Phillip Lim Tells His Male Models That If They Want His Runway Choreography to Work, They Have to ‘Believe’

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Photo: Michael Loccisano/Getty Images for IMG

"Keep it a nice confident walk," a producer told the models this afternoon in the rehearsal for Phillip Lim's men's show in midtown. With less than an hour before showtime, the models' individual walks needed perfecting. The producer leading the rehearsal noticed some of the boys were skipping steps — a no-no. He and Lim were trying to get the models to look at the cameras instead of down when they came to the single step built into the wooden runway, which extended from a set that looked something like the entrance to a fancy modern house still under construction in Malibu. Hot-pink tape marked the diagonal path the models were supposed to take down the runway — but it would be removed for the show. "Save in your brain right now where the pink line is," the producer said after some models veered off-course. "The problem with that is you get out of the light," Lim explained, telling his charges to keep an eye on the light post to guide them.

While the routine may not vary much from show to show — models get pretty, put on very nice clothes, walk to a point and back in front of bright lights and cameras — choreography and staging can. Each shot of each look captures a moment of what will hopefully become fashion history, to be viewed over and over again, and designers want each to be perfect.

The boys got their individual walks down, but the group finale was taking more work. The models were supposed to enter in two halves from backstage and all come to the front of the runway in a random-looking clump before making their final exits.

"The kicker is we don't want you to come from there to there in a straight line — keep it kind of random," the producer said as Lim looked on calmly. After the boys took another shot at it, Lim got on the microphone at the end of the runway: "So two seconds, right? Look at the camera, let them see you, then return casually to where you entered from." The boys took another pass at walking to the end of the runway and back.

Once they mastered looking like a random group, Lim needed to make sure each model got to the very end of the runway instead of getting stuck behind a clump. "Just to confirm: don't stop here," the designer told them. One model called out that Lim's way wouldn't work. "It has to work — you have no choice. You got to believe," Lim encouraged, as another model interrupted. "Let me finish my sentence first," he went on, still perfectly calm. "Trust me, you want your camera time." The models made another go at coming to the end of the runway and back, but when they turned around, too many clumsily bumped shoulders. After one more try, they seemed to have it down, so the producer and Lim let them practice alone. "I won't be standing at the end of the runway — the training wheels are off," the producer warned. They still bumped into each other a little bit on the turnaround, but things were looking cleaner, so they were released to hair and makeup.

The show itself turned out to be their best take yet.

See more: 3.1 Phillip Lim Menswear Spring 2011 Collection