Having been to several San Francisco Bay Area fashion shows several times, it is clear that fashion show production is not all about glitz and glamour. The backstage teams that deals with chaos of designers, models, stylists, Hair and Make-Up Artists, and more are the ones that can make or break the show. And in my eyes, one of the best production teams here is led by Ava Byrd of ByrdSong Productions.

I have seen Ava confidently led her team in Tuan Tran shows, EVO3 Fashion Show, and most recently Melange 2012. And it’s clear to me that she is someone who knows her craft; she knows what she’s doing and what’s expected of her, and she gets them done. More importantly, she gets them done RIGHT. On-point, focused, detailed, and on-time.

With 30+ years experience in the fashion industry, Ava Byrd have worked with the legendary Audrey Smaltz and her NYC Ground Crew and numerous fashion retail giants before founding the ByrdSong Productions. She’s now based in the Bay Area and is one of the most sought-after fashion production teams. Ever since I first met her, I wanted to feature her. After Melange 2012 Fashion Show was over, the time has finally come! Read the Q&A session with the amazing Ava Byrd of ByrdSong Productions below :)

Ava with Designer Gail Ballesteros-Shrive
Photo from Ava Byrd’s personal collection.

Fafafoom (F): For those considering to dive into fashion industry but have limited knowledge of how it works, how do you describe what you do?
Ava Byrd (AB): I provide backstage management and temporary staffing for the Creative Arts Industry. At ByrdSong Productions LLC we have three divisions. Emerging, Enhanced and Established. Our Emerging division allows staff to develop their fashion experience by working on various fashion shows, photo shoots and fashion design houses. We provide mentoring for our staff thru internships and on the job training. I oversee the training of the staff.

F: How did you get into fashion and what attracted you to the fashion show production side?
AB: I knew at a early age I wanted to work in fashion. My mother and God mother were both seamstress. They taught me how to sew. I studied Fashion Design at FIDM and the American College for the Applied Arts. I utilized my experience as a designer, pattern maker, dresser and coordinator while working backstage at various fashion shows nationwide.

F: You are excellent in what you do; you have a great deal of experience, worked for NYC Fashion Week designers, supported numerous retail giants….what made you decided to make San Francisco your home base?
AB: I moved to California with my family in the late 1970’s. I lived all over the United States. I must say I love the diversity and weather in California. It was a huge deciding factor in raising my children.

F: Was there any moment in your career in which you think, “Oh, this is too much, why did I choose to do what I do?”
AB: When the stock market crashed in the 1980’s, it had a huge impact on fashion. Retailers were closing. Design houses layed off staff. Sewing factories closed. I decided to get a second career while still fueling my passion for fashion. I worked as a scheduling coordinator for Parmadics and EMTs for Alameda and Contra Costa counties. I learned to coordinate large groups of peoples work schedules and to think quickly during disasters. With this experience I applied it to my fashion backstage management.

F: What is the most rewarding aspect in your work?
AB: When I see staff whom I’ve trained evolve into phenomenal artist. I love it when my staff share with me their fashion journey after ByrdSong. I was blessed with mentors who guided me thru my fashion careers. I am only giving back what I was blessed with.

I was in NY last year for fashion week and I stop thru to support several Bay Area designers and models at a show. The designers know I will make sure they are runway ready! You never know which backstage fashion runway you may find me at.

Ava with her fashion angel Debra Leylegian at Junior League of SF 2011.
Photo from Ava Byrd’s personal collection.

F: What insights / advice would you offer fashion students or industry novices?
AB: You can learn and gain experience in fashion thru study and volunteering. I am a firm believer in finding a mentor to guide you. Remember volunteering is great way to enhance your work experience! It helps you build your resume and portfolio. Invest the time to learn the art of fashion.

F: Do you have any standout lessons from what you have learned so far?
AB: You may work with difficult people. There were times I wanted to quit because of lack of respect and understanding for the importance of backstage management. Once I realize how many people were depending on me, I chose to stay and complete the journey. As backstage manager/ trainer, people look to you for leadership! You must be organize, quick and think outside the box. Producers, designers and others do not like chaos! As a backstage manager you must be in control at all times.

F: Lastly, do you have a motto that you stand for each and every day?
AB: I let my work speak for itself! I will always make sure every model’s hair and makeup is flawless and not a gap on the runway!

F: OK, I lied when saying the previous question is the last. Is there anything else you would like to say to fafafoom readers beyond the boundary of the questions I asked earlier?
AB: Fafafoom was the first to capture the true essence of backstage at fashion shows. Fashion is more than the designers and models. There is a team of people who bring the vision of the designer to life. Thank you Fafafoom for sharing your passion for fashion!!!

Thank you for the support, Ava! We love you and we always wish you continuing success. Everyone, please visit ByrdSong Productions and contact Ava for your fashion show production needs (or just say hi).

Until next time,

*Photo credit for cover image: E.r.a by ariya. All pictures in this post are supplied by Ava Byrd.

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