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Behind the runway at New York Fashion Week: Banana Republic’s Micah Johnson

Design, PeopleTighe Flatley, Gap Inc. bloggerComment

For every model or designer gliding down a New York Fashion Week runway, there's an entire team of invisible talent hustling to guarantee the look strikes a chord with editors, influencers, the fashion elite — and those doing the shopping.

As Banana Republic heads into New York Fashion Week, some of its most talented people are on the ground and working feverishly behind the scenes at the city's biggest fashion moment. Meet one of the people who brings life to the product, and whose fingerprints will mold the styles and trends you'll covet in seasons to come.

Name: Micah Johnson

Title: Head Brand Stylist, Banana Republic

What that job means for New York Fashion Week: Micah collaborates with the Banana Republic design, product and creative teams, devising which products to spotlight, how to style them so the show flows seamlessly from one look to the next, and ensuring that each look on every model is ready to go — right up to the moment the first editor strides into the room.

Styling looks for New York Fashion Week is a huge task. Where do you start?

"When we style a look, it starts with one product. We'll know we want to show, say, a particular sweater. So we'll choose that sweater and build around it with a shirt underneath, an outerwear piece, a suit pant, and so on, to then build the entire look.

The whole team comes together during the style out, which is a few weeks before the presentation, to figure out which products we want to show. There, we create each look so by the time we do model casting the week before the show, we know which looks will be included and can match them to the most appropriate models."

When you're reviewing a look, do you scan the whole outfit or are you looking at all of the details?

"You really have to take a step back and look at the whole picture. For spring and summer, color, print and pattern are very important. We are really intentional about how the seasonal story is told from the first look through the last.

Every time we go into the details — how a shoe is laced, how a tie is tied, whether the coat is draped on her left or right shoulder — you have to keep the bigger picture in mind. We may change a shirt or a necklace during the model fittings, all along making sure the model's look will photograph well standing to the right or left of the other models. It's all about the consistent story."

How does the styling interact with the lighting, hair, makeup and general mood of the presentation? 

"It's interesting — during our style out and castings, we have boards up that references for hair and makeup. We have our favorite styles hanging on grids. The DJ for the presentation will come in and play the show music for a day.

Pretty soon, we've done the casting. We've heard the music. We've tested the hair and makeup looks on models. The styling all comes together pretty seamlessly because we've been working with it all along."

Describe the scene leading up to the presentation before the models take the runway. What's it like? 

"It does get pretty crazy. When you see it in the movies of people running around backstage — it's really like that.

You have more than 40 models coming in — some still styled from other shows — moving between hair, makeup and styling. It becomes a negotiation for everyone's time in order to get all the models in place before the first attendee walks in. For me, my main thing is to make sure the models are dressed. I look at exactly what each piece is and give the final touches to each look before sending the model to be photographed.

It's a lot to do in two to three hours, but if you love fashion and love that energy, it feels really good."

What do you want people to think as they leave the presentation?

"I want editors to remember certain looks or pieces, so as they develop the stories they will eventually tell, they will remember specific products that they can work into those stories.

For example, when we showed our summer products, there were a number of military looks as a nod to Banana Republic heritage. GQ remembered that when shooting Chris Pratt for the new Jurassic Park movie. Because of that, our shirt ended up on the cover of GQ this summer. You want people to remember those themes and products as they're planning out their fashion stories."

What's keeping you up at night about New York Fashion Week?

"Nothing. We go to great lengths to prepare really, really well. There's always things to do at the last minute, but because I expect that, I'm not staying up at night."