that a good thing?
CINDI LEIVE, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, "GLAMOUR": I think it's a great thing. It's very refreshing, there's a moment for a mini in every woman's life, but you also want to be able to look like a grown-up.
CHO: Welcome back. A lot of stars simply slap their name on a fashion label and call themselves designers. Not Victoria Beckham. She is very serious about creating her own designs. And given how they sell, those designs are taken very seriously.
She burst on to the scene as Posh Spice, married soccer star David Beckham, and then lived a glamorous life as a celebrity mom. But Victoria Beckham's passion is fashion.
I have read many times that you say I'm a control freak.
BECKHAM: Absolutely. I want to be. My name is on the label.
CHO: On dresses, jeans, handbags and sunglasses, her line is carried by luxury retailers like Neiman Marcus.
JIM GOLD, SPECIALTY RETAIL PRESIDENT, NEIMAN MARCUS: The fact that Victoria designed it is nice, it's a nice story, but if the product wasn't phenomenal, the dresses would not sell.
CHO: And they're not cheap. Beckham's dresses, handmade in London, start at about $1,000.
BECKHAM: I don't put anything out there that I wouldn't wear myself. I would put all the dresses on and I look in the mirror, would I wear this? And if I would, then out it goes.
CHO: It's working, to rave reviews by a notoriously tough crowd, the fashion industry.
BECKHAM: Myself and David we were talking about it, I was like, oh, I'm so nervous. I was like David, in my world, this is like a World Cup. What I do, this is a big deal.
CHO: Do you still get nervous right before the reviews?
BECKHAM: I get so nerve us, I never take anything for granted.
CHO: The royal family is taking notice, like Kate Middleton, the young woman who is about to marry Prince William, second in line to the throne.
BECKHAM: She has asked to try on some dresses.
CHO: Wedding dresses?
BECKHAM: No, no, no, no. I'm not ready for a wedding dress just yet. She's asked to see a couple of dresses, and should she pick one, then that would be great.
CHO: Beckham admits that her designs aren't for everyone. They're for the girl who's willing to spend the money and has the body to pull it off. After all --
BECKHAM: They all say, what does she look like? Is she thin? Does she eat? Just tell them yes, ridiculously thin.
CHO: Even though she's four and a half months pregnant with her fourth child, she has three boys and admits a girl would be nice.
Imagine the clothes.
BECKHAM: Yes. The clothes would be amazing. It would be great, but if I don't have a girl this time, then maybe I'll be lucky enough to have a girl the next time.
CHO: The next time? This is your fourth. Really? How many children do you want to have?
BECKHAM: We would like to have a big family.
CHO: There could be a fifth.
BECKHAM: There could be, who knows?
CHO: A sixth?
BECKHAM: I'm not Angelina, I don't know.
CHO: But like Angelina, Victoria Beckham is also a superstar who's now making her mark as a designer.
Do you ever miss singing?
BECKHAM: No. I can't sing very well.
CHO: You don't have to work.
BECKHAM: No, I don't have to work, but I'm really happy doing this, making women look and feel beautiful. That's what I want to do, that's what it's about.
CHO: Feeling beautiful, looking beautiful, so naturally in the front row surrounding the runway, you find the beautiful people. But who actually decides who gets those coveted seats?
OWEN DAVIDSON, FASHION SHOW PRODUCER: People come up with the craziest stories, like they went to school with me or they know me somehow, and they're complete strangers. People sending letters and gifts, I mean, it's just insane.
CHO: Why who's in the front row is just as important as what's on the catwalk.
Michael Kors is celebrating 30 years in fashion. He launched his label in 1981 and has since built an empire that includes clothing lines, accessories and perfume. He told us about the exact moment he knew he might have a career in fashion.
MICHAEL KORS, FASHION DESIGNER: I remember being so excited to have windows at Bergdorf of that I was standing on fifth after at 2:00 in the morning while the window team were in the window dressing the mannequin and I stood on the street directing them. I'm like no, the belt should be here and push the sleeve and do this.
And finally one of the window people went like this, come to the side. And I said, what? Come to the side. And the next thing I knew, they said this is totally unorthodox, but we're going to let you in the store and let you climb in the window because we can tell you're about to jump out of your skin you're so excited.
I started with that kind of attention to detail, and I still feel that way.
HAL RUBENSTEIN, FASHION DIRECTOR, INSTYLE: The reality is if the proportion is right for you. So the idea is, it's like no, don't look to the design for the answer. Look in the mirror, because if you discover what's right for you, it actually is out there for you.
CHO: Welcome back to fashion week backstage pass where the front row at fashion week is the Holy Grail. It means status, that you've made it. But getting one of those seats isn't that easy. It's all about who you know.
Anna Winter, the powerful editor-in-chief of "Vogue," has been sitting in the front row for more than 23 years. She earned it, fashion's equivalent of an Olympic gold medal.
ASHANTI, SINGER: You get to see everything mag tied head to toe. You get to see the toenail polish. You get to see everything up close and personal.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You could see the full looks very clearly, if you sit behind, you're missing the shoes.
CHO: Who sits in the front row? Top editors, big buyers, celebrities, sometimes a CNN correspondent, what some call the fashion elite.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The great thing about being the front row --
CHO: Like petite Cindi Leive, "Glamour" magazine's editor in chief.
LEIVE: I spent a lot of time laboring in back rows before I got to sit her. And I'm 5'2" so I'm very happy in the front row.
CHO: How do you claw your way to the front? You make friends with the designer, buy a lot of clothes.
DAVIDSON: You take a look at someone that's rsvp'd. CHO: Or know this guy.
DAVIDSON: People come up with the craziest stories like you went to school with me, or they know me somehow and they're complete strangers. People come with letters and gifts, and it's just insane.
CHO: Owen Davidson is in charge of seating for several fashion shows including Carolina Herrera's show. Only 100 make it to the front row.
DAVIDSON: If someone's going to show up that didn't rsvp that demands a front row seat then it's going to be a moment of drama.
CHO: Here's a sneak peek at the elaborate seating chart, which he says is like seating a wedding, where you have to get along with the person next to you.
DAVIDSON: It's so incredibly political. You can't put "Harper's Bizarre" right next to "Vogue" magazine, for example. The same thing goes for retailers.
CHO: What's in it for the designer? This is Herrera's front row.
CAROLINA HERRERA, FASHION DESIGNER: I think it's important to have good people in the front row.
CHO: It's all about the press?
HERRERA: What do you think these shows are all about? It's about the press.
CHO: Diane von Furstenburg is an artist who's mastered front row seating. Her front row is always packed with celebrities.
DIANE VON FURSTENBURG, FASHION DESIGNER: The fact is Fergie is going to sit in the front row today, that's hot.
ERIC WILSON, FASHION REPORTER, "NEW YORK TIMES": The entire runway show experience lasts about five minutes when you're actually looking at the clothes. But you're actually at the venue for over an hour, in some cases waiting for the show to begin, taking your seat, waiting for the designer to be ready to show the clothes. So during that time there's an awful lot of taking pictures of who's in the front row.
CHO: While we could see some unlikely folks show up.
Could we see a Snooki?
WILSON: It actually has been a point of debate whether Snooki will actually come to fashion week.
ANDY COHEN, BRAVO'S REAL HOUSEWIVES: I have no business being here.
CHO: It doesn't matter, real housewives host Andy Cohen is a paparazzi magnet, part of the currency that could land you in the front row.
COHEN: It's nice, it's a compliment. But I'm not a buyer. What am I doing here?
CHO: Make no mistake, fashion week is all about money. More than 200 designers, countless models, and all of this a vital piece of what's estimated to be nearly a $200 billion business around the world. And it all starts here.
I'm Alina Cho. Thanks for watching.