Illustrations Kristina Kordovsky
It was not a long time ago that the fashion industry was called a ‘sunset industry’, deemed to have no future not even in the most developed countries. However, it was even less time after this that New York Times has suggested that “the sun never sets on the runway”, a statement meant to put an end to all the diffusion surrounding fashion shows, as these are no longer limited to a handful of fashion capitals or closed circles of connoisseurs.
A catwalk fashion show has become a sales promotion mechanism in the clothing industry and a widely recognized cultural event for the masses. From Robert Altman’s film ‘Prêt-à-porter’, which was filmed during Paris Fashion Week in 1994, to Style.com or, indeed, the website of any major fashion brand; from museums that display historic garments in clothes parades, to school children putting on charity fashion shows – we recognize the importance and influence fashion shows infuse into all aspects of life thereafter. Fashion in itself is a reflection of social, economic, political and cultural changes, and it only makes sense that its use of staging expresses the same level of modernity and symbolism towards the spirit of the current times.
In recent years the setting for a designer’s show has had just as much attention as the clothes that sashay down the catwalk, as fashion is no longer only about the clothes themselves. It is about the setting and the marketing furor that consequently descends to window displays and magazine editorials a couple of months after. Take the 265-tonne iceberg imported from Scandinavia at Chanel A/W 2010 – handcrafted by 35 ice sculptors, Fendi’s S/S 2008 show which used The Great Wall of China as its catwalk, or the gigantic Mexican murals which lined the Via Fogazzaro at Prada’s show for S/S 2014. Often times the most fascinating fashion shows are the ones that showcase full-blown artistic spectacles, only intensifying our hunger as spectators.
Some may argue that such extravagant sets draw attention away from the clothes, but it is undeniable the way a fantastic fashion set manages to highlight or at the very least complement a collection. Set designs can enhance and offer layers of meaning that may not be as apparent at first glance, pointing out how the two disciplines amplify one another in a harmonious symbiosis, and help assembly some of the greatest fashion shows out there.
Moreover, with the bar set as high as it has been in recent years, one could argue that today there is an even greater pressure on the scenography of a show, since the catwalk is no longer just for commercial gain. Considering the stark rise in the use of social media regarding shows – Twitter, Instagram and above all, live streaming – there is now a more preeminent artistic interest in the entirety of a show than ever before.
The narration of the stories behind every collection is given impact far beyond the clothes themselves, through the setting in which it is displayed – a concept that is undoubtedly drawn from the theatre. Would a theatrical performance be the same without its many different sets – or lack thereof? Before the concept of catwalk show even existed it was the tragedies and comedies created by the great classical playwrights that stirred debate and dialogue among the audience, often with regard to political engagement. And while it may not be political discussion that is on the tips of the tongues of today’s fash-pack, the catwalk shows certainly remain a catalyst for debate, and as a result draw even more attention to the clothes from which everything else started.
It is a clothes parade with son et lumière; the trivial phenomenon of dress turned into spectacle in a theatre-like arena, and we have come here to watch and devour it all. With Fashion Month long coming to an end, Tomorrow’s Journal invites you to revisit some of the most unforgettable sets from the latest Spring/Summer 2017 shows, and see which ones will stand the test of time and remain engraved in our collective fashion memory.
Anya Hindmarch | London
Forever a standout in terms of set designs, Anya Hindmarch’s white, circular, sunken amphitheater was a modern response to the Victorian architecture of its venue – London’s Royal Horticultural Halls – which features an enormous semicircular window and a series of impressive archways.
Chanel | Paris
Always making the mundane glamorous with his over-the-top experiential shows, Karl Lagerfeld looked social media revolution right into the eye with this year’s theme of technology. ‘Data Center Chanel’ made the ideal backdrop for the show, as all the snapping and streaming guests are the real-life followers of this fashion matrix.
Dries Van Noten | Paris
No one does flowers better than the Belgian designer Dries Van Noten. This time around, he collaborated with Japanese artist Azuma Makoto in order to create custom-made ice blocks that contained frozen flowers that were melting under the heat of the runway lights, in a simple yet stunningly artistic fashion set.
Erdem | London
The Erdem setting constructed in the basement of the Selfridges building suggested a complex narrative of time travel, plotting and shipwrecks. Among low wooden bridges, shiny round pools of water and translucent veils of fabric hanging from the ceiling, Erdem’s dreamy gowns were made even more dramatic by a shipwreck-esque set.
Gucci | Milan
Creative director Alessandro Michele’s mood for Gucci is still maximal, evidenced by the pink-boudoir lounge where the exuberant show was held. Glittering with over 250,000 mirrored sequins that moved and reflected the surrounding velvet banquettes and matching carpet, every look that sauntered along his carpeted runway was enveloped in dense candy floss-colored fog.
Moschino | Milan
The theme of the collection is ‘Valley of the Dolls’, Jacqueline Susann’s scandalous 1966 bestseller. Both the book and movie present a trio of beautiful women who deal with fame, fortune and pill addiction, always referring to their pills as ‘dolls’. Moschino’s invitation was a box of pills and the ticket was a prescription, written out by none other than Dr. Moschino, all yet again a cheeky nod to consumerism.
Roberto Cavalli | Milan
Peter Dundas elected to bring everything back at maximum volume, stitching together for his set a patchwork of influences that included sort of Burning Man meets Marrakesh hybrid. The mood of the show was a blend of cultural aspects and references such as Native American and Victorian pioneers, all shuffled in a beautiful bohemian saloon.
Sies Marjan | New York
Stacks of books and a spiral staircase served as a gracious backdrop for Sies Marjan’s sophomore collection as he draw inspiration from teen diary entries and poetry books, in turn creating a fashion setting that felt as handmade, tactile and real as the clothes it accompanied.
Sophia Webster | London
Her runway show and presentation were set to the theme “Dolly Birds of Paradise” and naturally the woven chairs, lush patterns and birds of paradise were just the tip of the iceberg. An elaborate and vibrant tropical set featured shoes suspended in birdcages, while models sat in equally decadent larger versions.
Words Valeria Solonari // Illustrations Kristina Kordovsky