The sun gives off a luminous glow as I step out of a taxi in front of 583 Park Avenue. As I watch the doormen stand patiently outside the venue waiting for guests and the fashion elite to arrive, I notice Bill Marpet walking down the street. He is dressed in a blue suit with white New Balance sneakers; his salt and pepper hair is pulled back in the classic ponytail that he has become known for. The mantra for the day is comfortable chic. Bill escorts me through the doors. The hall inside of 583 Park Avenue is breathtaking. An enormous chandelier hangs from center of the ceiling. The green and white décor, Chaenomaeles trees, and white chairs exude a resort feel. The u-shaped runway is barren, but soon their will be a cadre of young women stomping in their heels, sporting luscious creations from Oscar De La Renta’s Resort collection.
Once inside Bill begins checking on last minute details with B Productions assistant director J.D. Moll. He discusses capturing the models as they walk with the crew downstairs, then it is up to the control area in the balcony where Bill will remain until the end of the show. Everyone appears calm, but inside they know the stakes are high. So much is riding on the next fifteen minutes, there is no room for error and nothing can be repeated. After the show is over Bill leaves quietly through the door, the next step is to edit the film that was shot.
That was my official introduction to Bill Marpet and B Productions last year; however I had a long standing relationship with this niche company that I was unaware of. Some might say the Bill Marpet is the Keyser Söze of fashion; most models work with him and don’t know it. Bill doesn’t have a face as recognizable as Tracey Reese, Donna Karen or Ralph Lauren, but if you have watched Full Frontal Fashion then you have seen his work.
He and his team are the magicians behind the scenes ensuring that the designer’s runway shows are shot and edited for presentation to the masses. B Productions videotapes over 300 runway shows yearly. These videos have been shown on various channels including NBC, CBS, Fox and Oxygen. For a man that devotes a huge portion of his working year to taping runway shows, fashion was not an industry Bill envisioned for his career path. “I was a freelance camera man when I started out,” Bill comments about the creation of B. Productions, “I started getting hired to shoot things, not just fashion, but news magazines. Then I started getting busy beyond what I could do. I started hiring other cameramen to fill in, and that’s when I started the company.”
B. Productions was created in 1983 with a crew of two people. It has now grown into a full scale production company hiring freelance crew to accommodate the demands of Fashion Week. “In the beginning,” Bill says, “it was mostly fashion clients, and it was mostly the bigger names. Early clients were Calvin Klein, Bill Blass, [and] Anne Klein.”
From these early clients B Productions and Bill Marpet created a place to call their own within the fashion industry. “Designers didn’t have a record on video of their collections, Bill says, “they had their own shops within stores like Bloomingdales and Bergdorf Goodman and they wanted video that they could show there. They wanted their own vision translated into video. Gradually it just kind off steamrolled and kept going; I got selected more than me picking [clients] out. When I first started my business we were doing around fifteen percent fashion, after a few years it grew into about eighty percent fashion and I kind off fell into this niche.”
This niche is the cornerstone of B Productions, but this company isn’t only known for fashion. Besides fashion B Productions shoots image pieces and corporate videos, news releases, commercials and documentaries. Their hard work has garnered Bill and B Productions many accolades such as a CEBA and New York Emmy.
I’m sure for Bill Marpet and the members of B. Productions, 1983 must seems light years away. Generally when a model turns 26 he or she begins to think of other career options, but the appeal for B. Production’s services has only increased. When the tents were raised for the 2010 spring collections at Bryant Park B Productions videotaped over 100 shows and events, they also hit the internet taping a block of webisodes for WWD.com. The titans of 7th Avenue still look to B. Productions to produce video that shows the artistry and sexiness of the fashion industry, sometimes getting old isn’t a bad thing.
Photos courtesy of J.D. Moll of B. Productions