Jump to content

Fashion show

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Liu Wen, a supermodel, walking the catwalk as she models fashions by designer Diane von Fürstenberg at New York Fashion Week in 2013

A fashion show (French défilé de mode) is an event put on by a fashion designer to showcase their upcoming line of clothing and/or accessories during a fashion week. Fashion shows debut every season, particularly the spring/summer and fall/winter seasons. This is where designers seek to promote their new fashions. The four major fashion weeks in the world, collectively known as the "Big 4", in chronological order of their eponymous fashion weeks, are those held in New York City, London, Milan, and Paris.[1][2] Berlin fashion week is also of global importance.[1][2]

In a typical fashion show, models walk the catwalk dressed in the clothing created by the designer. Clothing is illuminated on the catwalk using lighting and special effects. The order in which each model walks out, wearing a specific outfit, is usually planned in accordance with the statement that the designer wants to make about their collection. It is then up to the audience to try to understand what the designer is trying to "say", visually deconstruct each outfit and appreciate the detail and craftsmanship of every piece.

Occasionally, fashion shows take the form of installations, where the models are static, standing or sitting in a constructed environment. A wide range of contemporary designers produce their shows as theatrical productions, with elaborate sets and added elements such as live music or a technological components such as holograms or pre-recorded video backdrops.



19th and 20th centuries

Paris fashion and runway at the turn of the century

The origins of fashion shows remain obscure as historians have yet to conduct a comprehensive study on the subject.[3] One of the designers of this concept, Charles Frederick Worth, gained traction by displaying clothes on actual people instead of mannequins. By the end of the 19th century, "fashion parades" were regularly organized at Paris couture salons.[4] American retailers imported the concept of the fashion show in the early 1900s.[3] The first American fashion show likely took place in 1903 in the New York City store of the Ehrlich Brothers.[3] By 1910, large department stores such as Wanamaker's in Manhattan and Philadelphia were also staging fashion shows.[3] These events showed couture gowns from Paris or the store's copies of them; they aimed to demonstrate the owners' good taste and capture the attention of female shoppers.[3] As the popularity for these formal presentations expanded, it was in 1918 when fashion houses established fixed dates for runway shows to occur. These occurrences took place twice annually, specifically for fashion houses to plan for and promote their lines to foreign buyers. Runway shows were often held in department stores or hotels when they first began. European fashion houses would actively seek out buyers in the United States, specifically in larger cities, by hosting these runway shows.[5]

Because "the topic of fashion shows remains to find its historian", the earliest history of fashion shows remains obscure. In the 1800s, "fashion parades" periodically took place in Paris couture salons.[citation needed] At the turn of the 19th century, exclusive fashion houses in Europe, especially Paris and London, were using formal presentations to showcase their latest line to clientele.[citation needed]

By the 1920s, retailers across the United States held fashion shows.[3] Often, these shows were theatrical, presented with narratives, and organized around a theme (e.g. Parisian, Chinese, or Russian).[3] These shows enjoyed huge popularity through mid-century, sometimes attracting thousands of customers and gawkers.[3]

Finnish actress Elina Salo presenting clothes designed by Vuokko Nurmesniemi at a fashion show in the Helsinki Botanical Garden in 1958

In the 1970s and 1980s, American designers began to hold their own fashion shows in private spaces separate from such retailers.[3] In the early 1990s, however, many in the fashion world began to rethink this strategy.[3] Fern Mallis, who was the executive director of the Council of Fashion Designers of America at the time, remembered that following a series of accidents at shows held in small, hazardous venues, the prevailing attitude was, "We love fashion but we don't want to die for it."[3] In response to these shows, the New York shows were centralized in Bryant Park during Fashion Week in late 1993.[3]

21st century

Example of an elaborate stage set used for the Chanel Haute Couture Fall-Winter 2011 show

Some designers have attempted to modernize the style and presentation of fashion shows by integrating technological advances in experimental ways, such as including pre-recorded digital videos as backdrops.[6] During New York Fashion Week in 2014, designer Ralph Lauren[3] presented his new Polo line for Spring 2015 in a water-screen projection in Manhattan's Central Park.[7] Technological progress has also allowed a broader portion of the fashion industry's followers to experience shows. In 2010, London Fashion Week was the first fashion week to allow viewing of its shows through live streaming.[3][8] Live streaming of runway shows and mediated shows has now become commonplace.[9]

Tom Ford created a music video with Lady Gaga for his Spring/Summer 2016 women's collection.[10][11]

In the 21st century, fashion shows are usually also filmed and appear on specially assigned television channels or even in documentaries.[12] Shows have also become increasingly elaborate for many of the top labels, including sprawling sets that often come with higher costs.[13]

Fashion shows present the latest seasonal styles, functioning as both a walking art exhibition and a blueprint for fast fashion stores that replicate high fashion designs. While they can sometimes be perceived as shocking, this is often intentional, serving the crucial purpose of generating publicity.[14] For many others, fashion shows also represent a way of life and establish the annual mood. Attendees of the performances also get to see an artistic medium firsthand and network with professionals in the field. Fashion presentations have evolved in the digital age, with the epidemic hastening this transition.

Format and setting


A runway may be as basic as a narrow space between rows of chairs or more elaborate setups with multiple catwalks. Most runway shows are held inside, for shelter against the weather, but there are times when runway shows are held outdoors. In the 2016 Paris Fashion Week, Chanel presented an elaborate setup by designing the hall as if it were an airport. The viewing guests sat as if they were awaiting their flights while the models walked around the airport approaching ticket counters.[15]


Models on the runway at São Paulo Fashion Week, 2017

With the creation of runway shows, the concept of runway modeling was rapidly established with the establishment of agencies and professional modeling careers. Before professional agencies, fashion houses that runway shows often had their own in house models who would specifically be fitted and costumes for each show. By having in house models to present the clothes for runway, the fashion houses could ensure that the clothing was perfectly altered for presentation and bound to sell. However, as the demand for models grew, the modeling agency was established to represent runway models.[16]


Haute couture fashion models walking the catwalk at the Carolina Herrera show during New York Fashion Week in 2014.

The term catwalk originates from the walkway, stage platform, or clearing used by models to demonstrate clothing and accessories during a fashion show.[17] Catwalks are used by designers to introduce new fashion lines and introduce new designers that grab the attention of consumers. In fashion jargon, "what's on the catwalk" or similar phrasing can refer to whatever is new and popular in fashion. Some, especially in the United States, refer to the catwalk as a runway.[18]


Fashion sketching before live runway presentation
  • Exclusive: When a model scores an exclusive for a fashion label, this means that they have been picked to walk for that particular designer only. This might launch their career, elevate their status in the fashion industry and 'guarantee' them spots on the world's best catwalks.[19]
  • Haute couture: A French phrase for high fashion. Runway shows were created to specifically display custom garments such as Haute couture.[20]
  • Look book: A collection of photos taken of models wearing a designer's or manufacturer's clothing, that is sent out to fashion editors, buyers, clients, and special customers to show the designer's looks for the season.[20]
  • Sketches: Sketches, or illustrations, were the first way that designers would present clientele with their line. This is before mannequins and live runway models were established within the industry.[21]

See also



  1. ^ a b Bradford, Julie (2014). Fashion Journalism. Routledge. p. 129. ISBN 9781136475368. Archived from the original on January 1, 2016. Retrieved November 20, 2015.
  2. ^ a b Dillon, Susan (2011). The Fundamentals of Fashion Management. A&C Black. p. 115. ISBN 9782940411580. Archived from the original on January 1, 2016. Retrieved November 20, 2015.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n Fortini, Amanda (February 8, 2006). "How the Runway Took Off". Slate. ISSN 1091-2339. Retrieved June 26, 2024.
  4. ^ Parmal, Pamela A.; Grumbach, Didier; Ward, Susan; Whitley, Lauren D., eds. (2006). Written at Boston, Massachusetts, United States. Fashion show: Paris style (1st ed.). Museum of Fine Arts: MFA Publications. ISBN 978-0-87846-707-5. OCLC 76834334.
  5. ^ "History of the Runway Show". RNWY®. April 5, 2017. Archived from the original on July 31, 2020. Retrieved June 3, 2019.
  6. ^ "New York Fashion Week Explores Technology's role in fashion". Fashionista.com. September 12, 2014. Archived from the original on August 18, 2016. Retrieved January 16, 2017.
  7. ^ "Press Releases – Press Releases - Ralph Lauren Investor Relations". Investor.ralphlauren.com. September 8, 2014. Retrieved January 16, 2017.
  8. ^ Alex Wood. "London fashion week: why technology is in fashion". The Guardian. Archived from the original on September 21, 2016. Retrieved January 16, 2017.
  9. ^ "Posts | Launchmetrics". Fashiongps.com. March 25, 2014. Archived from the original on June 8, 2015. Retrieved January 16, 2017.
  10. ^ "TOM FORD WOMENSWEAR SS16". YouTube. Archived from the original on December 23, 2016. Retrieved March 19, 2017.
  11. ^ jezebel.com Tom Ford's Runway Show Was a Video Starring Lady Gaga Archived March 20, 2017, at the Wayback Machine, Julianne Escobedo Shepherd, 10/02/15
  12. ^ Bible Black, a documentary on a fashion show held by Andrew Mackenzie Urban.dk, November 13, 2008, artikel-id: e14a0053 (November 11, 2008).
  13. ^ Murrow, Laura (March 6, 2012). "Transplanted Trees, Paper Kingdoms, and Flames: The Best Fashion Week Set Design". The Cut. New York Media LLC. Archived from the original on July 2, 2015. Retrieved July 1, 2015.
  14. ^ Hespokestyle. "What is the purpose of a fashion show?". Hepsokestyle. Archived from the original on April 20, 2021. Retrieved April 7, 2021.
  15. ^ "Paris Fashion Week 2015: Chanel Turns The Runway Into Airport, Jet-Setter's Dream! [PHOTOS]". Latin Times. October 7, 2015. Archived from the original on June 29, 2018. Retrieved December 10, 2015.
  16. ^ Evans, Caroline. "Fashion Models". LoveToKnow. Archived from the original on July 31, 2020. Retrieved June 3, 2019.
  17. ^ runway Archived July 15, 2017, at the Wayback Machine, 3.b, Merriam-Webster Dictionary
  18. ^ "catwalk – Dictionary Definition". Vocabulary.com. Archived from the original on July 31, 2020. Retrieved June 3, 2019.
  19. ^ Lim, James (February 20, 2009). "Lyndsey Scott: First Black Model to Score Calvin Exclusive". New York Magazine. Archived from the original on July 19, 2012. Retrieved June 12, 2011.
  20. ^ a b Helmer, Vanessa. "Here Is a Glossary of Must-Know Modeling Terms". The Balance Careers. Archived from the original on June 3, 2019. Retrieved June 3, 2019.
  21. ^ Victoria and Albert Museum, Digital Media webmaster@vam ac uk (August 13, 2013). "Fashion Drawing and Illustration in the 20th Century". www.vam.ac.uk. Archived from the original on July 31, 2020. Retrieved June 3, 2019.
  • Media related to Catwalk at Wikimedia Commons