Model: Polina Pototskaja for Martin Margiela 

A fashion show or de’file de mode is an event put together by a designer to showcase their clothing lines for the coming year or season. Usually occurring twice a year; Spring/Summer and Fall/Winter, these shows dictate the season’s trends and the success or dismal performance of a presentation can be a social determinant in fashion or a cultural statement influencing other aspects of social behavior and interaction. Paris and New York hold the most influential shows. Other places like London, Milan and Berlin are also constantly raved about.

A fashion show is the designer’s opportunity to show his art or try to convey his meaning and inspiration and many do not bulk as budget is no limit to ambition. An impressive detail of outlandish gestures and huge statements that linger in the mind of the observer and moments that instill great emotion lasting almost as long as the trend itself, fashion shows are a spectacle and in my modest opinion, not for everyone. So much goes into making one single statement ‘This is what I will be offering for sale in my new collection’… but it is a lot more than that.

The shows were for everyone at one time. In the 1920s, retailers across the United States held fashion shows. The shows were typically theatrical and centered on themes and they would attract spectators, gawkers and huge crowds. It was certainly popular and attracted several customers but as one can well imagine, turning such a symbol into a spectacle does not exactly serve to preserve its purpose or importance. In the 70s and 80s and with the onset of the couture, American designers began to hold shows separate from the retailers to  reduce the crowds and number of incidents and over time became increasingly elaborate and  exclusive to people of certain tastes, influence and insight.

To designers, a fashion show is not about showing off clothes, if it ever was.  It’s devoted to an intellectual exercise, an exaggerated metaphor for what the collection is all about. Valerie Steele, director of the museum at Fashion Institute of Technology says “ A model dressed as a witch for example, may be intended to explore the transgressive aspects of women… the point of a more extreme show is to give you an idea, a feeling. Clothes are not really a language but more like music”. Fashion shows have seen the most bizarre and interesting sets and are said to be even more riveting than being at a cinema. Unicorn puppets, enchanted forests, space-age discos, majestic and financially-dizzying spectacles are projected for all to see. Apparently, the idea is to go with an open mind and prepare for anything. Also considering that those who make an attendance are not new to fashion themselves. Since there are no invites to a fashion show, only editors and PR personnel get tickets. Any outsider at these events is always either a potential investor or an influencer with a buxom bank balance.


So who really is the catwalk fanfare meant for? Every piece of the program at a fashion show was deliberately orchestrated and means something. From the order in which the models make their appearances to the countenance on their faces, expressions, mannerism or the lack of it, everything is an intricate part of the designer’s message and is understood by regular high-end consumers in attendance and other fashion enthusiasts present and so a novice at a fashion show must have a really keen eye or will be left confused and sometimes, appalled. The clothes on display some of the models cannot afford or may not even like. It is a strictly professional scene.

However, with the introduction of social media and the fast pace of information sharing these days, fashion shows are not even as lusted after by the popular new kids. The shows are aired on TV and may not include all the riveting details of a live viewing but all we see is clothes in an elaborate get-up and models strutting on the runway, carrying a persona; all these are turning out to serve as enough inspiration for the millennial who is an avalanche of ideas, eras  and influences. Street style or couture, the trends are inevitably decided by her and she and her innovative style live long after fashion shows, couture collections and designer statements.

Photo credits:  Kris Atomic (Unsplash)

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