Q+A: Jessica Minh Anh on Turning One World Trade Center Into a Sky-High Catwalk

jessica Location, location, location. For some designers it’s a way to draw the world in (see Karl Lagerfeld’s densely Instagrammed supermarket spree at the Grand Palais) and for some it’s a way to shut it out (Tom Ford famously places bans on instant exposure.) But Jessica Minh Anh, a global fashion show organizer and founder of J Model Management, isn’t so concerned about Instagram. For her a dramatic location really is is everything, coming not just before “likes” but even before the collections she chooses to showcase there.

Jessica first made history when she turned England’s iconic London’s Tower Bridge into a runway 44 meters above the Thames river in 2011. Since then she’s elevated things to the Grand Canyon Skywalk, PETRONAS Twin Towers’ Skybridge in Kuala Lumpur, and the river Seine in Paris. Now her sights are set on America’s tallest architectural marvel and symbol of hope and freedom, the One World Trade Center, which she’ll be turning into a sky-high catwalk next Wednesday. Your move, Karl.

We caught up with Jessica to talk about what goes into planning such spectacles, and what (other than vertigo) we can expect to experience at One World Trade next week.

Why did you decide to start doing these shows?
Initially, because I wanted to prove a point, that you don’t have to be privileged to find your place in this world. Turning England’s iconic London’s Tower Bridge into a phenomenal catwalk as a foreign graduate definitely strengthened that belief. Then I realized it was actually what I was born to do. Being able to combine my love for art, culture, and architecture into my productions brings me the greatest happiness. Unlike other shows which take place at the usual locations, each of my shows brings a special meaning to the designers and viewers. It shows the spirit of a city and a country as a whole. I hope that inspires people.

What attracted you to One World Trade Center?
I believe One World Trade Center represents the strength of the new generation. We dig deep and rise higher. I get emotional just looking at the building knowing its history and how much efforts it took to finish it. Looking at the stunning New York’s skyline from the 63rd floor during my first site visit, I knew this was my next venue. I cannot wait to celebrate the historic moment during J Summer Fashion show 2014 at sunset.

It takes enough prep work just to organize a show in the Lincoln Center, let alone WTC or the Grand Canyon. What are some of the biggest logistical problems you have encountered in past?
Every venue has its own challenges but then again, it makes life a lot more exciting. As the first fashion show organiser at each venue, we do not have a reference to what could go wrong. We are the guinea pig. With outdoor shows on the Grand Canyon Skywalk, Gardens by the Bay’s Skyway, or Costa Atlantica’s sundeck, we had to select the date as well as the set of equipment very carefully to prioritize safety while keeping the venue authentic. At national symbols such as London’s Tower Bridge, PETRONAS Twin Towers’ Skybridge, and One World Trade Center, we had to test and add in extra measures of all sorts, including security. For this show particularly, we want to utilize theatrical fixtures to evenly light a huge catwalk area, which is why we chose to work with New York’s No 1 sound and lighting specialist Bentley Meeker. The artistic set up will cast the models’ reflections against the octagonal glass walls as well as onto the smooth and polished 63rd floor of the Tower.

Many shows are now being adjusted to be socially shared experiences. Are Instagram and Twitter considerations for you when choosing locations?
My first concern is the venue. Before even thinking about social media. Obviously social media will come into it, because social media is a very powerful tool. But we choose the location first, and after the show we will share the special moment across social media.

Does the location play a role in which designers you feature? i.e. if the show is taking place in a certain continent, do you seek out designers from that continent?
Not really. For every show we always have designers from four different continents, similar to this show. We look at a lot of collections, and we go with the ones that have the look and feel of the venue. But then we communicate with some of the designers, so while initially we might not think they suit, they can create a venue collection that’s inspired by the venue. That’s why most of the collections you see will bear some resemblance to the venue, which is very interesting.

Can you name any particular designers will you be featuring at the 1WTC show?
J Summer Fashion Show 2014 will present a combination of Haute Couture, high end Ready-to-Wear, and active wear collections from 4 continents: Europe, Asia, North America, and South America. We have Lebanese celebrity designer Ziad Nakad, Peruvian artist and public figure Norka Peralta, Spanish sensation Diego Cortizas of Chula, Indian fashion house LIBAS Reshma Riyaz Gangji, Indonesian lifestyle brand HAY UNITED, America’s very own accessory brand Cat Footwear, Russian talent Alina German, Brazilian jeweler Cristina Sabatini, and the Philippines’ pride Puey Quiñones. Each designer will premiere a special collection inspired by the symbolic location.

If you were not a model and fashion show organiser, what would you be?
I honestly cannot imagine doing anything else. Turning iconic venues into phenomenal catwalks is my reality. My dream is to never stop.

Related links:
This Designer Is Holding a Runway Show Over the Grand Canyon
The Most Mind-Blowing Runways of Spring 2014 Fashion Week
We’re Calling it: Floating Catwalks Are the Next Big Thing (VIDEO)

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