Culture

NYFW: The Evolution of the Runway

By WILL OWEN

No one can pinpoint exactly when fashion shows first started. Little to no evidence exists revealing how women were “introduced” to trends back in the day. One thing is certain, though: With today’s social media and smartphones, it’s really hard to think of a time when everyday women accidentally discovered trends on the streets months after they were unveiled.

The earliest time we can trace back to is the 1800s, an era when designers revealed their creations exclusively to a few elite women behind the closed doors of Parisian couture salons. Long before the Lagerfelds of today rented stadiums and the media was given backstage access to shows, only a handful of privileged individuals used to attend fashion presentations during which designers gave them the lowdown on their whole creative process.

It wasn’t overnight that the industry switched from intimate salons to humongous platforms. It took quite some time before we landed in a world with shows like Victoria Secret’s internationally publicized Christmas TV-special!

In an era where Kylie Jenner, Instagram and Snapchat didn’t exist, designers were as keen on theatricality as they are today, the only difference is that the platform got bigger – A LOT bigger – and the customer today is, well, EVERYONE!

As time went on, travel became easier, which made fashion presentations a bit less private: Buyers from all around the globe started coming to Europe in the 1920s to have a look at the latest trends. To make sure that the international press and buyers were all present at the same time, designers got organized and started to reveal 2 collections a year – and thus “fashion week” was created.

A brief moment later, fashion shows became mainstream and clothing stores started to view them as huge profit drivers. One by one, American retailers started staging shows in restaurants, cafes and between boutiques, and before you know it, the industry grew into the multi-billion dollar consumer-driven one it is today.

As the years went by, designers became more and more inventive, pushed the boundaries to unforeseen heights, and started to orchestrate mind-blowing shows. Performance art is definitely taking center stage these days and shows are making sure they are reaching the masses: Whether it’s by having a star-studded first row (look at this lineup at the YEEZY show!) that will drive the press to talk about the show the next day, or streaming it live on social media, fashion shows have come a long way from reaching a few dozen women to reaching the entire planet earth, in a matter of seconds.

With this added visibility and exposure, fashion houses are making sure they put on one hell of a show to stand out the next day in the papers: From Louis Vuitton’s 2012 merry-go-round couture show to Fendi’s presentation on The Great Wall of China, the list of show-stopping collections is definitely worthy of a fully-fledged article in itself. So make sure to stay tuned.

 

 

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