The hype may swarm around the tents at Fashion Week, but an equal number of designers actually showcased outside the official venue this year. We shadowed designer Janet Kim of Graey during the preparations for her Spring/Summer 2011 show and got to ask a few questions. Since its launch in 2007, Graey has been featured in blogs and the paper media alike: Women’s Wear Daily, Glamour, Nylon, Fashionista, Daily Candy and more. Time Out New York named her one of this year’s breakout designers.

Janet graduated from Harvard with a creative art thesis exploring the link between fashion and the construction of identity. Before she started her own line, she worked in the houses of Christian Dior, Proenza Schouler and  Marc Jacobs.  As luck would have it, her younger brother won $2.5 million at the final table of the World Series of Poker in 2007 and helped get her company off the ground. She did a presentation for fashion week last year but opted for a full runway show this year at the MMAC Performance Space. Exclusively with Untapped, Janet talks about what it’s like to have a show outside of the tents.

Meeting the evening before the show to review logistics with Janet, left.

Untapped:  What are some of the challenges of producing your own show?

Janet:  I have some great friends who generously donated their time, and I had an amazing intern, Cally, who stayed up with me the two nights before the show.   However, I currently pretty much do everything from design, samplemaking, production, PR, and sales on my own, and it’s really hard to juggle all of that at once.   When you’re doing a show, there are so many different things to think about in addition to the clothes — casting models, getting accessories, styling the looks, getting hair and makeup artists, getting sponsors, trying to get the right people to show up, creating a great soundtrack, seating arrangements, printing programs, making sure everything runs smoothly — it can get overwhelming.   It’s also frustrating because I felt like I didn’t have as much time as I would have liked to design — I constantly feel like my designing is being held back by all of the other practical considerations.

The clothes are ready to go on a rack while seating charts for the show are arranged in Excel. With publications like Teen Vogue, WWD, Glamour and InStyle attending, it gets a little complicated who gets to be in the front row.

Where samples are made

Untapped:  What were your motivations to have the show in a performance space instead?

Janet:  Cost was definitely a consideration.   The tents are a beautiful space, but you need around $30,000 just to rent a space in the smallest tent there, not to mention all of the other expenses associated with a show.   When you’re an independent designer, it’s hard to come by that kind of cash.   It’s also nice to have your own space that you can personalize and control.   We were the only ones in our space so we were able to use the lobby area just for our own check-in and have one of our sponsors, Hpnotiq, serving drinks.

Cally puts some finishing touches to a full length knit dress

Work goes late into the night

A little optimism always helps

Untapped: Any funny mishaps this year or in previous years?

Janet: I actually think everything went amazingly smoothly [this year].   There were a couple of outfits, looking at the photos, that I wish I could have adjusted a bit on the models before they walked out, but we didn’t have any major wardrobe malfunctions.   There was one season where I asked a hairdresser for a simple ponytail, and he produced this crazy hideous beehive, although I didn’t find that very funny at the time.

Models hanging out backstage pre-show

Untapped: What’s next for Graey (and Janet)?

Janet: I’m already thinking of ideas for my next collection.   The economy’s still pretty shaky so the Spring collection was meant to be more editorial.   Fall 2011 will be more commercial and wearable.   I’d really like to do some cool sweaters since I’ve been obsessed with knitting since I was 7.   I’m trying to find a factory to source them with.   I’ve started to work with custom clients, including bridal, so I’ll be doing more of that as well. In terms of the rest of my life, I’d like to go surfing (the collection was surf-inspired) until it gets too cold to go out, and continue outdoor climbing at the Gunks.   I am also a musician (violin and guitar) so I want to work on my songs, maybe record an EP.   I miss painting, which I studied in college, so I’m hoping to find time to do some of that as well.   I want to travel since I didn’t have time to this summer — I’d love to go to Seoul to visit my family, and I really miss Paris.

At the show, photo by Ferris Vanderveer.

For more runway looks, check out Graey’s website for photographs by Ferris Vanderveer.

For last year’s runway looks check out WWD’s coverage.