Diet Coke, Cargo Pants, & Headsets: Producer Cathleen O'Neil Takes Us Behind the Scenes At Dauphinette
Follow along with her chaotic, stressful, and rewarding day.
“Today is Dauphinette.” We’re tagging along with producer Cathlein O'Neil, the invisible production hand behind shows like Collina Strada and Allina Liu as she preps and executes her Dauphinette show at St. Mark’s Church-in-the-Bowery, halfway through fashion week. “For the designers this is one of the two biggest days of the year and, as a small business owner, I empathize with their passion,” O’Neil explains, “so when things get intense or stressful (for them) I just let it go.” With the help of a great team—”I’m genuinely obsessed with them”—and great designers, like Dauphinette’s Olivia Cheng—”an absolute gem”—she makes sure the show runs smoothly. Follow along with her chaotic, stressful, and rewarding day below. (Pro tip: Bop along to her back-of-house playlist while you read.)
6:15: Alarm goes off via 2 different forms (phone and google home)—already feeling a little rough this morning.
Woke up, grabbed my laptop to print documents and the printer is jammed—we have like 40 docs to print. So looking into backup printers in Williamsburg—of course it's Saturday in BK and everything is closed.
7:30: I immediately text my associate, Lily, double confirming that we have enough labor for load-in and load-out because we’ve been doing a lot of lifting this week. P.S. Fashion week is not how it looks on the internet. Also, I hit my head during load-in for the Collina Strada show and am wondering if this might be a concussion. Lol. Anyways moving on, onto a new show, a new day.
8:00AM: Making a last minute decision to bring my dog, Pesto, to the show as it's a massive back of house space and I wanna bring good vibes. Ordering Uber + picking up Blackseed for myself and my associate. We need fuel / I don't want to eat the crafty [Craft Services] myself.
In the car, I am using a facial roller and have eye patches on to bring the glow.
8:30AM: Pull up to the church with my massive duffle bags. I always bring multiple outfits and beauty supplies, water, etc. It's like I'm going to camp.
All the trucks outside with rentals. My PA’s are getting after it.
10:30AM: Looks arrive from Olivia’s studio. Our load-in is going super smoothly. No complications. Hair and makeup team are happy. I need more coffee. And had one too many cigarettes last night after another event load-out so this is not my highest point.
11:30AM: Basically loaded in. All models in hair/makeup. I come out to the front of the church and my crew is sitting by a piano all singing ‘Lean on Me,’ while my PA Abe is playing the PA. It’s so fucking cute. I love them all—this team is the best vibes.
I realize I don't like the bench set up now that I see it IRL. So Lily (associate producer) and I play around with model-walk and floor plan, and then move it all ourselves because I'm antsy and want to see it.
I tell Olivia we switched the floor plan and she's like whatever you want Cathleen. This is why I love her.
12:30PM: Lunch is arriving. My diet is horrific this week but I plan for it—it’s basically cold brew, diet coke, and banh mis. Crafty lunch is different for models and team and I typically snack on it but today I am wanting banh mis and summer rolls (it was actually our crafty yesterday @ collina but i did not have one sec to eat it).
We are all a little tired. Forcing the AV team to turn on some drake. Need to pump up the crew. It's a long day with the lookbook [shoot] and show.
2:00PM: Power went out, but we fixed it quickly. We’re moving along with the lookbook. Pesto is keeping everyone in good spirits.
3:00PM: Need another coffee/diet coke run. We brought cake and champagne for Olivia and the models are thrilled to have cake. We fly through it.
3:05PM: Lindsey Media shows up and I am crackiiiing up because he always brings a literal entourage of 40 little girly interns all dressed up. Meanwhile, my team is in black cargos and workout clothes—always sprinting around the venue.
3:30PM: I’m getting antsy to wrap up the lookbook shoot and move on to rehearsal so we can time the model walk.
3:50PM: We’re starting rehearsal. I am so excited because Olivia took my advice and created a much more lively playlist for this season. It's got the beats. It's just better for overall vibes and for the models' walks.
4:00PM: Still rehearsing. I’m getting a little annoyed because the lighting is not following my cues. Turns out it was my fault because my radio wasn’t working. Whoops. Thank god it wasn't during the show as I'm the one calling it. Anyways, models look fab. This collection looks fab and rehearsal goes well.
4:15PM: We’re wrapped on rehearsal and ready to go. I tell my intern she needs to stay with Pesto for the show. She is so cute and takes it so seriously. I run to back-of-house to change. I'm still in cargo pants and Airmaxes and know I'll need to be front-of-house at some point. I change into my Loewe event dress (I splurged in the fall and wear it to like every event. It's a staple in my black event wardrobe) and Simon Miller platforms—I need these platforms around the models because I'm short.
4:30PM: I come out and the front-of-house looks like a mess which really makes me mad. So I start moving things myself. This is the point where I'm telling people to run not walk to get the venue to a good place.
I run back and grab a Topo Chico and piece of cake because I’m feeling exhausted.
4:40PM: I check with Lindsey that doors are opening. We’re good and going.
5:00PM: I’m checking in about guest arrivals as the venue looks really empty and I'm standing with Olivia, who feels it looks empty. I go to the back for two minutes to make sure models are lined up. I come back and the church is packed.
I run out to say "hi" to my two friends, Caitie Kelly and Gage Daughdrill, from my days working at T Magazine. I tell them Pesto is in the back and they insist to come backstage after to see him. Caitie is like fam to me. I'm always happy when she comes to a show I produce. We were assistants together.
5:12PM: Okay, Lindsey is calling for me. We have one min until show time.
I cue the assistant to turn off house lights, cue the AV team to keep the venue dark and turn on sound. 50 sec song, then lights go up, and models walk. I am calling the show and the walk is about 13.5 seconds between models (my phone is at 8%).
Show is fab. I always get all pumped as they’re walking out and we dance in the back.
5:26PM: Finale is starting. I push Olivia to the other side so she can come out and say hi at the end.
It's so good!
Simultaneously, I'm texting my PA’s to start moving on wrap up. Before we start the runway, I have everyone back-of-house starting to pack up, so we can get the f out.
The show wraps. Everyone stands up.
6:00PM: The team actually listened (because they’re incredible) and everything is actually packed up. Rental company is on cue for pick-ups and ready to grab the benches. Dauphinette team is packing up.
We’re halfway through NYFW now. I grab a water, chat with the team about final clean up plan and then I chat with them about tomorrow's load-in plan for our next show. I tell everyone to go to the Dauphinette afterparty at the Public (while very unsure if I can rally).
7:30PM: I Uber home with Pesto and all my shit. I'm exhausted.
I get home and instantly shower (I feel like I need two showers a day during fashion week with all the heavy lifting and changing).
8:30PM Of course, I get a second wind and text some friends to join me for the afterparty. I'm confident I will only have one drink.
We get there and the party is basically over so we wrangled the PR team and then my team showed up and we had drinks on the second floor @ The Public. Espresso martinis and…… now im loading in for our next event today and wishing I had one less beverage. But such is life and I can't say that isn’t just how I live.
I love my life. I love my job.
Photos: Courtesy of Cathleen O'Neil