The most important element of any fashion show is the lighting. If the source isn’t full-spectrum white light (e.g., no fluorescents), or the color temperature is off (above or below 5600 kelvin), or it isn’t evenly distributed (resulting in cold and hot spots), bad things will happen. Colors won’t read true, and Pat McGrath’s impeccable kabuki makeup at a Viktor & Rolf show would have appeared grey instead of alabaster. If the lighting isn’t right, the clothes suffer, too. Not even a front-row Brahmin like Hamish Bowles will be able to discern vital details like the texture and finish of a fabric. Worst of all, the video and photographs documenting the show, which designers depend upon to reinforce their brand and move product, will be disseminated all over the globe and mocked.

No one knows this better than Alexandre de Betak, the undisputed master of runway lighting. Dubbed a “magician,” a “dream maker” and, by The New York Times, “the Fellini of Fashion,” de Betak mounts shows that are beautiful, dramatic, and often transcendent. See a sampling of his work here:

The habitually jaded come in droves to get a good seat at a de Betak production. Like any great artist, he breaks the rules and gets away with it: neon fluorescents, strobes, black lights, lasers, LEDs….  People still talk about the Galliano fall 2009 show. Inspired by equal parts Tim Burton and Anna Karenina, de Betak devised a tunnel defined by lavender rays of light (actually lasers), made it snow inside the tube, then sent the waif models through. Amid the snowflakes, every stitch on the Ukrainian virgin bride dresses stood out in bold relief. Afterward, Betak lamented that a show one year in the making was over in twelve minutes.  “Twelve beautiful minutes,” corrected Mr. Galliano.