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September 11, 2007 > Clear the runway

Clear the runway

By Francine Parnes. AP Wire Service

NEW YORK (AP), Sep 07 _ On one memorable episode of ``Sex and the City,'' Carrie Bradshaw is asked to model in a fashion show _ only to end up skidding in her sky-high heels right onto the runway, lying there mortified and splayed, as a photographer clicks away.

Even worse, when supermodel Heidi Klum enters the runway and steps right over Carrie, she is pronounced by a friend, ``fashion road kill.''

Fashion is not always such risky business, but during Fashion Week, the semiannual marathon of designer previews which runs through Sept. 12, models succumb to their share of bloopers, blunders, surprising spills, and plain old failure to follow marching orders.

While beauty is a commodity that models are born with, they must perfect the aloof runway strut, along with the models' typical cold, pouty stare.

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IF THE SHOE SLIPS ...

Each season on the catwalk ushers in its own occupational hazards: a higher heel, a tighter dress, a longer train. For the current shows, which preview the spring 2008 collections, the peril is a shoe in patent leather.

``Patent is hot right now, but if you're walking really fast, one foot skids into the other,'' says Paul Margolin, president of Marc Bouwer, an eveningwear company whose customers have included Angelina Jolie and Oprah Winfrey. His look this season is white patent peep-toe platforms. ``That's why we Vaseline the sides.''

But it's not just patent leather that makes for footwear faux pas. Just ask Kelly Cutrone, chief executive officer of People's Revolution, a fashion publicity firm that is producing several shows this season.

``The rule of the fashion show shoe is that they are always going to be high, cruel, impractical or ugly,'' she says, ``If you look at any fashion show, I promise you they will fit in one of those categories.''

Cutrone wasn't kidding. She explained that she had one designer this season coming from India, who wanted to bring 20 black wigs uncombed and put the models in $3,000 beaded dresses with sneakers.

``It's hard to say yes to something like that,'' she said. ``I told him, There's a TV show here called The Addams Family.''

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THE BOOMERANG EFFECT

``I always feel terrible for girls who fall,'' says Vanessa Bismarck, a publicist at Bismarck Phillips, which oversees many Fashion Week shows. ``But what's worse is to see editors sitting literally feet away not helping _ just to help a girl up if she is lying on the runway unable to make it up again.''

But never mind falling: you have to walk in the right direction. ``My favorite runway story involves (model) Jessica Stams,'' says Roger Padilha, co-founder of MAO PR, which produces numerous shows each season.

``She came in for casting, and while she had the most extraordinary face I have ever seen, at that point she couldn't walk in heels at all. The agent asked me to include her in at least one of my shows as a favor to him and that she'd take walking lessons up to the last minute. (The design house) Chanpaul was the only one who agreed to take a chance,'' says Padilha.

The curveball: Instead of the conventional runway, the show had one that was U-shaped.

``I walked every girl through the set-up twice to ensure that there would be no mistakes,'' Padhila says. Even so, she took a wrong turn and ``came back in through the same entrance without completing the second and third stages of the runway. Everyone seated in those areas missed her look _ and to top things off, the next three girls after her thought that I had changed my directions after seeing what she did on the monitor and copied what she did.

``The designer was furious with me, Jessica's agent was furious with her. He screamed at her backstage till she was in tears. But of course now when I see her face on billboards and magazine covers everywhere, I always think, Baby, you've come a long, long way!''

It's not just the walk; it's also the attitude. For the most part, happy faces need not apply for modeling jobs.

``One year, a girl went out of character and smiled on the runway,'' says Margolin, of Marc Bouwer. ``She corpsed _ she went out of character _ and totally smiled like a pageant girl; Marc got so upset.

``It broke up the momentum of the show. These were very strong, sexy evening gowns, and it wasn't about walking and smiling.''

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ITSY BITSY, TENNY WEENIE

What is the trickiest clothing? Not surprisingly, the teensiest togs. ``The hardest show we've worked on this season is Gottex swimwear,'' says Lou Iacovelli, president of Atelier Creative Services, a fashion public relations firm. ``With so little fabric, there's nothing they can hide behind. It's not like having a great winter coat around you falling to the floor. A triangle bikini? You'd better be super confident.''

But even regulation-sized clothes pose a hazard. Amanda Kerlin, a former IMG model, will never forget the time when ``my friend had her outfit fall apart on her as she stepped out and started walking,'' she says. ``I think they did too many last-minute changes to the outfit, and the sewing started popping off, and she had this big, heavy belt which fell off on one side. She basically ended up holding her whole outfit together until the walk was over.''

Kerlin, author of ``Secrets of the Model Dorm,'' a roman a clef about the fashion industry, has had her own bout with a wardrobe malfunction. ``Once in L.A. during Fashion Week, I was wearing a dress that started riding up all the way to my hips as I walked. I had to hold it down the whole time, which was actually quite awful.''

And it's not just the models who find the runway risky. Bismarck of Bismarck Phillips had one client she'll never forget: ``We had a designer _ who apart from showing a collection for spring-summer and then exactly the same collection again for fall-winter, just in different colors _ had the brilliant idea of installing beaded curtains at the entrance of the catwalk. He got completely caught up in it as he tried to take the bow.''

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Watch a couple of shining examples of runway spills and thrills here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DpPSuWrNwvA

And here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PnSHbjZX858

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