IF, LIKE ME, you watched The Devil Wears Prada before The September Issue, you might see Meryl Streep in the famed editor of Vogue, Anna Wintour - not necessarily the other the other way around.
That’s, in any case, what I was thinking as we pulled onto Greenway Street Tuesday, where Façon magazine's owner and editor-in-chief, Lara Lupish, was fitting models for a spring runway at the Newcastle Museum.
As she moves through the studio, sometimes with a phone to her ear, Lara has an occasional flash of both iconic women. She coaches models and interns with a practised professionalism, checks names and looks, and at one point pairs a bridal gown with a pair of Dr Marten boots. She wants the show to have an edge.
“Don’t forget how hot you are,” she tells her models. “Everyone is here to see you. I want you to be a little arrogant about it.”
There is a sense in the way that she works, the way that she encourages her team, the way that she is involved in every decision that goes on around her, that these are ideas she has had for some time - long enough to know every detail and how it will look under runway lights.
When we arrive, a couple of slender models with razor-sharp features slouch at the door of the studio. School-age interns are helping to match models' photos with clothing for the show, which is hanging on racks all around the Wickham garage space. Everyone has a job to do.
The studio is hot. It's November and there’s a feeling it could rain. The air inside is heavy and pushed around by a fan on the table. At the roller-door, which opens onto the street, there's a sense of looking behind the curtain to where the cogs turn and the glamour and glossy pages are put together.
All the pieces are there, but they're uncut and scattered. Small, shiny fragments poke through the rough; a model's bright gold-rimmed glasses under a tussled fringe; a wall mirror edged in orange lights.
"Most studios around the world look like this," Lara says. "They're not polished."
FAÇON WAS A WORD Lara had learnt from her grandmother. Her parents were some of Newcastle's early post-war displaced migrants. Her mother was Russian and her father was Belarusian. Façon comes from the Old French for style and trend.
Lara studied at the University of Newcastle before meeting her husband, musician David Hadley, at Byron Bay in 1995.
She followed Hadley to Vancouver, before moving to London for a time and then returned to Canada, but fashion was not always in her sights. When her husband was signed to Warner Music America, she would sometimes style the band’s videos.
"I couldn't get out of Newcastle quick enough," she admits, remembering school holidays spent with her grandmother in Sydney.
When she returned home with her young family and an idea for a local runway show around 2013, held at a space on Shortland Esplanade rented for $20 per week, Lara said she was determined to prove herself to Newcastle.
By late 2015, she had partnered with Façon's now marketing director Claudia Liebenberg with plans for a luxury fashion magazine produced in the Hunter.
Part of Façon’s appeal, Claudia explains, is that it offers entry into a vast industry for a young team of creatives. Interns help to pull the show together behind the scenes. The magazine's events coordinator is 18 year-old Lara Bussey who, on Thursday night, will take charge of the runsheet at the side of the stage. For many of the of the models, it will be their first time on the runway.
“The possibilities are really endless,” Claudia says.
On Thursday afternoon, as dancers rehearse their opening number and techies put the finishing touches on the stage, a couple of photographers flick through the glossy pages of a mini-edition of Façon, printed especially for the runway event, and compare notes on their work.
LARA’S TEAM OPERATES with a kind of bustling energy. A little more than an hour before the show, she and her fashion editor Dylan Grieg are backstage reordering the looks selected for the event. Around 30 models will cycle through two outfits each, but the running order changes during the show. With three outfits always on the runway, and sometimes only six models separating a first walk from a second, changing happens fast.
Liam Bowman, a model living in Newcastle, says walking the runway is an exercise in pacing.
"When you're about to walk on stage, you have to be very focused, but very relaxed," he says.
As he steps off the runway for the first change, a dresser waits backstage at a rack of clothing. He slips out of a pair of shorts as she takes the hat from his head and helps him into another shirt. The change from summer swimwear to evening pants and jacket is over in a moment. The dresser makes a final adjustment and steps back. The whole thing is done with a kind of clinical steadiness, like a pit crew changing tyres mid-race.
"It's like curation in a way," Museum director Julie Baird says. "(Lara) is creating a story out of things."
Julie recalls researching the Newcastle Museum's permanent migration exhibition, for which she had interviewed Lara's parents.
"I knew Lara before I knew Lara," she says. When the two finally met, Julie felt like part of the family. "(Lara) has an amazing sense of energy. She is not the one sitting down and sewing the clothes, but she is the one putting it together - she is the one making the narrative.”
"I THINK, WITH the rise of technology and the power of the internet, it has gone beyond the Christian Diors and the Chanels," Dylan Grieg says. When I meet him at Greenway Street on Wednesday, he is wearing a gold-buckled Dolce and Gabbana belt and a white tee. His shoulders are draped in a tan coat with a wide fur lapel.
Social media helped to make almost everything in fashion iconic, he says. It feels like the industry is becoming more accessible.
"Look at the Kardashians. They have influenced fashion immensely. They will come out in a dress and two days later it will be on all the women's online sites for half the price of what Kim was wearing, but it will be almost an exact replica."
Celebrity, over the past few years, has become almost synonymous with style. And, with the rise of social media, the status of celebrity feels more within reach than ever before.
In August 2018, French Vogue published an online list of 15 fashion influencers to follow. The photographs were captioned in this order: name, Instagram handle, follower count, city, biographical note.
"I kind of miss the fact that you look at the '90s and Naomi, and all those girls," Dylan says. "It was just so iconic. Now, everything is iconic. I miss that."
As the final list of looks for the show are finalised, I ask Dylan what he wants the show to be.
"I want you to go and shop in the stores," he says. "There's a whole experience in going and finding something that you would never buy from a picture."
AS THE THUMP of runway music starts echoing through the museum, there is a sense backstage of the moment before the starter's gun. Lara has left her seat in the front row to oversee the runway from the sound desk. Backstage, Lara Bussey gestures the first model into the spotlight. Just like that, the weeks of planning, last-minute phone calls, make-up checks, and final adjustments are out there on the runway. The wheels are in motion and they don't stop turning until the lights go down again.
In the front rows, the spectators whisper and film on their phones. There’s a buzz as each new look arrives.
On Friday, the stage is packed down. The luxury cars are taken away and the team begins planning how the magazine will follow the show.
What happens now, Lara says, is as important as everything that has come before. Façon will release a digital look-book to guests at Thursday’s show in the coming week. The magazine-proper prints biannually.
There was some scepticism, Lara says, when she told her friends and family she wanted to create a fashion magazine that would sit on the news shelf between Harpers and Vogue.
“People did say ‘are you crazy?’” she says “Everything is going digital and you’re starting a magazine.
“It’s a lot of hard work. But you live for the picture and when the picture comes together.”
Façon, she says, is not just the magazine. She describes it as a brand. The first edition, she says, was a portfolio of what could be done in Newcastle - a collection of local creatives and their work.
Lara says she will take Sunday off. That’s when she expects the week’s work to come home – when she expects the dust to settle. On Monday, she will be back at at her desk, working on the next look.