Under pressure: Measuring the physical stress of Fashion Week

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Five Ways You Can Embrace Fashion Week

From the outside, New York Fashion Week, and its counterparts in London, Milan, and Paris, may appear more on the glamorous side of life. But when you understand that fashion—a multi-billion dollar global industry—uses this twice-yearly main stage as a means to promote itself and its product, it suddenly becomes a lot more significant. And stressful.

To see just how stressful Fashion Week is, Vocativ used technology to measure the impact on five brave souls who were working at Moynihan Station, the main venue of New York Fashion Week — The Shows*. On the very first day of Fashion Week, our participants stepped up to plate from public relations, design, production, and digital media departments, and they helped Vocativ discover that there's a lot more to the shows than just watching beautiful people walk up and down a runway.

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Under pressure: Measuring the physical stress of Fashion Week
NEW YORK, NY - FEBRUARY 18: Singer-songwriter Lady Gaga prepares backstage at Marc Jacobs Fall 2016 fashion show during new York Fashion Week at Park Avenue Armory on February 18, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for Marc Jacobs)
NEW YORK, NY - FEBRUARY 17: A general view of a model backstage at Marchesa Fall 2016 New York Fashion Week at The Dock, Skylight at Moynihan Station on February 17, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Bennett Raglin/Getty Images for NYFW: The Shows)
LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 19: Models backstage ahead of the Eudon Choi show during London Fashion Week Autumn/Winter 2016/17 at Brewer Street Car Park on February 19, 2016 in London, England. (Photo by Tristan Fewings/Getty Images)
Delpozo designer Josep Font makes last-minute rounds backstage before showing Delpozo Fall-Winter 2016 collection during Fashion Week on Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2016, in New York. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)
NEW YORK, NY - FEBRUARY 16: Fashion designer Telfar Clemens (L) dresses a model backstage at the Telfar fashion show during Fall 2016 MADE Fashion Week at Milk Studios on February 16, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Mireya Acierto/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 19: A makeup artist is seen painting a model's nails backstage ahead of the Barrus show at Fashion Scout during London Fashion Week Autumn/Winter 2016/17 at Freemasons' Hall on February 19, 2016 in London, England. (Photo by Ian Gavan/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 19: A model is seen in hair and makeup backstage ahead of the Barrus show at Fashion Scout during London Fashion Week Autumn/Winter 2016/17 at Freemasons' Hall on February 19, 2016 in London, England. (Photo by Ian Gavan/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 19: A model backstage ahead of the Eudon Choi show during London Fashion Week Autumn/Winter 2016/17 at Brewer Street Car Park on February 19, 2016 in London, England. (Photo by Tristan Fewings/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - FEBRUARY 18: Models prepare backstage at Marc Jacobs Fall 2016 fashion show during new York Fashion Week at Park Avenue Armory on February 18, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for Marc Jacobs)
LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 19: Models backstage, detail, ahead of the Eudon Choi show during London Fashion Week Autumn/Winter 2016/17 at Brewer Street Car Park on February 19, 2016 in London, England. (Photo by Tristan Fewings/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - FEBRUARY 17: A general view of atmosphere backstage just before the start of the DKNY Women's Fall 2016 Show during New York Fashion Week: The Shows at Skylight Modern on February 17, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Brian Killian/WireImage)
Designer Jeremy Scott, left, reviews the running order of his Fall 2016 collection backstage during Fashion Week in New York, Monday, Feb. 15, 2016. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)
LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 19: Models are seen backstage ahead of the Felder Felder show at Fashion Scout during London Fashion Week Autumn/Winter 2016/17 at Freemasons' Hall on February 19, 2016 in London, England. (Photo by Ian Gavan/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - FEBRUARY 17: Models walk the runway of the Boss Womenswear fashion show during the Fall 2016 New York Fashion Week on February 17, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Jenny Anderson/WireImage)
NEW YORK, NY - FEBRUARY 18: A model prepares backstage at Marc Jacobs Fall 2016 fashion show during new York Fashion Week at Park Avenue Armory on February 18, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for Marc Jacobs)
NEW YORK, NY - FEBRUARY 18: A model prepares backstage at Marc Jacobs Fall 2016 fashion show during new York Fashion Week at Park Avenue Armory on February 18, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images for Marc Jacobs)
NEW YORK, NY - FEBRUARY 18: A model poses backstage wearing clothing by Laurel DeWitt before the Laurel DeWitt fashion show during Fall 2016 New York Fashion Week at 1OAK on February 18, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - FEBRUARY 18: A general view of a clothing rack backstage at the J. Mendel fashion show during Fall 2016 New York Fashion Week at Cedar Lake on February 18, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Ben Gabbe/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 19: A model is seen in hair and makeup backstage ahead of the Barrus show at Fashion Scout during London Fashion Week Autumn/Winter 2016/17 at Freemasons' Hall on February 19, 2016 in London, England. (Photo by Ian Gavan/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - FEBRUARY 18: Models prepare during rehearsal at Marc Jacobs Fall 2016 fashion show during new York Fashion Week at Park Avenue Armory on February 18, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images for Marc Jacobs)
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For designers showing at Fashion Week, fortunes are often decided at the shows — careers are launched through the discerning eyes of the editorial elite, and celebrities can use their influence to catapult indie designers into household names. The runway shows themselves can happen anywhere a brand chooses, but the main locations are at Clarkson Sq in the way western sphere of SoHo, and the aforementioned Moynihan Station, a former post office near Manhattan's Garment District. These venues serve as home bases for some 100,000 bodies that flow back and forth from show to show.

In the midst of this city-wide chaos, there are the smaller cogs in the massive fashion machine: the writers, the buyers, the models, and the rest of the go-getters who sign up to drag their tired selves from one corner of the city to another in an effort to make the whole thing go around. Of course, some individuals are more important than others (though who qualifies as "important" varies based on who you ask), but they're all there for more or less the same reason: to be seen and see what's next, and to play their small role in this huge drama.

This season, WME/IMG (the entertainment and sports company that now owns, operates and represents the main shows) provided us with access to their staffers to see Fashion Week in a way not possible before.

As we learned, for each of our subjects the whole affair is essentially a giant ball of stress, though some conceded that the intensity ebbs and flows. Christian Leone, a participant who is in charge of designer relations for WME/IMG, put it bluntly: "Every day, in fact every moment at Fashion Week is just putting out fires." Those fires can be anything from a missing shoe to a ragged hem or an A-list celebrity being late for a show—a dizzying array of things can go wrong in a shockingly short time.

Vocativ's data was captured while our participants were working the Nicholas K show on Thursday, February 11. Our findings revealed that the most stressed employee was Leone, who among other things clocked a spike in heart rate at 106 beats per minute. Since the average resting heart rate for an adult is between 60 and 80 bpm, that number might seem uncomfortably high. However, Leone told us, it's not the designer who must deal with the media, shepherd celebrities and editors around the venue, or have the face-to-face interaction with the press—it's people like him. "The most stressful part is the constant changes. Everything seems to be going smoothly and then all the sudden there's a glitch and you've got figure it out."

Thinking quick, keeping cool, looking great, it's all part of the package. It should also be noted that in his own words, Leone works "basically six months for Fashion Week. Everything I'm doing is ultimately for this, you know, one week." Pressure? Yes, indeed, and his heart rate reflected the intensity of his position.

In contrast to Leone's elevated heart rate, Monis Alam, who does digital marketing for WME/IMG, posted a peak heart rate of 80.9 bpm for the day. Her heart rate possibly stayed lower because she's dealing with the online world and not interacting with crazed designers, tired editors, and over-scheduled celebrities all day.

If heart rate is a good indication of stress, then total number of footsteps taken in a day is a good indication of pure exertion. Of all the participants, Laurie DeJong, a production director, took far more steps than any other subject, including the incredibly stressed-out Christian Leone. During the day, DeJong took 5,318 steps—but she also posted the second-lowest heart rate for the day, with a peak of 90.7 bpm (roughly 10 more beats per minute than cool character Monis Alam). Compare DeJong's step count to that of Leone, who clocked in at 1,413 steps. He had the fewest steps taken by anyone we measured that day, and yet he still had the highest heart rate. Perhaps there's something to be said for running around working, rather than standing still while people try and give you the run around. Just ask Leone.

Certainly all this stress and work is not without enjoyment and excitement. After all, working at Fashion Week is a choice, and many see it as a privilege. Excitement, much like stress, can also boost your heart rate. Take that pulse-quickening moment when a model first strides down a runway. Andrew Serrano, director of global PR for IMG Fashion, explains, "The best part is seeing that first model come on the runway for the first show. It puts into perspective why we do what we do. We get two or three hours of sleep a night, but that reminds you of the larger picture of helping the designer and helping the media."

There's electricity, there's enthusiasm, and for all the spreadsheets, endlessly revised seating charts, and gnarly feet crammed into nice shoes, there's still a little bit of heart-pumping glamour. It is fashion, after all.

*Vocativ is an official content partner of New York Fashion Week — The Shows. Follow us on Facebook & Twitter for all our latest coverage.

The post Under Pressure: Measuring The Physical Stress Of Fashion Week appeared first on Vocativ.

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