Serge Hunkins isn't a household name in fashion, but he and his company Kadan Productions are behind the staging for some of fashion’s most high-profile events including the annual Victoria’s Secret fashion show, the Costume Institute Gala and the upcoming CFDA Awards.
Before joining Kadan Productions, Hunkins worked on Broadway shows including "Anything Goes" and "Into the Woods," and as a technical draftsman at MSNBC studios , which he later bought. Kadan Productions has become the go-to for fashion brands, which Hunkins says make up 90 percent of his business. When Marc Jacobs creates his over-the-top runway sets twice a year—the most recent one being a surreal, paper-like runway dreamed up by artist Rachel Feinstein—he comes to Hunkins.
This year's CFDA Awards will take place at Lincoln Center on June 4. Hunkins and his team have been planning for the event since March. The team goes into construction mode in their studio space in Secaucus, N.J. three weeks before the event, and Hunkins says, “We continue to tweak the design and budgets until we get the thumbs up.”
Hunkins recalls his favorite CFDA staging moment, which happened at the 2010 awards. “We flipped the stage for an Alexander McQueen tribute (pictured) and rolled out this beautiful mini stage,” Hunkins says. “It was just really touching and timely.”
Some of the other high-profile events Hunkins has worked on include constructing a 30-foot Tiffany’s blue box with a 13-foot bow placed in front of the 57th Street store. "People had to walk through it to get to the store," Hunkins says. "It was pretty incredible.”
Hunkins was also behind the Versace for H&M launch party at Pier 57 in New York City last winter. “We took the inspiration of the mirror room at Versailles and a lot of other ideas and created this experience that was like no other including a runway show, full pop-up store, [and] a performance space for Prince,” Hunkins says.
For those wondering what the budgets are for these large-scale events Hunkins says, “We do presentations that are $10,000, $20,000 to runway shows that cost upward of $1 million dollars.”
One of the more poignant moments in Hunkins career happened on September 11, 2001. “We were putting on this huge show at the Lexington Avenue Armory downtown for Donna Karan, and we ended up taking down the setup and turning the space into a triage unit for the potentially injured," Hunkins says.
“I’m really a carpenter," says Hunkins, reflecting on his career. "For me success has been endurance. I work with all of these personalities and have to get the details just right.”
As for what keeps Hunkins excited about his job, he says he's addicted to the big rush. "I love those moments at the end of the project where you typically have five minutes with your team to walk through this environment that is going to be torn down in a few hours," he says, "and you just get to enjoy it.”