A fashion show is an event put on by a fashion designer to showcase their upcoming line of clothing and/or accessories during Fashion Week. Fashion shows debut every season, particularly the Spring/Summer and Fall/Winter seasons. This is where the latest fashion trends are made. The two most influential fashion weeks are Paris Fashion Week and New York Fashion Week, which are both semiannual events. The Milan, London, Sibiu and Berlin fashion weeks are also of global importance.
In a typical fashion show, models walk the catwalk dressed in the clothing created by the designer. Clothing is illuminated on the runway using various forms of lighting and special effects. The order in which each model walks out wearing a specific outfit, is usually planned in accordance to the statement that the designer wants to make about their collection. It is then up to the audience to not only try to understand what the designer is trying to say, but to also visually deconstruct each outfit and try to appreciate the detail and craftsmanship of every single piece.
Occasionally, fashion shows take the form of installations, where the models are static, standing or sitting in a constructed environment. A wide range of contemporary designers tend to produce their shows as theatrical productions with elaborate sets and added elements such as live music or a variety of technological components like holograms.
The fashion show has evolved from an exclusive in-house presentation of haute couture held for a private clientele, to a biannual spectacle of both couture and ready-to-wear clothing that is seen by a vast cross-section of consumers, the mass media, and the fashion industry. A number of cultural and social forces are responsible for this evolution, including the increased consumer awareness of Parisian couture, the rise of the ready-to-wear industry after World War II, the growth of the modeling profession, and the increasing attention paid to the runway by the popular press. While the fashion show today is different from its early-twentieth-century incarnation, it does retain links to its origins in theatrical display and the couture salon shows of that period.
In nineteenth-century Paris, it was common practice for dressmaker houses to use their assistants or saleswomen (desmoiselles du magasin) to wear the designer's creations while working at the shop. To reach a broader clientele, many couturiers extended this display to the public arena as well, with figures such as Charles Frederick Worth dressing his wife in the latest styles to promenade in socially important areas of the city such as the Bois du Boulogne. In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries in London and Paris, the custom-dressmaking trade also maintained important and effective links to the world of theater and advertised its wares by dressing famous actresses both on and off the stage. The couture houses of Doucet and Paquin, for example, were very successful promoters through this medium and their clientele included such popular stars as Sarah Bernhardt, Réjane, and Cecile Sorel. The theater, particularly in France and England, became a place to see the most avant-garde styles and eventually a "fashion play" genre developed that revolved around the presentation of the latest couture creations. Dressing members of the fashionable demimonde and house mannequins (the term for models in this period) for the races, opera, and theater premieres, and resort areas were another means of advertising up-to-the-minute designs.
In the first decade of the century, social display was supplemented by organized shows at a fixed time in the couture house. Although a number of designers and fashion personalities claim responsibility for the first fashion show, it was not one person who started the trend, but rather a gradual evolution toward more formal presentations of seasonal clothing lines. By the mid-1910s many designers, including Paul Poiret, Lucile, and Paquin, were using the fashion show as a promotional vehicle. In 1910 Lucile promoted the opening of her New York branch with a spectacular fashion show in a city theater. The presentation had an Arabian Nights theme inspired by vaudeville revues. Lucile was one of the first to promote her mannequins as public personalities, giving them exotic names such as Dinarzade and Sumurun, and training them to walk with a distinctive gait.
For Paris haute couture, the shows were first presented in Paris or London and then sometimes traveled to America on well-publicized tours. Paul Poiret followed this pattern, organizing a tour in 1911 in which he and his mannequins showed his exotic creations in venues such as charity bazaars, theaters, and department stores throughout Europe. In 1913 he also conducted a heavily promoted tour of the United States with his mannequins, and other designers followed suit, including Jeanne Paquin in 1914 and Jean Patou in 1924. Another innovative mode of presentation in the 1910s was the organization of a thé dansant, a popular pastime that showcased new dances such as the tango and the fox-trot. Designers including Lucile and Paquin showed their new designs in such a context, often using theaters as a show venue.
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