Michael.A.LaCombe@gmail.com (313)402-5385

Design Define Detroit: My First Fashion Show!

This past Saturday, I was honored with the opportunity to shoot the inaugural Design Define Detroit fashion showcase at 5E Gallery. In addition to this being the very first Design Define Detroit show, it was also my first time shooting a fashion show as a press photographer. To say that I was excited for this opportunity would be a dramatic understatement. I was so giddy with anticipation in the weeks leading up to the event, that I must have tweeted, retweeted, and posted “all caps with many exclamation points” status updates on Facebook dozens of times.

The night before the event, I realized that I had no clue what I was in for. I decided to swing by 5E Gallery and check it out, just to see if I could get an idea of their setup. I wanted to know if they had white walls/ceilings. They did not. I wanted to see how big the venue was. It’s pretty small (which was good, but more on that later). If they were set up for the show, I wanted to get an idea of where I could position myself to get the best possible shots. They were not set up. Basically, I left there with no more information than I had coming in.

The day of the show, on a nervousness scale of 1-10, I was probably about a 2 – which is an all-time low for me. No matter how many shoots I do, I’m always pretty nervous leading up to them. Additionally, my nervousness didn’t really have anything to do with the show itself. I was mostly concerned about whether or not the lighting would be good enough during the show to allow me to not use my flash. I REALLY didn’t want to have to do that, and I was fortunate enough to be able to kick up my ISO and open my aperture enough to be able to shoot the runway portion of the show handheld with no flash.

I arrived at 4:30 pm during the media check-in hour and got my press badge. I immediately proceeded to twitpic it. 🙂 I took some stuff out to my car, then went back in and prepared for the show. Around 5, they opened the event with a discussion panel entitled “Sustaining Detroit’s Fashion Industry,” which featuring many notable names, highlighted by Detroit City Council President, Charles Pugh. Other notable panelists included Personal Brand Management Strategist, Hajj Flemings; Founder of Detroit Fashion Week, Brian Heath; and from Fashion Group International, Elizabeth Kincaid (who I also had the great pleasure of meeting). Here’s Mr. Pugh with the Design Define Detroit co-director and generally awesome person who I admire and would love have to coffee with even though I don’t drink coffee but maybe she’d be down for a beer, Piper Carter. I had the great fortune of being one of the few photographers who were able to snag this photo before Mr. Pugh scurried out.

Following the discussion panel, was the media hour. This was basically an hour for networking. Since I moved back to Detroit about 3-4 months ago, I’ve been to several networking events. I met more people and handed out more business cards during this media hour than I did at all of those events combined. I have a hypothesis as to why this was the case, but we’ll save that for another blog post when I’m feeling more “randy.” 🙂

I met a number of designers, stylists, models, and photographers – all of which seemed to be genuinely nice people. Whether or not they are actually genuine people remains to be seen. Unfortunately, during this time (or any other time, for that matter), I did not meet the other co-director of the show, Ris “Money” Tena, or any of the other great minds behind this production. It’s OK, though. There will be plenty of future opportunities for them to be blessed with the opportunity to stand within the glow of Your’s Truly.

After the media hour, the show began. I was smart enough to ask in advance where the photographers would be positioned. I was able to use this valuable information to position myself RIGHT at the end of the runway. I knew from watching numerous seasons” of “America’s Next Top Model,” that when a model gets to the end of a runway, she’s supposed to stop and pose, and then turn around and go back. Unfortunately, some of the models did not receive this memo … but again, I’ll save that for another “friskier” blog post. 🙂

I plopped down right at the end of the runway with my 50mm lens – initially – wide open at f/1.4. Half of the lights weren’t on, and I wanted to make sure I was able to keep up a decent shutter speed. Eventually, the other lights were turned on, and I was able to close down a bit to f/2 or f/2.8.

In my completely amateur opinion (but only amateur for the time being), there was a healthy (or unhealthy, depending on how you look at it) mix of the good and the bad. Some of the models were a joy to shoot. They came down to the end of the runway, struck some good poses, hit every angle (right, left, forward) and went to the back. The male model pictured above gave me great poses every time, as did the model pictured below.

Then, there were models who seemed as if their parents had made them participate in the show and they didn’t want to be there. They sauntered slowly down the runway with a blank and emotionless stare that one can only interpret as a look of disdain, then immediately spun around and left. Maybe that was their “look” and they thought it looked cool to look like they didn’t give a shit, but my portfolio and blog have no place for people like that. As they say in sports, if you don’t want to be here, GO!

There was a similar mix in regard to the pieces. There were some jaw-droppingly awesome clothes – or at least clothes that were being worn in a jaw-droppingly awesome fashion. There were also a lot of original pieces as well. I also took note of the hair styles. I noticed that Beauty Salon, the team behind the hair, seemed to have a preference for spiked hair or generally anything that was up and/or pointy (or in one case, rooster-y, lol). Conversely, there were also a few moments that, for me, inspired a “What the hell does he/she have on?!?!?!”

Throughout the course of the night, there were several intermissions that many people used as an opportunity to network. Not me. I wanted my spot. I knew that if I left, my spot right at the front of the runway would be gone, and I was having none of that. So I spent the intermissions cycling through my pictures, contemplating any changes I may need to make, and conversing with the photographer next to me.

As the show came to a close, I had one more bit of business to attend to: Meeting Piper! Throughout the entire night, my constant efforts to introduce myself were thwarted. She was either nowhere to be found, or being held up by someone else. There was even one moment in the night where I was talking to my friend and fellow photographer, Tafari, and Piper came right up to me and had me follow her. I thought, “Great, this is going to be easier than I thought!,” only for her to introduce me to someone else and scurry off. I was so thrown off my game by that, that I don’t even remember who she introduced me to. I was just left standing there mouthing the words, “But wait…” lol

Interestingly enough, while I was talking to … whoever that was (I’m actually quite ashamed that I don’t remember. I made it a point to try to remember everyone for future reference. I’m just horrible with names), it turned into a little miniature networking session. I handed out several cards, met one of the models pictured earlier in this post, and met the man pictured below. Don’t be thrown by his appearance, he’s far scarier looking in person. lol But seriously, he was a cool dude, and allowed me to take this image just for fun.

After I photographed the gentleman above, I ran into Tafari again and he invited me to Slows to go get something to eat. I was down, no doubt, but I still had that same piece of business to attend to: Meeting Piper!

Finally, just as I was about to give up, I caught Piper alone and was able to introduce myself. I was able to do so without gushing, I believe. I’ve been a fan of hers ever since I saw her on “The Shot,” and I read she used to intern for one of my favorite  photographers, Steven Klein. So it was a great honor to meet her. As I mentioned earlier, I hope to see her many times in the future.

With that final piece of business taken care of, I was ready to wrap up the night and this wonderful event. Overall, I’d have to rate the overall experience at a resounding 9 out of 10. I met some great people, got to see some great fashion and modeling, and most importantly, got to take some photos! Now that I’m back in Detroit, I look forward to immersing myself more deeply in the art/fashion/photography community, learning as much as I can, and meeting as many people as possible. I’m deeply grateful for this opportunity, and I’d like to thank all parties that had anything to do with getting me into this show.


To see the full set of pics, including these, in all their hi-res glory, check out this slideshow and/or head over to Flickr!



7 responses

  1. Great photos. And I’m looking forward to this “frisky” post!

    November 16, 2010 at 5:08 PM

    • Michael LaCombe

      LOL! Give me a week or so. 🙂

      November 17, 2010 at 4:06 PM

  2. Amazing Job Mike!!! So glad we got to chat there! That lens worked perfect for this! Wish I had one too! haha!
    I love shallow DOF field on these events! Worked perfectly! Keep up the good work!

    November 17, 2010 at 3:46 PM

    • Michael LaCombe

      Hey Cheryl! Thanks for checking out the pics! I’m pleasantly surprised to see your comment! Have you finished with your pics yet? I’ll keep an eye on your FB page…

      November 17, 2010 at 4:07 PM

  3. fikre

    those are some sweet shots mike. especially 1 & 2. keep grinding, the amature days will be ovee before you know it.

    November 17, 2010 at 8:12 PM

    • Michael LaCombe

      Thanks Fikre! Good seeing you man.

      November 18, 2010 at 9:57 AM

  4. Nneka Jackon

    Flyy Greetings..your photos are absolutely AMAZING!!! I did the set design for the show and design the jewelry and wings you photographed..you rock!!!!!!

    November 27, 2010 at 9:48 PM

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