The Fashion Catwalk was first seen in the 1800s with private French couture parades; it has developed greatly since then and diversified incredibly!
Designers have always sought effective ways of promotion; early 1900s designers used public events to promenade their designs and would dress famous actresses. In London and Paris the theatre developed the ‘fashion play’ genre revolving around the latest couture creations. The Fashion Show reached America in 1903 through the Ehrlich Brothers’ large department stores. 1910 culminated in a massive step towards the modern catwalk with a spectacular show opening the branch of Lucile in New York City centre, Lucile giving the models exotic names and training then to walk with the now common distinctive gait. 1910 also saw the development of the cinema fashion reel.
The 30s saw an escalation in more theatrical shows with Elsa Schiaparelli creating themed collections incorporating music, lighting, dance and performance.
New York, introduced the first Fashion Week in 1943. After World War II the fashion show became more formal and Paris re-established itself as the style leader. Regular fashion shows were also being held in London, and Milan; the ‘Big 4’.
The 50s and60s saw an increase in ready-to-wear collections for the younger generation. The designers created more vibrant shows; Mary Quant presented her modern style with jazz music and dancing models.
The 70s and80s introduced spectacular shows. Thierry Mugler staged his fashion show with rock stars to a crowd of 6,000+. The audience increased further by TV broadcasting, giving birth to the ‘supermodel’. London Fashion Week started in 1984 launched by the British Fashion Council and in 2010 was the first to Live Stream its catwalk.
As the progression has grown it is now the norm to produce extravagant shows in unusual places using installation and film, innovative media interactions to push the presentation of fashion design towards conceptual fantasy, ultimately promoting brand recognition in subversive ways to a media savvy world.
Fashion in Motion is a series of live catwalk events presented at the V&A. These events started in 1999 and are continuing today. Featuring some of the greatest designers of our time, Fashion in Motion brings catwalk couture to a wider audience by modelling it against the beautiful backdrop of the Museum.
With the appearance of organisations such as Fashion East in 2000 in London smaller personal shows have blossomed, art installations in shops, with designers present to meet and discuss their work, alongside creative use of sculptures and video have made designers’ visions accessible to people from all walks of life.
The joy of dressing is an art. — John Galliano