09/06/2013 06:15 EDT | Updated 11/06/2013 05:12 EST

AP Photos: A few minutes of glamour, weeks of work: Carmen Marc Valvo through the lens

NEW YORK, N.Y. - Before all things, fashion is a business and victory laps are showered in dollars. There are those whose goals are green to the bone while some have other plans.

In the days leading up to New York Fashion Week, Carmen Marc Valvo painstakingly alters clothes to fit his models. But he doesn't have to. Some designers "fit to confirm," meaning if the model doesn't fit the moment she tries on a look, she won't get the job. Alterations cost money, after all.

Valvo does things differently.

"We've always fit the clothes on the models," explains Frank Pulice, a member of Valvo's inner-circle. "Carmen just always wants everything to look as perfect as possible, so I don't think you're ever going to get the fit that he wants with a fit and confirm situation. He's known for his fit and he wants to make sure that everything that comes down the runway is perfect. It's the only way he's ever done it and the only way he'll ever do it."

Runway shows at New York Fashion Week are 15 minutes of glamour, but for the designer, each one is a labour of love that takes weeks of work.

"I'm always happy when it's done and I feel great that it's finished, and I feel like I've done the right thing," said Valvo, who's been in the business for nearly 40 years.

"But you're still never sure. You still sometimes question yourself. People say, 'Oh no, you've been doing it for so long, you don't,' but to be relevant you have to push the envelopes every season, just ever so slightly, and hopefully take your customer along for the ride. You run the risk. You may, like, alienate a few or they may think, 'He's crazy.' We'll see."

What's next for Valvo after Friday's show? "I'm feeling exhilarated and exhausted. It's always amazing to see the collection finally come together with the hair and makeup combined with the energy of the audience. Now it's time to start thinking about the next one," Valvo said.

Valvo opened his studio to John Minchillo, a freelance photojournalist for The Associated Press, over 19 days, from inception of the spring collection to final runway.

What he found: No divas. No tantrums. No catastrophes. Plenty of stress, but laughs to go with it.

"The group seems to like each other too much to undermine one another and scuttle the operation," Minchillo said. "Maybe that was the overall takeaway from this assignment for me, that when one cares to look a little deeper the world is full of people who may surprise you."


See the first installment of the Insider's Eye here: