The History of The Fashion Show, and Why I Think it’s Still of Great Importance for the Industry

The History of The Fashion Show, and Why I Think it’s Still of Great Importance for the Industry

When I come to think of it, I’m more old-school than modern when it comes to many things. When talking with family or friends I much prefer a phone call over a text, when dating come to the door to pick me up rather than shooting me a text, and of course, with fashion. The history of the fashion show is exciting and so interesting to see how they have evolved over the past one hundred years or so. With COVID-19 changing all of our lives, it has affected the fashion show and has designers thinking if they are even an essential part anymore.

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With designers having to cancel shows essentially for the rest of the year, they have had to discover new ways to present the collections virtually. This could potentially have brands realizing that the fashion show is no longer a necessity, given that the effects of having fashion shows take a toll on the environment. Over the course of one hundred years with the advancements in technology, specifically social media, brands have already had to adapt to the changing landscapes in which people see a fashion show and shop for product, which leads me to my question, is the fashion show going obsolete?

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Fashion shows during the past few years haven’t be as exclusive as they used to. Of course they aren’t open for just anyone to go see, but with online platforms such as Instagram and YouTube it has made it easier for brands to broadcast the shows along with backstage culture to share with an even larger audience than ever before. But before social media became a huge success, and before bloggers were taking over fashion weeks, there were the classic fashion week days, in spaces unlike the catwalk we know today. Tight showrooms and hotels were most common places for the elite to gather and get a first look at new designs from couture to prêt-à-porter. In the early days of the fashion show photographers weren’t even allowed in. The first to ever allow photographers in was Christian Dior, for this debut collection. Before then it was a very private event, catered specifically for the upper classes.

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Fast forward to the 1970’s, where designers began to shift the landscape of fashion shows to the catwalk as we know it today. I can only imagine what an exciting time this was in the industry. Although in my opinion the fashion show still hadn’t reached it’s peak, it was a time of creativity and discovery unlike ever before. In the 80’s London fashion week arrived on the scene, and designer Vivienne Westwood took her shows to another level, punk, compared to the traditional which was shocking.

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Then there were the 90’s, where supermodels were the big thing. Think Linda Evangelista, Naomi Campbell, Cindy Crawford, Christy Turlington, etc. I simply can’t discuss the fashion shows of the 90’s without Alexander McQueen, as his shows from the 90’s to late 2000’s were of the utmost inspirational. It was as much about the atmosphere and the performance as the clothes and models. John Galliano showed importance in the atmosphere during the shows as well during this time. All the way up until McQueen’s last show in 2009, Plato’s Atlantics, his shows weren’t just about models walking down a runway in beautiful clothes. His shows were theatrical, magnificent works of art that no other designer has done since. This was the peak of the fashion show, right before social media started forcing its way in. The emotion that he provoked in his shows has not been done ever since. It wasn’t about creating a viral Instagram moment it was simply about the clothes and the wonderful art of a show.

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For Helmut Lang’s autumn/winter show in 1998 he was the first designer to display his show online. Then in 2009, McQueen live streamed his last show. Nowadays we all have access to the fashion shows as many designers broadcast them online. As social media paved its way into the fashion weeks, some designers started to test different ways for consumers to buy the pieces of a collection. What we see most often is that a collection is presented at fashion week, then it isn’t until months later that we actually see the pieces in store to purchase. Designers like Tommy Hilfiger and Rebecca Minkoff have tried the see now buy now trend, where after the show guests are able to shop the looks right then and there. Another example of the fashion show taking different turns. I think if designers start to show at fewer fashion weeks we could possibly be seeing more of this trend.

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The late Karl Lagerfeld always had an eye for fashion shows. Lagerfeld took in to account every detail of a fashion show, creating a specific world for each collection.

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The thoughts of limiting the number of collections that are produced every year is also a decision designers are facing right now. With the decrease in shopping right now, especially with the spring/summer collections, has designers wondering if there ever really was a need for pre collections. This year, we’re going to see people start buying straight for fall, disregarding the transitioning process between the later season. I for one don’t think there’s a need for pre collections, specifically pre-fall. Simply put everything in the fall, or as I see it mentally split the pre-fall collection between spring/summer and fall. There are elegant ways to mix and match the fabrics of the two seasons to create pieces that seamlessly transition, without the needs for an additional collection. The environmental impacts that the fashion industry causes could be greatly reduced if this change was made. Although I love to see the cruise collections as well, deep down I know it can become a bit much with so many different collections just for one year.

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Maybe its because I’m old school, but the fashion show to me is an essential part of the experience of a collection. The designer and teams work months to prepare pieces of walking art, and we must recognize this in a proper way. There are many ways designers can creatively show a collection digitally, but they could never recreate the experience of seeing the clothes up close, in motion. The environmental impact of a show is understandable, but there are other efforts that can be made in the industry as a whole to resolve these issues; the concept of trends, for example. It’s like not going to see a Broadway show in person but instead watching it virtually, or instead of going to see The New York Ballet at The Lincoln Center, watching it from your couch. The experience can not be fully replicated.

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The fashion industry is a place of constant change, and I believe that whatever comes of this pandemic will cause the industry to have its largest changes yet.

Xoxo, MᶜKenna Ramona Jennings

Follow me on Instagram: @ mckennaramonajennings

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