If fashion shows have thought us anything, first impressions count. By that, we mean even before the first model steps onto the runway. The atmosphere and set design of fashion shows certainly set the tone of a designer’s collection. Take the unnerving show at Gucci as an example. An operating theatre setting and the soundtrack of a beating heart and heavy breathing of oxygen being administered to a patient greeted guests at the show. So how did the other brands make an impression? Here, we shortlist some that made us sit up and take notice.
The Grand Palais in Paris has been the venue to some of the most spectacular sets for Chanel’s — and the industry’s — runway shows in recent memory. The cavernous exhibition hall and complex in the city’s 8th Arrondissement had been transformed into the Gorges du Verdon complete with waterfalls, a rocket launch site, a shopping centre, and a brasserie among others.
For the recent F/W ’18 show, the brand explored the theme of nature in the autumn for a show replete with amazing outerwear that included plenty of slim black coats and puffer coats. The venue was covered in dead leaves and moss, and featured nine oak and poplar trees that were planted in the middle of the runway.
The set did not sit well with some people, though. It reportedly angered environmentalists like the France Nature Environment. According to Britain’s The Guardian, the maison responded that the authorities have given the brand the green light to cut the trees. And in return for that? Chanel would replant 100 new oak trees in the forest.
Under Demna Gvasalia, the Balenciaga show has become one of the hottest tickets to have during Paris Fashion Week. But the Fall/Winter ’18 turned out to be the chilliest too. For its first co-ed catwalk show, Balenciaga made the models walk around a snow-covered mountain peak that has been swathed in neon-coloured graffiti — a nod to the snowboarding scene of the ’90s which inspired the collection.
Among the slogans we spied on this faux mountain are those mined from previous seasons like “think big”. The extreme sports theme was evident in designs like the hyper-layered jackets and coats (FYI: some pieces were reported to comprise nine layers of outerwear that were bonded together). The use of technology did not end there. For the first time ever, Balenciaga tapped on 3D printing for some of the tailored looks.
On the topic of slogans, Dior was another fashion house which incorporated messages into its set on the grounds of the Musee Rodin. The premise of the show was the revolutionary and anti-authoritarian mood in Paris in 1968 that culminated in widespread protests.
To intepret the concept into its venue, Dior turned to its long-time collaborator and set designer Alexandre de Betak. The result was a giant collage made up of 3,000 torn up posters that measured a staggering 12,000 sq metres or approximately the size of 110 five-room flats. Topping it off were mirrors on the ceiling which measured 1,000 metres in total.
With such major work, it’s no wonder that the construction of the structure took a grand total of three weeks and 150 people to complete. Goes to show just how much work it takes to create one truly Instagrammable fashion show set.
Could this be the most sterile Gucci show ever by Alessandro Michele? After all, this is a man who is known for his over-the-top aesthetic when it comes to both his designs and his show sets. Just consider the miniature Roman streets he conjured for S/S ’18 that came with statues like Buddha. Or how about that gigantic mirrored pyramid that gave us major Illuminati vibes for F/W ’17? So when Michele transported his guests to the scene of an operating theatre, you certainly take notice.
For starters, there were five surgery rooms that lined the show space held at the brand’s HQ called the Gucci Hub. Whoever was behind the decor was certainly method. The set came complete with tables, surgical sheets, emergency escape doors, and surgical lights. To make the situation more realistic, all the guests were seated on actual seats you’d find in the waiting room.
All these details drove home the point of Michele’s work as the Dr. Frankenstein of fashion where he spliced and diced different elements and inspirations into his designs. As he told Vogue.com: “We are the Dr. Frankenstein of our lives. There’s a clinical clarity about what I am doing. I was thinking of a space that represents the creative act. I wanted to represent the lab I have in my head. It’s physical work, like a surgeon’s.”
It was a sweet moment for American lifestyle queen Tory Burch’s F/W ’18 show. The designer created a spring garden complete with 14,000 pink carnations for her Big Apple showcase despite the mercury dipping to a frigid -1 deg Celsius outside. To add to the jubilant mood, she even threw in a live string quartet to provide live music for the show.
All that was a fitting tribute to the inspirations for the collection — Burch’s personal friend and New York City‘s legendary society fixture Lee Radziwill and Nelken, the 1982 tanztheater masterpiece by Pina Bausch. The idea for the flowers sprung from the latter’s most memorable scene of a carnation-covered field. Burch turned to landscape architect and Vogue‘s contributing editor Miranda Brooks when it came to recreating that floral wonderland.
Calvin Klein 205W39NYC
The brand turned the American Stock Exchange into a pop fest. Popcorn fest to be exact. Raf Simons brought in a reported 50,000 gallons of the snack for his third runway show since taking over the brand’s creative direction. Most of the popcorn was strewn on the floor, while some were in paper bags that models clutched.
If that was not a surreal (and bewildering) spectacle, there were also installations of mop heads hanging in the scaffoldings by Simons’ longtime collaborator Sterling Ruby, as well as Andy Warhol art covering the life-sized facades of barns. The whole scene was both madcap and twisted at once — all part of the Belgian designer’s narrative of a dystopian America. Cue the Mylar dresses and shawls, firefighter coats and balaclavas worn with prairie dresses.
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