How Fashion Weeks Captivate with Show-Stopping Moments
Fashion shows have transcended their origins on the simple catwalk and have instead blossomed into a captivating realm of spectacle and immersive artistry. We all know of the unforgettable Spring 1999 show, “No. 13” by Alexander McQueen, where model Shalom Harlow gracefully spun on a revolving wooden platform, her pristine white dress marred by the industrial machines spraying black, green, and yellow paint. While revolutionary in its time, the initial thrill of immersive shows didn’t stick.
However, a transformative evolution of how we engage with fashion is having a re-emergence, as fashion shows morph into immersive experiences that both captivate audiences and convey profound messages. Pioneering designers like Demna Gvasalia, Pharrell Williams, (di)vision, and Di Petsa are prime examples of those pushing the boundaries of how they present their designs. This shift represents a fresh approach to consumer engagement, a novel way of fostering brand connection, and a more ingenious manner of showcasing their work through immersive spectacles that challenge our conventional understanding of fashion.
Demna Gvasalia’s audacious Spring/Summer 2023 show for Balenciaga was nothing short of groundbreaking. Set on a runway of genuine peat bog mud, it was a radical return to nature. Models, adorned in an eclectic collection, waded through the mud, leaving their mark on polished garments, symbolising the stark contrast between our idealised fashion world and the gritty reality beneath. The addition of a custom-made scent, evoking decomposition, added a visceral layer that left the audience divided.
As models traversed the mud-covered set, they left footprints and splashes on the floor and their clothes. The mud also clung to their skin and hair, creating a jarring contrast with the refined and polished garments. To complete the sensory experience, scent researcher and artist Sissel Tolaas crafted a custom-made scent that embodied the raw odour of decomposition. The show was further enhanced by a techno dystopian soundtrack, intensifying the dramatic atmosphere.
In a world grappling with environmental and social crises, Gvasalia questioned the very essence of fashion.
Pharrell Williams, in his debut as Louis Vuitton’s creative director for Spring/Summer 2024, elevated fashion shows to unprecedented heights, quite literally. The Pont Neuf Bridge transformed into a circular runway, where models showcased a collection inspired by Pharrell’s personal style, collaborations, and heritage. However, it was the fusion of fashion, music, and spirituality that set this event apart.
The Voices Of Fire gospel choir’s live performance, celebrating the rich tapestry of black culture. Jay-Z’s surprise appearance on stage was a historic moment, reminding us that fashion can be a vessel for cultural celebration and expression.
The show was not only a spectacle for the eyes and ears, but also for the heart and soul. Pharrell said that he wanted to create a “spiritual experience” for the audience, and he succeeded in doing so. The show was streamed live on social media platforms, reaching millions of viewers around the world. The show also generated buzz and interest for the new collection, which featured colourful prints, patchwork denim and bucket hats.
He created a show that was more than just a display of clothes, but a performance that celebrated diversity, culture, and innovation. He used fashion as a tool to engage a wider audience and to spread a message of positivity and empowerment. He showed us that fashion can be more than just what we wear, but also what we feel and what we stand for.
Copenhagen Fashion Week bore witness to the (di)vision show, titled “Dressed for Disaster.” It was a unique exploration of brokenness and healing, drawing inspiration from the collision of the “train wreck 1999 festival meets the Met Gala.” Models, draped in deadstock fabrics and vintage pieces, participated in a dramatic stunt symbolising breaking and healing, extending the show’s message into a capsule collection called TABLEWARE.
The tablecloth served as a metaphor for breaking and healing, the core themes of both (di)vision and its collaborator, Hedvig, a digital insurance company. Featuring five wine-stained pieces: an oversized shirt, a short-sleeve button-down shirt, high-waisted shorts, loose drawstring pants, and a padded shoulder bag. The (di)vision show undoubtedly stood out as one of the most memorable and creative moments of Copenhagen Fashion Week, embodying the brand’s vision of finding beauty in brokenness and living life without regrets.
Di Petsa’s “Breaking and Healing” show drew inspiration from the myth of Persephone, taking the audience on a mesmerising journey of rebirth and sensuality. With a mystical stage set and wet-look dresses symbolising transformation, it served as a reminder that fashion can be a potent form of storytelling, weaving narratives of growth and hope.
These compelling examples underscore the metamorphosis of fashion shows from basic clothing presentations to immersive pageants that incorporate diverse artistic forms and cutting-edge technology. Designers and brands have transcended the mere showcasing of their creations; they now endeavour to craft unforgettable experiences for their audiences while effectively conveying their unique visions and values.
In today’s digital age, where social media and online platforms wield immense influence over consumer behaviour, immersive fashion shows also offer a prime opportunity to reach new and diverse audiences. As the fashion industry continues to evolve in response to changing times, we can anticipate a ceaseless wave of innovative and creative spectacles that challenge our preconceptions and redefine the very essence of fashion itself. This transformative approach is not only engaging but also essential in an era where consumers seek more meaningful connections with brands.