Fashion show lighting is a unique discipline of stage lighting which has its own techniques, motivations and styles.
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Most fashion shows are organized for the purpose of showcasing clothing and accessories, of a specific designer, fashion house or brand. Fashion shows are usually put on for an audience of prospective customers or people within the fashion industry. It is essential, therefore, that the apparel on show is presented in the best possible manner to enable the audience to get the best impression of the design.
- Techniques and Color
Most fashion collections will feature a lot of colors, with shades and textures in the fabric of the clothing. So it is very important that any lighting for such a show is set up purely for highlighting these colors and textures. This is achieved in three approaches.
- Full-spectrum Light
The light sources used for illuminating the show space must be full spectrum White light. While much light (such as Fluorescent) appears to be white, it is not made up of all light frequencies at a similar level. Having the full spectrum of light in a source is essential because if any frequencies are lacking, the colors on any apparel will not be obvious in the way the designer intended.
Conventional Incandescent light (filament) is the most readily available form of lamp that produces full spectrum white light. This type of lamp is fitted into many different facilities and can be used for fashion show lighting.
- Color Temperature
In essence, color temperature is how "warm" or "cold" white light is (Warm light has a more yellow character, where as cold light has more blue). The difference between various color temperatures is best shown by dimming domestic lighting; as the light gets dimmer it tends to become more "warm" - a phenomenon known as amber shift.
In the case of fashion show lighting, it is usually the goal to have light of medium color temperature (around 5600 Kelvin). This is because it is a relatively neutral color template and allows for good photos of the apparel.
- Distribution of Light
Most fashion shows will feature models who will walk down a catwalk, or other staged area. As the models move around it is important that the space in which they are walking is evenly lit. Failure to do this causes "hot spots" (where the light is substantially brighter than the average) and "cold spots" (where there is not enough light). This variation in light intensity has two disadvantages:
1) Photography of the show is made difficult, consequently results are disappointing. 2) The finer detail of the apparel is lost to the audience.
A well set up fashion show will have even light coverage throughout the whole staged area. This is typically done with the use of multiple light sources placed in the correct locations.
Differences from normal stage lighting
The fundamental difference between fashion show lighting and normal stage lighting is in the purpose. Typically stage lighting for theatrical performances will be used as a means of changing moods, day or night, or of focusing in one area. A fashion show, by contrast, uses lighting purely for the purpose of accentuating the fashion designs on show. It could be said that the lighting for a fashion show is used solely for illumination as opposed to being a feature within itself.
- "Guide to Producing a Fashion Show", Judith C Everett, Fairchild Books, ISBN 1-56367-253-7