As New York Fashion Week gets underway – and London, Milan and Paris loom on the horizon – we are again looking to the runways for inspiration. But, as we tend to do in our field, we look beyond the clothes to the spectacular sets that the designer labels choose to unleash their models and new season collections into.
There have been momentous runway moments for decades – who can forget McQueen’s illogically brilliant VOSS show, Versace’s supermodels who took to the runway mouthing the words of George Michael’s ‘Freedom’ as they walked? – and there continue to be shows that you know will overdeliver the wow factor every time, like or the Victoria’s Secret shows. But we take a look at our favourite six shows from the last decade, from a list of about 100.
Fendi Haute Couture autumn/winter 2016
Fendi couldn’t have got any closer to its Roman roots for its couture show last year. For most attending the label’s 90th anniversary show, it was the first time they had seen Rome’s famous Trevi fountain post-renovation, which had been funded by the fashion house. It set the gleaming white stone backdrop to the spectacular show, which drew gasps as the fountains and lights were turned on and Kendall Jenner stomped out onto the plexiglass runway.
Philipp Plein spring/summer 2017
Never one to do things by halves, German designer Philipp Plein announced his SS17 show would be his last to be held in Milan, moving to New York for the AW17 outing. He took that as reason enough to go out with a Boom Boom Pow. His candy-coloured amusement park show space, complete with cottages and a flying-chair carousel that was used during the show, set the scene for his “Alice in Ghettoland” theme. Black Eyed Peas singer Fergie provided the soundtrack as models (including Paris Hilton) walked around in the ripped denim, blingtastic spectacle, supported by oiled up males. Taste was abandoned, as is often the case with Plein. Words can’t really describe the spectacle, so here’s the video.
Louis Vuitton spring/summer 2014
Ending his 16-year tenure at the helm of Louis Vuitton (he brought the first clothing collections to the house when he joined in 1997) with a show that rang out with his greatest set hits: the carousel; the escalator; the elevator; the fountain; the hotel – all previous show centre pieces that were unveiled in full technicolor but this time re-envisioned in lacquered black as if to signal the end of his era. The most fashionable funeral to have ever been. As the last model walked out onto the navy and black chequered sheepskin catwalk, the announcement that everyone knew was coming was made, that this was the last show under Jacobs. And what a show it was.
Chanel autumn/winter 2014
This list wouldn’t be complete without Chanel. In fact, it would be easy to make all six shows Chanel. Their show sets are anticipated as much as the clothes, four times a year at Paris’s Grand Palais, and never, ever disappoint. A wind farm, a forest, a delapidated theatre, a casino, a brasserie, a data centre, a full-scale protest, even an airport, designer Karl Lagerfeld knows no creative bounds when it comes to staging his collections in Paris. See a round up of the Great Chanel Set Story here, and watch our favourite show: the Chanel supermarket.
Marc Jacobs autumn/winter 2013
A giant sun welcomed guests as they entered Marc Jacobs’ autumn/winter 2013 show, inspired by Olafur Eliasson’s ‘The Weather Project’ at the Tate Modern in London. The orb, although blindingly orange-bright, somehow turned everything into an old sepia-toned photo. Colour was erased.
As models took to the circular runway, you could see the shape and patterns of the clothes of course, but no colour. Everything looked grey. A reflection of Jacobs’ mood, he said later. But then all 55 models reappeared for a second run. Wearing the same looks but this time under spotlights, it was then that you could see the sequins, the navy, burgundy, rich greens and shimmering gold.
“I’ve felt out of sorts, and I wanted to see things sort of dismal and then still show the optimistic side,” he told Vogue following the show.
Burberry autumn/winter 2016
For its show in September 2016, Burberry abandoned its grand Kensington Gardens “tent” and took residence in Makers’ House in London’s Soho. The unlikely location, a run down old industrial building backing onto the closed Foyles Books building, was transformed by the British brand into a spectacular show and event space. A sculpture garden, café, opulent carpeted show space, and installations filled the venue, which stayed open for a week following the show. Artisans who worked on or inspired the collection welcomed guests who came in their droves to see the collection (now on mannequins on the runway, rather than models) and to immerse themselves in Burberry’s World.