As the fashion show has evolved over the last three decades, from industry event to bells-and-whistles, jaw-dropping experiential assault on the senses, Alexandre de Betak has been there every step of the way. He is a show producer - the man that makes moments happen.
Look to the Instagram feed of his company Bureau Betak to see it in action. They recently created an haute couture circus for Dior and took over Milan’s central station for Zegna. They have also made Bruce Nauman-esque sets from neon tubes for Rodarte, brought the sun inside for Jacquemus and made a rotating stage for Chalayan. Sally Singer, of US Vogue, appropriately dubbed the Frenchman “the wizard behind the runway”.
Speaking between shows in New York, de Betak says that the secret to a good fashion show isn't that 'wow' moment, however. It's "impressing with purpose. A lot of what I do is isolated moments and experiences, but they're part of a long story for a brand. I have been telling the story of Dior for 20 years." He’s poised to tell more stories over the next few days - as London Fashion Week begins on Friday 15th February.
de Betak's position at the top of his game hasn’t come overnight. He has been producing shows since the early nineties. He’s collaborated with brands ranging from Miu Miu - producing the first show in 1994 - to Kanye West and Victoria’s Secret, pioneering the live-streaming that is now so commonplace.
Bureau Betak has developed into a company with offices in New York, Paris and Shanghai, and 50 employees. They work on an 'anything is possible' philosophy with flowers, balloons, lights, scaffolding and giant wedding cakes all in the repertoire, and budgets for some brands reaching up to £5m. Signatures, he believes, include "using one idea in a maximalist way", like when 300,000 delphiniums decorated the venue of one of Raf Simons' Dior shows, and a "synchronisation - choreography, lights, music all working together in a very precise manner."
Born in Paris in 1968, de Betak originally had ambitions to become a photographer. He took pictures in nightclubs as a teenager, as well as dabbling in PR and model scouting (he has maintained this polymath nature - designing furniture as well as fashion shows). Show production began at the age of 19 - his first was for Spanish designer Sybilla Sorondo - with a real boost through a move to New York in 1993.
Since then, as de Betak would be the first to admit, fashion has changed dramatically - but he has changed with it. With the rise of social media, the show is no longer just for the people in the audience - it’s seen thousands of miles away, by millions of different people. Even if he believes the fashion week system is on borrowed time, he says the show will remain in one form or another. "All luxury brands, or brands aspiring to be luxury, need to make their audience dream," he says. "The fashion show remains the most efficient way to do that."
London Fashion Week 2019 runs from Friday 15th February to Tuesday 19th February. Don’t hesitate to contact your lifestyle manager for further details on shows and access.
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