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Behind Closed Doors: Inside Fashion Week Fall 2013

Inside Mara Hoffman's Fall 2013 Show

Adam Jeffery | CNBC

The average fashion show lasts just 12 minutes, but planning for it begins months early — almost as soon as the previous season's presentation ends.

To give you an idea of the time, energy and coordination that goes into a show, we decided to take you behind the scenes and profile a designer at this season's Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week. (Read more: Highlights From New York Fashion Week Fall 2013)

Known for pieces with bohemian flair and tribal prints, Mara Hoffman has been designing her own label since 2000 and was inducted into the Council of Fashion Designers of America in 2011.

We sat down with Hoffman to hear more about the steps she takes to create a collection and went backstage at Lincoln Center to see her nearly half-a-year-long project come to fruition.

Click ahead to see what it takes to make it to Fashion Week's runway.

— By CNBC's Katie Little

Published 13 February 2013


Photographer | CNBC

It starts with a print. Stateside, Hoffman begins the designing process at the end of September right after her team finishes the spring 2013 line. She designs the print in house and then sends the design to Asia for workers to make it there using their materials.

She usually looks to China or Korea due to the countries' "printing ability, good printing facilities and good pricing."

Priced Out of Silk

Adam Jeffery | CNBC

Few pieces in the collection use silk because the material's price has risen so much in recent years.

"We've basically gotten priced out of printed silks because of the way we design the prints," said Hoffman. She added, the looks use a lot of fabric.

"Using silk has become so expensive that we've switched to different alternatives such as polys and rayons that can take the prints really well," she continued.

At Hoffman's studio in New York City's Garment District, shown here, workers prepare for the impending presentation days before Saturday's show.

Embellishments From India

Adam Jeffery | CNBC

For the embellished pieces, Hoffman first develops the technique, whether it's a different embroidery stich or beading work, then later sends it off to workers in India. They then return a small piece of what the embellishment will look like.

Once the sample is approved, Hoffman gives India specs for a full garment. She opted to outsource some of this more intricate work "because they do great embellishment work like hand beading and embroidery" in the country.

Steps Until Production

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After sketching and designing the shapes of the garments, Hoffman then submits them to a pattern maker, who creates a flat pattern of the design. They will then cut the first sample in an old fabric from a past season to get the fit sample.

Fit models then try on the sample. Hoffman and her team then make any adjustments after seeing how it looks on the fit model. The pattern is then corrected and new samples are made if needed and tried on again.

Once the pattern is up to snuff, Hoffman will send out the pattern and newly made fabric from Asia to the sample maker to create. There aren't typically many adjustments to the garments at this stage.

"By that point, usually we don't because we've already gone through so many rounds of fitting that we've gotten it close enough that any more adjustments will be fixed for production," she added.

Fit models are typically about 5'8" to 5'9" and weigh more than runway models, one of whom is shown here during the final fitting.

"One of them is closer to an average person so you can fit and the other one is really more for runway purposes so they're a lot taller and skinnier," she added.

Hiring the Stylist

Adam Jeffery | CNBC

Once the collection nears completion, Hoffman will hire an outside stylist and find a shoe company and jewelry designer to work with about three weeks before the show.

For this season's show, missta donated the shoes, which Hoffman said she will either give to the models or keep for her archives, and Pamela Love NYC lent the jewelry.

Casting the Show

Adam Jeffery | CNBC

Roughly a week before the show, Hoffman will meet with a casting agent to choose the runway models. For this show, she will need about 17 girls to model 30 looks.

"We look for particular girls that suit the aesthetic that we are going for in the show or body type that I know will fit the samples right," she said.

Run of Show

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After Hoffman casts the models for the show, they come in to her studio for fittings to try the looks on so the stylist and Hoffman can choose who wears what down the runway. They will also decide the run of show, or the order in which each model goes down the catwalk.

Putting Their Faces On

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Hoffman said she arrived at the studio early in the morning on Saturday to make sure everything was going according to plan.

"The truckers came and picked up the collection to bring it to the tents and we did a final hair and makeup test here on one of the models and now we've been unpacking the collection, steaming everything, making sure that everything is sorted, going over the looks with the dressers so that everybody understands what their changes are," she said before the show began.

Before the make-up test, Hoffman meets with lead make-up stylist Charlotte Willer and tells her the inspiration for the line two days prior to the show.

After Willer sketches out some ideas, they then try it out on a model on the same day. Both the hair and make-up are sponsored by L'Oreal's Maybelline New York.

Ready for a Close Up

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Many times models will be rushing from a prior show so stylists will have to remove previous make-up.

Like a Gypsy

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Lead hairstylist Nick Irwin of Catwalk by TIGI said he first tested the look for a few hours, two days before the show to play with the texture and give different options to Hoffman. She had come to him asking for something that was sculpted but still looked a "little bit expensive," Irwin said.

"There's an element of gypsy about it, I think, in the fact that we're using these ethnic chains through the back to kind of almost conceal the wave," he added.

Irwin, a London resident, said he first flew stateside on Monday for Fashion Week.

"But it's much easier today to communicate with the power of the Internet and digital and she can send me things on a daily basis," he said.

His team arrived about 15 minutes before the 11 a.m. call time for the show. The only headache he noted for the show were girls who were arriving after the call time following previous runway shows, as late as 40 minutes before the show.

'The Finishing Touch'

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The lead nail stylist, who goes by Honey, said she first discussed the look for the nails with Hoffman two days before the show. Instead of having something crazy or solid, she said they decided on something with a little bit of graphic. She then tested the nails with two different shapes.

Honey cited "chicken nubbly" or "little next-to-nothing nails where you've got to make it work or you've got to do a quick slap-on where you've got to put on little nails" as one of the process' challenges.

"Some of them — you know you bite, they get nervous at Fashion Week," she said. "Some of them might not have nice long nail beds — that's the challenge."

"Oh, that's the finishing touch, honey," she said about nails. "That's the end all of all. That's your last accessory. You don't even have to put on jewelry. Once the nails are done, you're done."

Collection Hits the Runway

Photographer | CNBC

After the models' hair, makeup and nails are ready, they are dressed in their looks and accessories and lined up backstage according to their run-of-show order. Then the lights dim, the show music begins and they hit the catwalk.

Hoffman's fall 2013 collection looked to "Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves" for inspiration and featured a variety of colorful prints, unique detailing and embellishments.

Shown here is an embroidered Suzani quilter bomber jacket, needlepoint tunic and pants of the same fabric. Matching tops and bottoms were a popular trend this season at Lincoln Center. The Suzani print was inspired by the traditional tribal textile from Central Asian countries such as Turkey, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.

Elephants, Peacocks — Oh My!

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This magenta chiffon gown features the Caravan print, which shows elephants and peacocks intertwined in a colorful kaleidoscope.

The End Nears

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The model shown in this look, which came near the end of Hoffman's show, wears a geometric wool houndstooth wrapped shawl cloak.

It's a Wrap

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After each look has appeared down the runway, the models walk down the catwalk again during the finale wearing roughly half of the looks show during the show.

Nearing the End

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Following the show, Hoffman said she planned to take it easy for a bit.

"I'm going to go home and relax for a little, and then we're going to have an after party," she said.