Tom Palmer heads up the production department of New York-based marketing and PR firm Syndicate. Previously a production coordinator with Bureau Betak, and before that, an assistant in Calvin Klein's marketing and advertising departments, Palmer was named Syndicate's vice president and director of production earlier this year. Starting with the Trovata show last Tuesday night, his busy week included working on the off-site shows for Vena Cava, Katy Rodriguez, Alexander Wang, and 3.1 Philip Lim.
From a production standpoint, how do you feel fashion shows have changed?
Well, what hasn't changed is the passion these designers have for production design. There's always a big push for innovative and unusual venues and decor concepts, and I hope that never changes.
As resources grow with each passing show season, we add more creature comforts for show guests and backstage creative teams, making for a more well-rounded event. The working relationships also become more efficient as we leverage each other's strengths and develop vendor partnerships.
Do you think more designers are moving away from the tents?
No, I don't see some big trend moving away from the tents. The tents provide a great blank-slate format through which a designer can show his or her collection in a crisp, logistically streamlined environment. Off-site venues offer more creative freedom to make a specific statement with the production design. It really depends on an individual designer's needs, season by season, to know which path is best.
Do the shows outside the tents involve a lot more production and planning?
Showing in unusual event space is more of a chess game—it puts your logistical creativity to the test. While a nearly condemned warehouse may meet important creative goals, issues ranging from climate control on down to guest safety come into play. It takes a pretty optimistic spirit and iron will for all involved to manage the risks and plan for contingencies. That said, any venue that supports the client's creative vision spot-on is well worth it in the end.
Have you used any new technology or equipment that makes production easier?
I'm a big fan of Google's new SketchUp software for quick, beautiful architectural renderings. And I can't wait to use RFID [radio frequency identification] tags backstage at fashion shows to help manage backstage staff, equipment, and even press. The super-strength magnets JKLD uses to support their lighting fixtures are genius, as they drastically reduce the need for bulky, unsightly truss.
Aside from the shows that you produce, do you attend other presentations to see what other companies are doing?
Absolutely! I try to work out what statement the production design is trying to convey, and then what parts of the production are actually supporting those statements. I also like to feel out if the event has a soul and substance, or as they say in my native Texas, if it's a case of “big hat, no cattle.”