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For years fashion shows were focused on the clothes presented on models and advertising the designers’ new creations and inspirations. When we look back at fashion shows from the 50’s or 60’s, they were mostly similar. Except for the differences in apparel on the catwalk, the most popular models appeared to show the new collection and plenty of journalists, celebrities and photographers were seated along the simple, brightly lit catwalk path . Nowadays the runway show is no longer just a presentation of a fashion collection – it is a whole performance. Maybe the reason why this is happening is the fact that fashion seeks uniqueness and originality. With time passing, it’s hard to come up with the ideas for the apparel and the collections usually show previous trends with a pinch of something new or a slight alteration of the previous looks. Designers still want to show fashion’s possibilities and, unsurprisingly, they want to make history. As a huge fan and diligent observer of various designers, fashion shows and brands, I noticed the ongoing trend of making runway shows in such places and such ways that the audience not only notices the new collection, but also experiences the performance in a new, more creative, way than only showing the apparel. Therefore, I would like to take a moment to reflect on that and present you a collection of various fashion shows from recent years that were simply breathtaking and definitely not merely a catwalk.
Our first stop, the one and only Alexander McQueen. If you already know this designer then it is no surprise to you that he created something extraordinary during his career. His every fashion show was something out of this world, something that was supposed to be everlasting in the audience’s minds and create a subversive experience, making a memorable impression on each member of the crowd. I even dare to say that he (and naturally others) was one of the leaders of the fashion revolution in the 90s and 00s, making fashion an art discipline.
The fashion show that I believe caused a lot of discussions and definitely became a historical moment was the presentation of the Spring/Summer 1999 Collection. During that event the designer decided to spray one of the dresses from the new collection with paint released by two robots. The model – Shalom Harlow- stood between the two machines and allowed the robots to surprise the audience and perhaps even make them uncomfortable. So the real question is why would the designer do such a thing and ‘destroy’ one of his pieces ? As I previously stated, Alexander McQueen was an original and a revolutionist who had an extremely rebellious approach for making fashion and I quite frankly believe that this was one of his ways of showing that. Moreover, that moment can be interpreted as a tribute to the fast developing technologies which made a huge impact on society between the 90s and 00s. I do not know how I would feel seeing such a masterpiece ‘destroyed’. Would I run to save the dress? Would I stay there in shock, not being able to move? Maybe. All I know is that this moment will forever be engraved in fashion history.
Now, I will get into more recent events and focus on scenes from catwalks of the past few years. The first one is the Saint Laurent’s Spring/Summer 2020 Men’s Collection, shown before the major global event – the pandemic.
When someone says summer to me, I would first think – beach, sun, sea waves and summer breeze. I believe that is what Anthony Vacarello – the current creative director of Saint Laurent- had in mind, while developing this show. In the interviews the creative director of the brand mentioned that the reason why he chose this location was the Marrakech inspiration of Yves Saint Laurent’s previous shows and collections. He decided that Malibu beach is the perfect tribute to the brand’s founder motives from previous years. The catwalk was built from wooden pieces, the audience was seated on the beach, feeling the sand under their feet and the models walked with the dark waves as the background of the marvelous collection.
The next one, which also happened before the pandemic, was the Louis Vuitton Cruise Collection of 2020. What was the location this time? Not the waves, not the technology, this time the creative director of LV – Nicolas Ghesquière- instead decided to bring the fashion show to one of the least „fashionable” NYC places – the J.F.K airport. I’ve been to lots of different airports and let me tell you, I really wish that at least one of those looked like the J.F.K. airport during the LV Cruise Collection show – without the red signs of canceled flights, yellow boards of the delayed departures and exhausted passengers. The long-abandoned part of the airport- the terminal which was closed in 2001- was majorly transformed and brought back to life after staying out of use for almost two decades. The terminal was opened in 1962, when traveling via plane was chic and associated with high-end class and elegance which was what attracted the creative director to this location. He tried to merge the new Cruise Collection with the class of the 60s and redecorate the terminal. The walls and the spaces around the audience’s seats were covered with bamboo and nature motifs, making the space around the catwalk a modern jungle, a gate to exotic places. The audience seated in the hall admired the collection, making tribute to tourism and traveling – probably none of the audience members knew that the corona pandemic and end of easy traveling was soon to come.
Now, I would like to present you memorable fashion shows that took place during the pandemic. Coperni – a French brand, most famous for the round bags- presented their new collection in a creative way, while adhering to the social distancing rules. The two designers, Arnaud Vaillant and Sébastien Meyer, had to come up with an idea of how to deliver the new collection according to the new rules of the world – the COVID-19 restrictions. They decided to gather the audience in cars. The 36 electric cars lit the pathway for the models. The audience members stayed inside the vehicles and admired the new collection safely and comfortably. In each car there could only be two passengers, so everyone had a good view of the show while staying safe. Moreover the drivers of the cars had to be tested negative for the COVID-19 virus and there was no afterparty or in-person small talks, so the risk of getting infected with the corona virus was close to impossible. I find it as a beautiful tribute to bringing Parisian nightlife to the stage, while respecting and making the public safe.
The best and last one I saved for the end; it is only for the patient and devoted readers. My most favorite and most adored designer Simon Jacquemus is famous for his fashion show scenics, I can not express enough how much I adore his fashion shows that could be played on repeat on my computer screen, but unfortunately my computer battery would probably be in a lot worse shape than it already is. Usually his collections refer to nature and to his French roots. He pays respects to his heritage and beautifully delivers this natural look to the runway. There are two events worth mentioning here which I believe are Jacquemus’ grandest and most recognizable shows. The first one, the Spring/Summer 2020 Collection, which was delivered in Provence’s lavender fields. The beautiful show was not only a major fashion history event, it was also an important event for the Jacquemus brand – the 10th anniversary of establishing the brand. Between the two lavender fields, the models walked in beautiful sunlight on the Provence hill, presenting the unique, magical collection on the pink catwalk. Sounds like a dream, doesn’t it? That is what Jacquemus does: he brings the dreamy sceneries to life, testing the limits and making nature the co-producer of the show.
His second breath-taking show was the presentation of the Spring/Summer 2021 Collection. This designer, just like the Coperni duo, had to deliver the show during the pandemic, making sure the audience kept the advised social distance and that the event took place in a low-risk space. Simon Jacquemus again used natural surroundings as the co-producer. His collection was mostly created from linen material, light beige and mostly bright colored materials which were enhanced by the wheat field surrounding. The runway show took place in fresh air; the catwalk was a curvy pathway built in the wheat field crops. Each audience member had a separate chair placed in a mowed space in the field, with a 1,5m distance from each other. The natural surroundings shaped the obligatory social distance and created a safe space that made the show possible. Unbelievable, isn’t it?
There are plenty of incredible runway shows, which I did not mention. However, here I present to you my favorite ones which are iconic fashion shows, that have a special place in my heart. Hope you enjoyed this trip through the unexpected places and most certainly be prepared for more!
Written by Julia Kaczmarek