NEW YORK -- Carmen Marc Valvo narrows his eyes at the flowing skirt Taylor Foster models on a carpeted "runway" -- technically a hallway -- in his Garment District studio.
It's a common look for Valvo in these days before New York Fashion Week, one that asks without words, "Does this feel right?" This time, the answer is not yet -- it will require some tinkering.
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The runway shows at New York Fashion Week are 15 minutes each of glitz, glamour and hopefully some clothes to remember before the editors, stylists and retailers move on to the next.
But for the designer, each one is a labor of love that takes weeks of work.
"The emotional process of building a collection is a very volatile one," says Valvo, who has been working day-in, day-out with his team and muse-model Foster ahead of the preview of his spring collection at the Lincoln Center tents that serve as the hub of the event.
Valvo opened his studio -- really, his world -- to John Minchillo, a freelance photojournalist for The Associated Press, during the process.
From behind the lens, Minchillo captured the designer's office masquerading as an enormous walk-in closet, with samples hanging from racks that line the room's perimeter and a desk buried in sketches, fabrics and mementos. Binders loaded with years of designs cram into shelves while repurposed coffee supply boxes overflow with patterns. A multicolored forest of fabric rolls populates the space beside mannequins patiently awaiting pins and patterns.
Outside the 23rd floor windows, workers can be seen busily tending to their fabrics in design spaces of neighboring buildings along this stretch of Seventh Avenue called Fashion Avenue.
There are no raised voices here. No thrown coffee cups, tantrums, or arguments. Stereotypical depictions of a fashion world run by divas do not apply. Even for seasoned professionals, there's so much to be done before the lights bathe the runway.
No matter that Valvo's been at this for more than 20 years and had dressed celebrities from Katie Couric to Catherine Zeta-Jones. Showtime is like nothing else.
"The range of emotions can go from elation to depression," he says. "The most rewarding part of building the collection is when you make your final edit and the run of show is set in stone and no more changes can be made."