Earlier this week, the Standard Hotel in New York came alive, its windows filled with flashing rainbow lights and writhing bodies. This was the scene of Target's Kaleidoscopic Fashion Spectacular, hosted by Mother N.Y., along with a powerhouse team of creative collaborators that included choreographer Ryan Heffington, directing/creative collective LEGS, music maven Sam Spiegel/Squeak E. Clean, light pros Bionic League and stylist Mel Ottenberg. 155 rooms of the south side of the hotel became stage for 66 dancers and a frenetic LED show, accompanied by a street level catwalk and booming original score. 2500 bystanders gathered on the sidewalks, with more crowding the Highline Park to max capacity to watch. A Facebook page, created out of Olson, Minneapolis, also made the show available to a national audience. Creativity checked in with Mother N.Y. CD/Partner Tom Webster and Art Director Piers North to find out how the massive production went down.
Tell us about the genesis of this event. Did Target give you a brief for this?
Tom Webster: We were given a brief that very simply stated that we needed to raise the bar from the vertical fashion show that was held five years ago at Rockefeller Center.
Obviously, this was a massive production. Can you discuss the phases of putting it together, and what was involved with each?
TW: First and foremost was the location: The Standard Hotel. We thought this was essential given its significance as a N.Y. architectural icon; we felt that no other property would work. Kim Hastreiter, PAPER editor/publisher, was extremely helpful in helping us build a relationship with the hotel. It was a huge undertaking for the Standard to do this—it was a high profile event with obvious risks. Once they had made the decision to be involved we immediately booked all the room.
The second part was working out the right team. We demanded mutual respect and trust from the get-go with all of the teams involved. We went into it with a check your ego at the door policy, which is essential when asking such big names to work in a process that would involve so much creative collaboration. People say don't work with your friends, but for something like this, that's the spirit of the cooperation.
Our key creative partners were: Sir Ryan Heffington, LEGS, Sam Spiegel and Squeak E. Clean, Bionic League, and Mel Ottenberg. The creative team at Mother oversaw the entire creative process and was key to keeping the creative talent and process moving in the right direction and with the right spirit.
How did you choose Ryan Heffington as choreographer? What did he bring to the table and how did he go about choreographing the show? And, assuming you didn't have the actual hotel to practice in, how/where did you stage the rehearsals to make sure everything flowed properly on show night?
TW: Our friend Dexter Randazzo introduced us to Ryan. Ryan didn't say much but had a super cool demeanor. Once we started really looking at his work, it was immediately apparent that he was beyond talented—he surrounds himself with such a strong team, all working for a common cause and with an amazing energy and spirit.
Piers North: The first dance rehearsals were in L.A. with just Ryan's core team. It was important that Ryan could be in direct contact with Sam Spiegel, Bionic and Legs on a daily basis. This team and Mother then spent several weeks bouncing ideas off each other, and eventually created the first outline for the show. We then moved everyone to a studio in NYC where we brought in Mel Ottenberg for wardrobe and the first full round of dance rehearsals started. As the show evolved we found we needed to move again to a sound stage in Brooklyn where we built fake rooms and laid out the entire hotel on the floor for lighting tests.
The team of Georgie and Geremy from LEGS worked tirelessly to make the show narrative flow smoothly from one section to another. They had to find a place in the 20-minute show for all the incredible ideas that were being thrown at them from every partner. Their attention to detail and dedication to the narrative proved invaluable.
Ryan's team of dance leaders were beyond incredible; they had the biggest logistical challenge to deal with. They had 66 dancers that had to do four wardrobe changes and five room changes each, whilst running between several floors in the hotel and remembering over 1,000 dance steps.
The clothing itself: what sort of brief did you give to Mel Ottenberg to ensure that it would be properly showcased?
PN: The brief to stylist Mel Ottenberg was to work hand and glove with us, Target, and Ryan to bring Target's fall collection to life.
Mel didn't just have a runway show of 25 models to dress, he also had over 400 looks to create in the hotel worn by 66 dancers. The logistics he had to deal with were mind-boggling.
TW: This wasn't about a partnership brand, it was about Target's own brands. It was really important that these brands were shown to New York's fashion and cultural elite including Nina Garcia, Harvey Weinstein, Georgina Chapman and Keren Craig, and Daryl Kerrigan, among others.
The lights were a huge "character" in the show. What was involved in coordinating the design?
PN: The lighting was done by Bionic League. They have worked on some of the most impressive stage shows of the last few years for some huge names like Daft Punk, Kanye West, and the Super Bowl, to name just a few. When we heard they were interested in working with us we were really excited, and they didn't disappoint. They were briefed to create a lighting show that nobody has ever seen before that would blow people's minds. The most impressive part of working with them, though, was their ability to collaborate with all the other talent we had at the table. Martin and Jon always stayed calm, and always said yes, regardless of how insane the ideas were.
What was involved in the street level fashion show? Did you work with a fashion show production company?
PN: We worked with multiple vendors to create the on the street fashion component. Once the looks were created by Mel, and the stage had been designed, we brought in Tom Palmer Productions who effortlessly created something that looked very polished.
Tell us about the production of the score. Sam Spiegel was the man. Why did you go with him; what sort of brief did you give him and what did he provide?
TW: Dexter introduced us. We worked with him on the Creator's Project with Vice and Intel. His work with film scores was a very useful asset and his proximity to Ryan was also useful in the initial phases. We presented Sam with a brief that was made up of a pace line which took you through a series of chapters. Each chapter had a color and a list of emotions.
Sam created a first round score and then worked with Ryan and Geremy to create the accents and beats which would tie the music together with the dance and lights. Every time we came up with a new dance move or light design the music would have to change accordingly; this happened almost daily but Sam's patience and dedication never failed. We were really pleased with the journey that the score takes you on.
What did you do to ensure there's a good turnout for the event?
PN: Print, OOH, social networking, guest lists, friends, and family.
Was it difficult to convince Target to do, or was the client on board from the get-go?
TW: The client has been amazing. They are very good about sprouting the embryo of a good idea and having the courage to get behind it. There's a lot of trust involved in both sides, they realized that this was a very complicated creative process and allowed us the freedom to push the limits of our own creativity.
Ultimately, what were you hoping to achieve with the Spectacular?
TW: Just do something fucking ridiculous that nobody else would have done.
Overall, what was biggest challenge in getting this show off the ground? Did any experiences from past productions (Lady Gaga, etc.) inform what you did with this event? If you were to do it again, what, if anything would you do differently?
TW: The biggest challenge was putting on something so crazy with a budget. This was a hurdle, especially because we couldn't afford as much tech as we wanted. At first we were disappointed not to be able to create some effects we had fallen in love with but ultimately it turned out to be an advantage. It pushed the team to be more creative with simpler effects like the usage of props and more emphasis on the human elements like dance.
If we were to do it again we would simply have to make it even bigger and even better, Fuck yeah.