Ill-fitting shoes, long dresses among potential hazards for runway models

By , on March 17, 2016


(Photo from FLickr/herval)
(Photo from Flickr/herval)

TORONTO – Even with countless catwalk shows to her credit, nothing could have prepared Jacqueline Summers for her recent slippery turn on the Toronto Fashion Week runway.

As she took her first walk in the Mikhael Kale show, the unexpectedly slickened surface in front of the photographers’ pit caused the model to momentarily lose her footing.

“There was water at the bottom of the runway,” recalled Summers. “I was (the) third girl, so I’d seen the other two trip, and I thought: ‘OK, I got this.’

“Tried to tip-toe, still had a little boggle. I still slipped.”

Fashion Week organizers said rain tracked inside made the runway slippery and that they’d “remedied the issue.”

Whether they’re newcomers or catwalk veterans, no model is immune from potential hiccups that can arise which may lead to spills during shows in front of hundreds in the room – not to mention countless others viewing images of such slips on social media.

At the Givenchy show last September, Candice Swanepoel was helped to her feet after taking a hard fall on the runway. The Victoria’s Secret Angel posted a photo on Instagram of the bloodied marks on her bare legs caused by the spill.

“Thank you to whoever picked me up off the runway tonight,” she wrote. “Left with little scratches but mostly a bruised ego… #ohwell.”

In 1993, Naomi Campbell famously took a tumble while wearing a towering pair of Vivienne Westwood platforms.

“I could have broken both my ankles,” she told David Letterman in an interview.

“No one moved a muscle in their faces. They were just nervous until I started laughing – and then they started laughing, too.”

“I got up and I continued. And I haven’t done so badly,” she added, noting that she landed commercials for an insurance company and chocolate brand as a result of the mishap.”

Sutherland Models agency director Carole Reynolds said seminars and prep work are conducted with new models before show castings take place. The process typically involves sharing expertise on how to take those initial steps onto the catwalk while wearing six-inch heels.

The agency’s models typically make their start in Toronto in hopes of proceeding on the “show circuit,” walking in London, Paris, Milan and New York, she added.

“It’s sort of like a training ground for them to really get their first experience on stage and at a Fashion Week and deal with all of those elements,” said Reynolds.

“Everything from the bright lights, to the maybe ill-fitting shoes, to the runway, to an outfit that might need a bit of manoeuvring of how to show it according to designers… It’s a lot for them to think about all at once.”

Sutherland’s creative director, Brandon Hall, handles all of the shows, and instructs models to buy inexpensive, uncomfortable heels to try out wearing at home, said Reynolds.

Zoe Colivas said she’s figured out a few tricks for dealing with ill-fitting footwear, like gripping her toes while wearing the shoes.

“You get used to it,” said the Toronto model, who has walked for leading labels including Prada, Mulberry and Christopher Kane.

Veteran Canadian supermodel and runway coach Stacey McKenzie said duct tape on shoes can help with slippery runways, and she’ll stuff shoes that are too big with paper.

“If it’s too small, unfortunately, you’ve got to work with it,” said McKenzie, founder of Walk This Way Workshops.

McKenzie said she always encourages her students to check the runway before the show starts, and even organizers should do the same to ensure the surface is clean.

“My thing is if an accident happens where I might slip or I’m about to slip, it’s important for the model to play it off,” said McKenzie, who has walked in runway shows for Christian Lacroix and Jean Paul Gaultier.

“At the end of the day, you’re still on the runway and you’re still representing your brand – so play it off.”

It’s not just the shoes that can be a potential hazard: the designs themselves can prove tricky to navigate.

“I am not a huge fan of the long dresses only because I find (them) very difficult to walk in,” said Colivas.

“Huge skirts are easier because if there’s some kind of tulle underneath, it makes it easier to kick. I find it more difficult when it’s a tight or flowy dress because you can trip on it more easily, and it can be caught in your heels.”

McKenzie recalled wearing a designer’s dress that was so tightly constricted, the waistline was adjusted from a size 25 to size 20.

“I almost fainted in the fitting. But I had that mindset that I didn’t focus on it,” said McKenzie.

“I just focused on looking fabulous and doing a great job.”