In just a few minutes, a fashion show can usually bring a designer’s vision for the future to life. It is an excellent way for any fashion designer to leave a mark on fashion and culture. As fashion itself evolves, so do fashion shows. Fashion shows are being held online these days as much as online, but every time, it shows that fashion shows are getting even more prominent each time. Although designers often broadcast their creations to millions through fashion shows, the history of fashion shows is much more humble than most would expect.
The modern fashion show dates as far back as the 1860s. There have also been many influences on the path of fashion shows over the decades. In this article, we’ll walk you through the history of fashion shows and the main factors that influenced evolution over the years; let’s get started.
History of Fashion Shows – Haute Beginnings
It all started with a show in the 1860s, a Parisian-based designer known as Charles Frederick Worth decided to introduce the idea of presenting a collection of live models. Worth is popularly known as the father of haute couture, and like every other fashion designer of that age, he launched his collections at Longchamp Racecourse. Although this wasn’t a fashion show, it was good publicity in many ways.
The 20th century came with the idea of fashion parades, and one designer that influenced this movement was Lady Duff Gordon. She was popular in London for regularly showing her fashion collection at her Hanover Street Salon. She loved to give her models romantic names that made them sound even more exotic than they were. In Paris, on the other hand, a designer called Paul Poiret loved to stage fancy-dress balls that allowed women to dress up in his eastern-inspired look. He would then tour department stores and theaters around Europe with mannequins beside him. It wasn’t much different in New York as the Ehrich Brothers department store started hosting their fashion shows in the store. Many more people like the Wanamaker in Philadephia also hopped on the fashion show trends.
In the 1920s, there was a new trend as it brought the golden age of haute couture to practice. This new haute couture trend features the dominance of Gabrille Coco Chanel, Elsa Schiaparelli and Medeleine Vionette. During the Great Depression, fashion designers took to selling patterns people could make at home because of the shrinkage of incomes. Nevertheless, haute couture continued to flourish in the midst of it all. In 1931, Elsa Schiaparelli decided to show a collection on a catwalk in New York. However, she ensured photographers didn’t attend because she didn’t want the designs being copied. Therefore, artists had to sketch the collections.
New York’s Influence on the History of Fashion Shows
1943 was a significant year in the history of fashion shows. This is because it was when Eleanor Lambert introduced the New York fashion week. Eleanor Lambert set up shows at the Pierre Hotel and the Plaza under the idea of a fashion week. Before this, US fashion was dominated by European fashion designers. However, the American press couldn’t travel to Europe due to the war, which led to the opportunity to promote national talents like Norman Norell. This year, the New York show became an annual show and was only interrupted during the 9/11 attack that happened on the first day of New York fashion week.
Luckily the war ended, and the French fashion industry decided to rebuild. Robert, the son of fashion designer Nine Ricci, came up with the idea of inviting fashion houses to develop a miniature version of their designs. This was a way for them to show their talent without wasting valuable resources. This became a fast popular trend known as Le Petit Theatre de la Mode or Miniature theatre of Fashion in English.
By 28th March 1945, there were 200 mannequins available, a third of human sixes. They wore scaled-down designs by top fashion houses like Jeanne Lanvin and Balenciaga. They went on to show this at the Louvre before a tour around Europe commenced. The following year came with new clothes, and the mannequins were also shown in America. Again, it was a fashion show that utilized the limited resources available.
New Look, New Rules in the History of Fashion Show
Before the war began, couture shows were usually held in small salons or the designer’s headquarters. The goal was to sell directly to the client, that would usually return for many fittings within six weeks. In those days, emphasis was on the client and never the publicity; this was long before the advent of the catwalk. Photographers were never allowed in – until Christian Dior.
In 1947, Christian Dior became the first designer to allow photographers to document his first collection. The editor of Harper’s Bazaar, Carmel Snow, decided to make this collection ‘The New Look.’ Italian shows started in Florence, with many fashion houses showcasing their collection. Giovanni Battista Giorgini founded the shows to compete with Paris and rebuild Italy’s textile, craft, and fashion after the war.
They were also promoted as a stop-off for the American editors returning from the Paris shows. Note that this was when the fashion season required a journey from New York on an ocean liner. Guests were usually transported from Rome to Florence to wine and dine in luxury as they enjoyed the exciting parts of Italian fashion. It wasn’t long before Camera Nazionale Della Moda Italiana was created, and they moved the fashion shows from Florence to a more commercial area like Milan.
The New Model Army
Hubert de Givenchy decided to show his first collection in 1952. His relationship with Audrey Hepburn became one of the leading fashion partnerships. Throughout the 1960s, fashion shows remained closed, and photographers were viewed as spies. However, Gaby Aghion, the founder of Chloe, decided to do things differently in 1956 and invited the press to view her first collection. It was an informal presentation, and models sat in an everyday café, away from the designer’s salon that seemed too controlled.
Fast forward to the 1970s, and ready-to-wears were taking over from haute couture. Additionally, catwalks became the new medium for designers to showcase their collections. Many designers took to showcasing their collections twice a year in 1973. As a result, the Chambre Syndicale du Pret-a-Porter de couturiers et des creatueurs de mode. It was founded to coordinate the shows, giving birth to the Paris fashion week.
The Europe Renaissance
In the history of fashion show, London became the capital of creativity in 1980, and at the same time, Vivienne Westwood entered the fashion scene with her fanatic followers. Her performances were rude and irreverent, and she raised a middle finger to the respected tradition of fashion shows. Afterward, the British Fashion Council came to be, which centralized the London Designer Collection and the British Designer show. They had been organizing sows since 1975 but now had to be under a single roof.
It didn’t take long for London to become a city for the press and people looking for the Next Big Thing. The prominent designers that changed the concept of the catwalk show decided to make a specialty of diverse casting in different categories like color, age, gender, and sizes. The New York Times described this moment in the history of fashion show as bizarre as a rockstar video. Although London was the place for new talent, the 80s and 90s showed that Paris was the cultural heartbeat of fashion.
A notable fashion show in 1981 was the debut show by Yohji Yamamoto and Rei Kawakuno. They arrived from Tokyo and brought a new, messy, asexual attitude to fashion. This significantly contrasted with the dominance of the power dressing method. At the same time, Stephen Sprouse’s edgy arthouse fashion release shook up the New York fashion show scene.
The Era of Supermodels and the Influence of Location on the History of Fashion Show
In the 1990s, attention was no longer placed on the shows but on the models. As a result, supermodels began to gain more popularity. The Versace autumn/winter 1991 show was quite the phenomenon, with Cindy, Linda, Naomi, and Christy singing the words to Freedom by George Michael at the end of the show.
Tom Ford went a little bit further with his Gucci show. It introduced a new style of show that focused on glamour, sex, and states. The show used lighting like no other, with a single spotlight following the model along the sidewalk. The idea was to draw special attention to the sensuousness of the silk blouse and Amber Valletta’s hipsters.
The goal of every designer is to attract a fashion crowd to your collecting in an out-of-the-way venue. Martin Margiela was the first designer to ignore the conventions of fashion shows completely. There were no seating plans in his new location, and kids could watch. The models worked like they usually would. They set the stage for a more democratic approach to fashion shows. Alexander McQueen followed suit and held his Dante show in Hawksmoor Christchurch. This showed that fashion shows were more about the location, setting, and atmosphere.
Fashion Shows Today
Now that we’ve taken a walk through the history of fashion shows, you’re wondering how fashion affects us today. In fashion shows today, the goal is to capture people at the moment and also create a memorable experience. Today, it’s more than showing the garment’s details and more like a walking catalog showcasing the silhouette. Over the decades, fashion brands have bents the boundaries of the runway.
Changes in costs, fashion climates, excess, and sustainability also result in many fashion shows ideas like events, dinners, books, and webcasts. Designers tend to limit designs to their imaginations. Watching a catwalk is easy today as they’re now shared live on Instagram. This is a fashion house strategy to engage personally with the audience. It will also give fashion enthusiasts insight into the fashion work that once was unbailable.
The history of fashion shows takes us from when design collections were a private affair to when shows began publicly being held. Today, technology has had one of the most significant impacts on fashion show history as fashion entered the digital age. As a result, fashion week, as we know it today, is a global phenomenon that evolved over the years to become a significant moment in fashion history. We hope you know all you need to know about the history of fashion shows, how they started and where they are now.