Luxury fashion houses have been key to defining their showcase each year with a spectacle event. There is no doubt fashion today is no less than modern art itself. Designers and creative heads have worked diligently to put together some of the most memorable fashion shows in history to get their work noticed, build strong cultural relationships with different communities, and most essentially showcase their expertise and designs to be some of the finest and iconic. These showcase and fashion shows have featured innovative sets, backdrops and set designs that sometimes have taken weeks and years of permission from various government and other authorities to access one-of-its-kind locations.
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Battle of Versailles, 1973
In 1973 a fashion show hosted some of the most celebrated and well-known designers changing the course of fashion history in the presence of guests like Andy Warhol, Princess Grace of Monaco, Jane Birkin, Josephine Baker and Grace Kelly.
Eleanor Lambert is fashion publicist who is known for creating the New York Fashion Week, the Met Gala, the Coty Award, and the International Best Dressed List over her iconic 75-year career, however her most exuberant piece-de-resistance work known is the Battle of Versailles fashion show – that helped to put American designers on the global map for the very first time.
To help fundraiser for the Palace of Versailles renovations, Eleanor proposed a dinner and fashion show featuring French and American designers. This came in at a time when only French designers were the dominated couturiers. American designers representing the country were the likes of Oscar de la Renta, Bill Blass, Anne Klein – with her assistant Donna Karan and others. The French houses were that of Pierre Cardin, Yves Saint Laurent, Hubert de Givenchy amongst others.
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While the French stayed true to cultural transitions and history with their elaborate grandiose, opulence, and overly formal details to clothing and sets, what set the American designers apart was their inclusion of Black models – first of its kind – a true surprise to all and one that absolutely stole the show. The American showcase reflected the change of times politically and socially, more inclusive cultures, celebration with music and dancing that lit up the room with vibrance. They focused on more ready-to-wear, sportswear and a woman’s freedom to choose her own style of dressing. A show that not simply put American designers on the map, but also reflected how change can be a great addition to society to grow collectively.
Alexander McQueen: Robot art, 1998
Art has been a strong choice of expression when it comes to Alexander McQueen.
Alexander McQueen’s Spring 1999, that was presented in end of 1998, showcase was a potent performing art showcase no one expected. With the millennium upcoming, the iconic fashion show was sure to make their own mark on the audience.
The British designer showcased the collection in an old London depot with an aim to make a strong dose of statement on how technology was already intermingling with fashion.
Shalom Harlow, the model for the finale, walked out in a dreamy papery muslin dress with a belted chest harness and a white tulle underneath, slowing walking down to stand on a revolving wooden turntable between two mechanical robots that were especially shipped from an Italian car factory. Soon, both these robots were seen to shoot paint at her covering her dress in black and neon yellow graffiti as Harlow, a trained ballet dancer, spun around with her arms in the air in a complete surrender to the moment scene.
This performance was potent, provocative and exhilarating for the audience to watch and exactly what McQueen’s shows are known for – their element of surprise, shock and awe.
Fendi: Great wall of China showcase, 2007
First ever fashion show to take place at the iconic Great Wall of China was the Fendi 2007 showcase. What was built eons ago to keep the countrymen safe and keep out the barbarian hordes, The Great Wall of China was lit up with one of the biggest names in luxury fashion for their fashion show in 2007.
The ostentatious spectacle is known to have ignited the trend to itinerant fashion shows and was also a reflection of China’s importance in the luxury consumption. The luxury titan Bernard Arnault in his words declared the show as ‘the first fashion show visible from the moon’. This audacious and extravagant presentation by Karl Lagerfeld and Silvia Fendi helped to put Fendi on the global map of luxury brands and one to watch out for while making a rather powerful statement on how a brand should go about cultural appreciation and exchange.
The showcase took almost every aspect into account, picture perfect would be an understatement. From giant double-F logos of Fendi projected onto neighboring mountains, to designing a collection suitable for Chinese models and their market and having some of the most famous stars gathered at the Wall for the showcase. A sunset walk down the ramp by Chinese and western models in the picturesque Juyongguan Pass northwest of Beijing is still a big conversion in the luxury sector of China. Which goes on to reflect how essential these kinds of experience are to help build unique and lasting bonds with culture at the forefront.
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Chanel: Carousel rides, 2008
Once again, all thanks to the creative ability and thinking of Karl Lagerfeld, we have yet another iconic fashion week moment to look back upon. This one comes from the iconic luxury house of Chanel from their fall 2008 collection showcase. Karl envisioned and executed a dream land of a showcase to the audience.
The mesmerizing set design included a fully functional and working carousel in the centre of the Chanel runway. Whimsy, glitzy and dreamy feelings of the show did not miss anyone present there. He carried his vision forward to the exact details which included the carousel being made of pearls, purses, and bows. The models rode the larger-than-life pearls, purses and bows made with Chanel’s famous quilted design after they took their turn on the runway.
The merry-go-round carousel was a great success simply because it offered the audience to view the clothes at leisure and as per Vogue, the garments showcase was sure worth a second and third look.
Karl himself exited the rotating carousel to take his final bow.
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Coperni: Spray paint dress, 2022
What’s more stunning than world famous Bella Hadid walking down the ramp in a Coperni costume?
Well, add to this a pinch of technology and we have something the world had not seen before.
Coperni is all the fashion world can talk about now. They made history as the brand created a runway look on spot and took the showcase of their SS 2023 collection, as well as the fashion industry to a whole new level.
This French luxury womenswear brand worked with the supermodel Bella Hadid, who appeared on stage in a nude underwear and was shortly joined by a team of experts who are known to have invented a spray on fabric. They started to spray the paint on the model which within a few minutes turned into a perfect Coperni slip dress and with the help of a design assistant the spray on fabric was converted into one of the most stunning garments showcased on the runway. Not only was this a not to miss moment for its sheer drama – but also how it has now defined the world of fashion to be in touch with technology and embracing it live on the runway.
These iconic fashion weeks have been able to offer a strong dose of inspiration to the designers of today and the future ones for their next big event. And yes, there are many more of these iconic moments from fashion weeks across the globe, stay tuned for part 2 of this series.