Portlanders Share Their Cringe-iest Fashion Show Horror Stories

The city's top fashion show producers share some horrible experiences with thoughtless audience members—and recommend some etiquette for your next stylish outing.

By Eden Dawn July 6, 2015

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Designs by Michael Costello at FashioNXT.

Image: Yi Yin

In my many years of attending countless fashion shows, I can group the people who attend into one of two categories: those who came to see the clothes, and those who came to party. In the spirit of full disclosure, I will confess to having been both—but even then, I was a mannered partier. As the amount of shows in town continue to multiply like bunnies, we asked two of the city’s busiest fashion show producers about what they’ve experienced and what they beg of us all not to do.

Elizabeth Mollo and MaryAnn Escutia who work on producing the shows for nearly every event in town (including FashioNXT, Open Season, Fade to Light, Alley 33, and Unmentionables) give us the real talk on their experiences.


Elizabeth Mollo: At the last Fade to Light show we had a party of six people show up super late without buying the upgraded tickets with reserved seating and basically refused to sit, standing in the middle of the runway until they were all seated together which held up the show about 20 minutes. Also in the same show, people sat in seats that were clearly marked for a sponsor and refused to leave until we got a security guard to force them out of the seats so the sponsor could finally sit down.

Editor’s Note: Super rude on all accounts. Pay for the fancy seats if you want them, and don’t make everyone else wait for your temper tantrums.


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Image: Beth Olson


Elizabeth: At the last Unmentionable a photographer and model showed up in the garage of Doug Fir 5 minutes before the show started and demanded from a security guard that they be let into the backstage, so the model could walk in the show and he could take some photos of her. This model was not cast to walk in the show, in any way, whatsoever. Luckily, we never had to see them and security just kicked them out.

Editor’s Note: This is one of the odder ones I’ve heard. If you want to model in a fashion show, almost all of them have castings you can attend. If you want to photograph it, you typically need approval from the producers or the event or the venue.  


Elizabeth: The whole drunk lady throwing up in the front row of FashioNXT and then being carried outside. Gross.

Editor’s note: Read my shade-throwing personal recount and tirade of this here.


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Designs by Michelle Lesniak at FashioNXT.

Image: Yi Yin


Elizabeth: This has happened on several occasions at FashioNXT: Someone from the audience sneaks backstage from the runway side during the show and proceeds to make their way through backstage. Most of the time they say they got lost and were looking for the bathroom. WTF???? 

MaryAnn: So many people think that working backstage with all the models, designers, hair, and makeup is so glamorous, but if they only knew all the work that goes into it and all the management that has to happen to keep it in line. And one of the biggest things to manage is who is allowed backstage. I can’t tell you how many people we get sneaking in or dropping the infamous line. “….but I know so and so”. The truth is once it’s production time we don’t care who you know, we care about putting on a show and in order to do that we need our team and our team only. So the biggest takeaway is respect! Respect the security when they say you aren’t on the list, respect the producers when they say you can’t come in, and respect the show and the production value! If you are invited in, then great, if not stay out and say hi to everyone after!

Editor’s Note: This is where models are changing at lightening speed and everyone is trying to make the turnaround for their next look. You shouldn’t get up at all during a show, and going backstage where there are young, naked girls is a creepy move.

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Design by Ms. Wood at Fade to Light.

Image: Sarah Giffrow

MaryAnn: One time an intoxicated guest tried on a designer gown worth thousands out in the open! We were wrapping up one night after a week of shows and at the end of each show we rolled out the designer racks to give the attendees a chance to see the garments up close. As the team was off to the side resting and waiting for the viewing to be over, we started hearing some commotion from a corner. We got up to see a lovely lady come out from behind a rack in a gown that had just been on the runway! We quickly ran up to her to address the situation, asked her to please take off the gown, and leave the area. She clearly had one too many drinks, became very entitled to her decision, and proceeded to fight us on the issue. That’s when security got involved and they kindly took care of the situation, but not before we photo bombed any pictures she tried to take.  

Editor’s Note: A designer viewing is not the same thing as visiting their store. Often times, runway pieces are one-of-a-kind and handmade, and may be fragile after quick fixes for model fittings. In general the rule is as your parents said when you were little, “ask before you touch.”


MaryAnn: The runway! Can we talk about the runway!? STAY OFF OF IT! The runway is our stage, it’s our platform to bring this art to you. If you were at a theater would you run across the stage to go to the restroom? Would you cross over a performer to run to the bar? Most likely not! So don’t do it a fashion show! If you have to get up, take the least disruptive route out or sit tight until an intermission. And lastly, if you are late to find your seat don’t call attention to yourself, be kind, and just follow direction to your seat and enjoy the show.

Editor’s Note: The purpose of fashion shows for designers is twofold. One is to show their goods to buyers, press, and potential customers. The other is to get photos from the show to share on social media, their web site, and to their digital world. When people run across the runway they both distract the models and ruin the end of runway photos. Of course emergencies happen, so be mindful of this and if you have a tiny bladder, save the bubbly for after the show.

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