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Hans Koechling: A Spectacular and Inspiring Journey in the Fashion Industry

creator fashion hans koechling
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Hans Koechling is the founder and creative director of The Image Is, a Montreal-based production company that specializes in fashion shows and consulting. With over 20 years of experience in the industry, Hans has produced and directed hundreds of shows for some of the most influential and emerging brands and designers, such as Mikael D Couture, The Cashmere Collection, Chanel, Valentino, Dsquared2, Stephan Caras, The CAFA Awards, to name a few. Hans Koechling is a visionary and a leader who has shaped the Canadian fashion scene with his innovative glam events. 

Fashion Beauty Runway: You’re an ex-model. Why did you decide to continue working in the fashion industry? 

Hans Koechling: When I was a fashion model, I was really fascinated by the craft of putting together a fashion show. How everything came together on the runway to bring to life a designer’s vision. At the time, in the 90s, fashion shows were very theatrical and models were allowed to be more expressive, like actors on the runway. You had to know how to walk, how to remove a jacket, gloves. Everything was very hands-on and when you’re backstage and working, you’re exposed to all the different aspects of a show. I came to understand how that industry worked, how the work evolved, and decided to create my own destiny and future by making a name for myself as a producer. 

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FBR: How has the industry evolved over the years? 

HK: When top print models started to be cast by the designers and fashion houses to do runway shows, that changed everything. Editorial girls learned how to walk and became the darlings of the media and fashion icons. 

In the present digital world with live feeds of runway shows on all social media platforms, the trend in the industry is finally returning to cast a very diverse group of models.

Although the lighting, over-the-top special effects and sets that are very elaborate and sometimes even theatrical, one can see that the industry is coming back to girls who understand what it means to walk the runway, show off clothes and ‘give good face.’ You have 80 models and one look each, instead of rotating the models to show different looks. An army of models makes it easier for the stylists. It fills the runway in less time, and it’s also easier to film the show and present more models in a shorter amount of time. 

FBR: What did you find out in your job that you didn’t know before about the fashion industry? 

HK: Fashion is a business. It’s not just about the passion or the looks. I’ve learned that my experience in this field is important, and I have to charge people when I share that information, so that the knowledge I’ve acquired when producing shows, the technical know-how, working with designers, brands and models, is something of value.

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FBR:  What has been your most successful production to date? The most challenging? 

HK: There have been many, many productions I’ve done that were hugely successful and brought me to the next level. I’ve always been an ambassador to brands, an insider in a way, getting first-hand knowledge of what’s going on.

But the show I put together called China Millenium, which was a retrospective of China’s influence on fashion from ancient times to today, was incredible. The fashion exhibit was produced and staged with 36 models and an entire production team from China at Mercedes Fashion Week in New York. The event was created to highlight the influence of Chinese craftsmanship, manufacturing, and textiles on designers worldwide.

The most challenging job is when you travel with a show or a designer. It’s really not that glamorous. You just get off an airplane and you go, go, go! To get the job done in a very limited amount of time for pre-planning. Of course, what’s great now is that I have all the technical plans ahead of time and when I arrive we only put the final touches. 

FBR: How do you manage client’s expectations? 

HK: Going into any job, it’s about managing mine and other people’s expectations. I like the spirit of collaboration that we’re seeing more of, right now. Companies and brands want to hire smaller teams that really understand their vision, and we build on that when putting together the fashion show or a brand experience. I’m a very hands-on kind of person and I work better with small teams because I produce shows from A to Z. I manage and oversee every aspect of the runway.

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FBR: What’s that pressure like? 

HK: Sometimes, pressure is a good thing! I try to change it into a positive energy. I visualize the end result — what the show has to look like — and I align myself with that vision, and then I know exactly how to make that happen. 

I have a photographic memory, and I imagine every detail in advance. I also work with a team who is in line with my vision, who understands almost intuitively what the energy of the show has to be. We work very well that way. I like working with the same people because we have the same experience and I don’t need to explain everything in detail. We understand each other at another level. 

FBR: How has the fashion industry evolved, post-pandemic? 

HK: I really believe people are looking for diversity in models and clothing. Quality is making a comeback, and it’s really strong when you look at the industry. People have less money to spend, and local Canadian designers are suffering. It’s important to export your brand to other markets and niches, to be relevant to other types of clients. If not, you’re stuck. I’ve learned to re-establish myself as a producer of fashion events since the pandemic.

You have to be strong and rely on your years of experience and professional talent to manage the new world because there’s been a break in the chain of command and in many aspects of the creative relationships.