English designer Charles Frederick Worth seems to be the first fashion designer that used models. From the mid-1860s, the house was hiring young women.
This development changed the relationship between the dressmaker and the client. Instead of the designer coming to the customer, the designer gave a simple presentation to clients.
In 1901, Lady Duff Gordon presented her 'Gowns of Emotion' using models on a stage with scenery, lighting and music, while their entrances were choreographed with poses. This innovation introduced the idea of showing fashion to a larger audience.
The traditional catwalk took place in department stores where large spaces were available. These presentations for middle-class shoppers were vital in validating the fashionable styles set by designers.
In the 1960s, fashion designers started to break away from hosting a catwalk show in department stores and salons. Balmain presented a 1965 collection in a wine cellar, and Piere Cardin held a show outdoors next to the Seine in Paris.
Once we headed into the nineties, the fashion show got bigger and cost millions to stage. But the visual spectacle didn't really add to the basic concept of the fashion show. The shows were mostly happening behind closed doors for fashion editors, buyers, celebrities and private clients.
Fashion shows have always been about creating visibility and exposure for a designer's collection with the end goal of selling clothes. Technology placed fashion weeks within reach of everyone and changed it into a pop-culture phenomenon. As the fashion influencer emerged, the street style followed.
The rise of social media also led to brands choosing to livestream their shows to all. The change has expanded over the last year, causing designers to embrace a digital format over gatherings.
With social media being the better platform, many designers embraced the creative challenge this presented. They showcase their collections via fashion films or shoots and find other inventive ways to draw audiences.
The designers who had the most success on social media were those who scaled back the least. The pandemic has allowed time to reflect on the sustainability and role of the fashion industry.
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