Fashion Week Backstage: 5 Questions with Publicist Emily Bungert

TIME talks to a publicist and show producer about what it's like to choreograph the chaos of a fashion show

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Andrew Burton / Reuters

Models wait during the Nicholas K Spring/Summer 2013 collection during New York Fashion Week, Sept. 6, 2012.

Emily Bungert has been working in fashion PR for 13 years. Now a partner at powerhouse firm People’s Revolution—well-known to fans of MTV’s The Hills and The City and Bravo’s Kell on Earth—the publicist and show producer talks to TIME about what it’s like to choreograph the chaos of a fashion show.
What is your role during Fashion Week?

I usually work, on average, about 6 to 8 shows per season. I do everything from securing the timeslot to figuring out the venue, putting the budget together, sourcing sponsors, securing the casting director, the music, the photographer, the videographer, backstage and front of house photography, the catering, the trucking, the logo, the invitations, the hair and makeup test. Putting all of those pieces together for this many shows, I have to be extremely organized.

(PHOTOS: From Casting to Catwalk: 48 Hours with French Model Marine Deleeuw)

Are there any memorable crises that have arisen come show time?

Every single show, there’s always something. A couple seasons ago we had a Nicholas K show in the morning, and the call time was 6 a.m. There was supposed to be a major hair look happening. The person who was bringing the extensions was coming from New Jersey and he got into a car accident. Before 9 a.m. it’s really not easy to go out and buy hair. The lead hair person had to go back to his apartment and scramble to try to get hair for the show. But it all worked out in the end; we got the hair.

Another time we had a model faint in the middle of a presentation. He was a male model and he was standing underneath a curtain of Swarovski crystals. It was an all-black room and the lights were really bright. I was by the front door and all of a sudden I get a call on headset going, “Somebody call 911!  A model’s down!” There were ambulances that came outside the show, and Kelly [Cutrone, founder of People’s Revolution] went out to ask them to go move the ambulances, because we’re having a fashion show [laughing]. The guy was totally fine in the end; it’s just sometimes the models burn out because they’re not eating enough or they’re dehydrated, standing underneath lights for an hour. He just literally dropped down.

What’s your biggest worry leading up to the shows?

Usually it’s about the attendance at the show and which editors are coming for the front row, organizing the celebrity attendees and making sure that they’re showing up on time. The most important thing is that all the top reviewers are in the front row and present by the time we start the show.

What do you do if someone tries to sneak into a front row seat?

Usually we try to reason with them first and let them know that it’s not their assigned seat and they have to get up for the person who is supposed to be sitting there. If they refuse to get up, I will call security at IMG and ask them to kindly remove that person, and be sure to ban them for life from ever attending another one of our shows. If Kelly [Cutrone] happens to be on the floor and there’s someone that won’t budge, it’s pretty easy to just send her over and she’ll scare them away.

How far in advance of a show do you finalize the seating chart?

I try to have it be about three days before, but there are always some last minute additions. Last season with the Mara Hoffman show—she shows in a very large venue that has about 800 seats—I was still finishing the seating chart the night before the show. I ended up having to get a room at the Soho Grand Hotel across the street from our office, and I basically slept on top of my seating chart. It was on the bed right next to me; I was still working on it at 2 in the morning.

MORE: Highlights from Haute Couture Fashion Week 2013