Whether it was Jean Patou, Coco Chanel or Christian Dior: even then, not only did a good collection count, the fashion show also had to be a memorable event.
Fashion shows are now global events that cause sensation on social media channels. Just like the fashion weeks in London, Milan and Paris that have just ended, luxury brands are coming up with more and more spectacular things to attract the attention of journalists, fashion lovers and ultimately buyers.
Whether Diesel uses the largest sculpture in the world as a backdrop, Gucci hosts a fashion show with twins, or Balenciaga has set up a muddy battlefield as a venue, the infinitely expensive events put the actual collections in the background. There are also multitudes of celebrities, especially from the art or music scene, who are involved as guests or participants. Cher at Balmain, Kanye West at Balenciaga, artist Gaetano Pesce at Bottega Veneta. The good old supermodels like Kate Moss, Linda Evangelista or Naomi Campbell are also regularly sent onto the catwalk to ensure attention.
For the cruise collections, which can be seen in May, the fashion hype has been going around the world for several years. Stars and influencers are then flown in from all over the world to make the intermediate collections even more attractive. But the multi-billion dollar luxury industry isn’t really about these events, it’s about clothing, collections, accessories, perfumes and hundreds of products from lighters to key chains, which are said to arouse desires at stately prices.
Anyone who thinks this is all new and a phenomenon of our globalized world with its endless greed for social media content is wrong. Although the internet has given this development an enormous boost, fashion has also been interested in analog times. Even then it was highly regarded in the media. Of course, before the borders and markets of Russia or Asia were opened, luxury fashion was more elitist and reserved for just a few people, but even then consumers were courted by every means possible, and the industry’s protagonists always matched the prevailing zeitgeist.
First was the salon
The English couturier Charles Frederick Worth, who opened his Paris couture salon on Rue de la Paix in the mid-19th century, invented the demonstration of fashion on live models. In the afternoon he invited nobles and the newly industrialized rich to show them the collections. The customers could then order the selected models directly. This ritual lasted for decades in haute couture and even became a prerequisite for running a couture house in Paris. Paul Poiret continued to develop the salon show, sending his dresses and models on tour each season to sell his collections in Europe and North America. And then things took off: Jean Patou hired the dancers of the “Dolly Sisters”, who had become megastars in the 1920s, to make his sporty, contemporary fashion palatable to society.
Coco Chanel used celebrities of the time such as Hollywood star Gloria Swanson and all the grand dukes who had emigrated from Russia, as well as the high nobility of England to display her collections. In practice, the protesters became the best customers. Although on a more modest scale, the means were the same as today. The myth of a designer was always strongly linked to the star models or celebrities of the house, who were appropriated as muses. No fashion show at Givenchy without Audrey Hepburn, while at Dior Marlene Dietrich, the Duchess of Windsor or Grace Kelly. Yves Saint Laurent and Karl Lagerfeld focused on the youth culture of the 1960s, so Sylvie Vartan, Catherine Deneuve and Brigitte Bardot became image avatars for their brands.
Then came Paris Fashion Week
The turning point for the first major spectacles was the creation of the fashion weeks in the late 1970s, where the ready-to-wear collections were displayed centrally in the Louvre in Paris. Later, a fashion week also started in Milan, giving the Italians their international reputation. With the increasing prosperity of Western countries, fashion became more and more the center of the general interest and of international magazines and magazines.
Globalization eventually kicked in with the opening of the Eastern and Asian markets, and in the early 1990s, supermodels became the focus of the shows. There wasn’t a show that didn’t send the army of Linda Evangelista, Claudia Schiffer, Cindy Crawford, Yasmeen Ghauri, Naomi Campbell and Helena Christensen off the runway. Moments later, Nadja Auermann, Tatjana Patitz and Kristen McMenamy joined them. The models became so prominent that everything they showed was sold like hot cakes. And the political statement in fashion, as we are now experiencing with Balenciaga? Also has a tradition: Valentino’s peace dresses for the Gulf War, Katharine Hamnett’s T-shirts against Pershing 2 missiles, Vivienne Westwood’s anti-fracking statements. In fashion, social criticism has been a means of expression for reflecting current developments since the 1960s. Fashion shows offer an ideal stage for this.