When people think of fashion show design, they often focus on the clothes. But truthfully, there is another seminal aspect when it comes to presenting a designer’s latest collection any given season: the environment. And that’s precisely where production designer and art director Stefan Beckman comes in.
For over 13 years, Beckman has produced some of the most visceral, imaginative, and magnificent runway-scapes the industry has ever seen, from constructing an industrial gym setting for the launch of Alexander Wang for H&M to conjuring up an indoor field of grass and wildflowers for Coach. There are no limits when it comes to a Stefan Beckman fashion show, but according to the man himself, you can expect “A bold statement,” reiterated by a “Go big or go home!”
Beckman first arrived in New York after pursuing a career in film and television in Los Angeles, transferring east—all the way east—at the dawn of the 1990s. He began by curating a series of events for the fashion and media crowd, eventually transitioning into concocting catwalk creations. He studied film and theater at the University of Texas at Austin, where he learned to “be open to any new experience, any new relationship. You never know where that path will take you in the future.” It’s no wonder why he’s vibed so well with fashion designer Marc Jacobs, who’s quite the showman himself. It was Jacobs who would enlist him to produce his first fashion show, for Fall 2006. Set against an abstract cityscape, the show brought to life by a hauntingly beautiful score by composer Phillip Glass. It was the first time Beckman had ever produced a fashion show—and he received rave reviews.
His most memorable show, however, came 10 years later. “Marc Jacobs Spring 2015,” he writes me matter-of-factly in an email in response to a question about the subject. Held at the Park Avenue Armory, Beckman constructed a large Pepto Bismol pink house: “[Jacobs] loved the idea of something big in the armory that seemed like it just fell out of the sky and landed there,” Beckman explains, calling it “a surreal installation.” Jacobs also partnered with Beats by Dre to provide the audience with headphones, over which a narrative inspired by John Smith’s 1976 short film, The Girl Chewing Gum, was recited, courtesy of record producer Steve Mackey.
Beckman continues, “The scale of the house was huge and slightly out of proportion.” It was unquestionably the perfect backdrop for Jacobs’s collection that season, an array of muted, uniform-like blue and green frocks.
The hardest part of his job, you might ask? This is where he gets relatable. “Time,” he states. “You always wish for more time. Costs can be challenging, too, but sometimes the best design comes out of a cheaper solution.”
I’m sorry, what?
“All the money in the world isn’t always necessary,” Beckman maintains. It’s refreshing to hear that, even in the world of luxury fashion, you don’t need the dollar bills (though in most instances you do). But then again, perhaps this attitude speaks to his ingenuity. The value, for Beckman, is in the idea and not so much in the currency. Cha-ching.