Bandit Lites at London's Fashion Week

Bandit Lites is once again supplying lighting and rigging equipment to the British Fashion Council (BFC) Tent main venue at London Fashion Week.

The tent is pitched in the grounds of the Natural History Museum in South Kensington and is hosting over 20 shows--many of them back-to-back--from a crop of major international designers. The BFC tent is also staging the final of reality TV series, Project Catwalk.

Lighting designer for this action packed site is Simon Tutchener, who’s been involved with LFW for the past 10 years. It’s Bandit’s fourth season on the runway for production company S2 Events, project managed for the Bedford-based lighting company by Lester Cobrin, who has been involved for eight years on this prestigious event.

The 30m catwalk has to be lit completely evenly and at the same levels all the way along, primarily for photographers and broadcast cameras. This can be hard to achieve given the different ages and constantly changing properties of the lamps and the temporary nature of the environment with numerous re-rigs and changeovers happening between each show, all of which can disturb and change things. It can also be affected by the weather and the internal atmosphere of the space.

Lighting the runway is a complex, precision task. “It’s more science than art really,” explains Tutchener. “It‘s basically a case of smoothing and spreading the light out.” Consequently, he spends a lot of time on the runway with a light meter, aiming to achieve no greater variations in level than three tenths of a stop from front to back. He adds that getting the right level of brightness is a specific art: if it’s too bright, the designers think it’s too harsh; and conversely, neither can it look too dim.

Bandit’s first job onsite is flying a 124x40' mother grid in the tent. This then has three Litebeam trusses threaded lengthways through it from which the lights are hung. For the first time this year, Tutchener has added a center truss to the two traditional outside ones. This was because he’s constantly being asked if it’s possible to avoid illuminating the front row of the audience in shows – and the only way to do this completely is to light from a center truss, which he uses as and when the producers of the individual shows consent.

The runway is lit with a total of 160 ETC Source Four fixtures, including PARs and profiles, with every lens option on the profiles from 5 to 36 degrees as well as zooms.

Board operator is Graham Feast, using a Wholehog 2 console, and the others on Tutchener’s team are crew chief Mike Humeniuk, Ewan Cameron on dimmers, technician Mick Freer, and rigger Brian Wilson.

Tutchener comments, “It’s all been very smooth. The gear came out well prepped from Bandit, as you would expect, and it just flew up and worked absolutely faultlessly during the get in and technical sessions”.

Some shows also have extra lighting and effects, all of which is dealt with by Tutchener and his crew. When there’s an action-packed schedule in a short timeframe, changeovers become extremely pressured.

The busiest day in the BFC tent was the Tuesday kicking off the whole LFW event.

The first of four back-to-back shows was Paul Costelloe, which needed a neon frame rigged in entrance way. This was stripped down for the Ashley Isham show that followed directly afterwards, featuring two petal confetti drops, and entailing two large confetti blowers to be rigged above the catwalk between the shows. These were then de-rigged for the Michiko Koshino show, for which they had to rig hundreds of feet of festoon lighting and add cosmetic rouge gel to all the back row of lamps for a rose tint. This all then came out, and the rig underwent a complete colour change for the last show by fashion designer Amanda Wakeley.

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