High-end fashion brands like Louis Vuitton, Dior, and Gucci often organize fashion shows to show their latest clothes or outfits for people. Rather than using mannequins, these brands would hire models to wear the designer clothes for them, as many people believed that the models would give buyers a better look and fit on the clothes than a plastic or wooden mannequin that could sometimes be disproportionate and unhuman. But where did this event started? And who created it? The answer to these two questions will be revealed as we take a look at the interesting history of the fashion show.
The Father of Haute Couture
The fashion show started in the 1860s when a Parisian fashion designer named Charles Frederick Worth organized a “live fashion collection,” wherein he used models to showcase his newly designed clothes. Worth is often regarded as the father of “haute couture,” which is the term used for collections that feature expensive and luxurious fashion items. Worth is also notable as the founder of the “House of Worth,” a fashion boutique that serves as the predecessor for many popular fashion houses today.
His live fashion collection was held at the Longchamp Racecourse, a horse-racing facility located in Paris, France. Interestingly, Worth even hired his wife to wear his clothes, and his wife is regarded in historical records as the first professional model. However, Worth’s events were not called a fashion show, mainly because runways were not conceptualized yet back then.
More than 30 years after Worth’s live fashion collection, the concept of using human models to show clothes was revived in “fashion parades,” which were usually held in New York City during the 19th century. Two of the pioneers of the fashion parade were the Ehrlich Brothers, who organized the first American fashion show in 1903 at their New York City store. The fashion parades serve as a preview for the newly-designed clothes that are not yet available to the public, and the elite who are invited to these events are there to get a first look at the designs.
During the boom of fashion parades in the United States, taking photos of the clothes during the events was banned, as the designers fear that their designs might get copied by others who will see the photos. However, after World War II, fashion designers became more welcoming and brought more audience members to their parades so that it can generate hype and exposure.
Scheduled Fashion Shows
In 1918, most fashion houses decided that their shows should be scheduled per year so that rival houses wouldn’t clash when it comes to the date of their events. The scheduled fashion shows also allow the elite, who are mostly private buyers, to plan ahead of time when they will come to the fashion house.
The fashion houses would host shows twice a year so that those who will be invited will have options to which show they would want to go to. These shows are often held in hotels, but some are done in department stores. These twice-a-year fashion shows would eventually become the inspiration behind fashion week, a grandiose event also held twice a year in major fashion capital around the world, such as New York, Paris, Milan, and London.
Great Depression Fashion
During the Great Depression, a period where the world experienced a collapse in the economy, fashion houses were struggling to sell clothes. The houses were forced to sell patterns instead of clothes to make a living, as it is cheaper to sell instead of tops and bottoms, and these patterns can be used by people to sew their own clothes.
Surprisingly, haute couture is still quite popular during that period, as those who belong to the higher class are mostly unaffected by the Great Depression, although they were only a few of them to keep fashion houses from flourishing.
In 1943, during the last years of the Great Depression, a fashion publicist named Eleanor Lambert organized several shows at The Pierre hotel in Manhattan, New York City. Shortly after, Lambert founded the New York Fashion Week, the first of the four fashion week events, and is held in February and September. The event enabled American designers to showcase their abilities in designing clothes, which they couldn’t do before since Europe dominated the market.
Fashion After the War
After World War II, fashion houses struggled again to find a place in the changing world, but the dilemma was somehow solved when Robert Ricci, the son of legendary haute couture designer Nina Ricci, organized a fashion show, although the one that he conceptualized was not ordinary.
Ricci’s fashion show involved the use of miniatures, which are dolls that are supposed to look like a person shrunk down to a tiny size, and these miniatures will wear the designs by the fashion houses participating in the event. The miniature clothes would allow fashion houses to save money for materials since they would only need a small amount of their fabrics to create clothes for the small figures. Ricci would call the event Le Petit Théâtre de la Mode, and it ran from 1945 to 1946.
A few months after Ricci launched his show, high-end fashion brand Balenciaga began using small-scale mannequins to show their designs. In the next year, the mannequins were transported to America so that the people there would also see the newly-designed clothes.
In 1960, a new fashion trend called “Pret-a-porter” or ready-to-wear took the fashion world by storm when Nina Ricci featured her trendy designs two weeks before major fashion houses held their fashion shows. Among those who benefitted from the trend was Yves Saint Laurent, who launched his own line of ready-to-wear clothes in the Rive Gauche boutique. The Pret-a-porter trend is still very popular up to the present times, as it allowed ordinary people to wear high-end clothes at a relatively affordable price.
The Modern Runway
Today, the runaway became the gateway for many new fashion designers to present their abilities to design fashionable clothes to audiences, and it still serves as the medium for major fashion houses to show that their brand will always be in style.
Fashion week is still being held to this day, and celebrities are often giving respect to the event by wearing the most luxurious and sometimes extraordinary outfits. Most fashion week shows would have a theme that celebrities and fashion houses should follow, and these themes are what make the events exciting not only for those who were invited but also to the media and the people who are seeing the clothes in the news or in social media.