The concept of the fashion show has humble origins. What began as a rather uncomplicated method for designers to showcase their creative vision and craftsmanship on live models has morphed into an event of pageantry and lavish production. Now its own artistic feat, the fashion show serves as yet another outlet for brands to assert their ingenuity and status. While the tradition of the catwalk continues, brands have gradually left the confines of conventional venues in favor of more obscure scenery. From Fendi’s monumental runway to Louis Vuitton’s colorful port of call, CR explores some of the most extraordinary fashion show venues in catwalk history.
In 1989, Martin Margiela staged a show that would set the precedent for a consumer-facing fashion industry. Hosted at a dilapidated playground on the outskirts of Paris, a rugged runway was crowded by local children for Martin Margiela’s Spring/Summer 1990 collection debut. An unusual choice for a typically exclusive and upscale event, the venue suited the brand’s deconstructive design principles and avant garde aesthetic.
Italian fashion house Fendi entertained a global audience during its Spring/Summer 2008 show on the Great Wall of China. Creative directors Karl Lagerfeld and Silvia Venturini Fendi plotted the audacious event, which cost million to produce, without permission as procedures had never been put in place for such a spectacle. On a chilly October night, part of the ancient stone structure, Juyongguan Pass, became the brand’s catwalk.
Models walked the peaks of Whistling Sand Mountain for Pierre Cardin‘s ethereal Spring/Summer 2008 show. The collection unfolded in a caravan-like approach in the Gobi Desert outside of Dunhuang in China’s northwest Gansu province. Sandy surroundings and blue skies provided an otherworldly experience.
Creative Director Thom Browne channeled Moncler’s extreme sports legacy for the brand’s Gamme Bleu Menswear Spring/Summer 2011 show in Milan’s Vigorelli Velodrome. The collection’s Tour de France and Giro d’Italia influence was showcased in the Italian arena, as cyclists circled the track in elevated athletic garb.
For Tommy Hilfiger’s debut Tommy x Gigi collaborative collection with Gigi Hadid in 2016, the designer opted to debut his collection on New York City’s Pier 16. A carnival ambiance, complete with a ferris wheel, games, and treats enveloped the runway, making a performance of the season’s seafaring-inspired collection.
An iconic Art Deco cinema provided the perfect stage for Marc Jacobs’ Spring/Summer 2016 collection. Held at Midtown Manhattan’s emblematic Ziegfeld Cinema, the “premiere” saw models walk the aisles of the gilded theatre. Known for his loyalty to the Park and Lexington Avenue Armories, Jacobs’ decision to show at the historic single-screen theater was a rare, but welcomed departure.
Owned by space-age fashion icon Pierre Cardin, Palais Bulle offered the perfect backdrop for Dior’s Cruise 2016 collection. The cliffside terracotta house, situated halfway between Cannes and Monaco, presented a retro-futuristic atmosphere as models galavanted around its many corridors.
Car connoisseur and designer Ralph Lauren invited guests into his Bedford Mills, New York garage for his Fall/Winter 2017 show. Situated around some of his most prized collectables—Porsches, Ferraris, and a Bugatti, the runway spotlighted Lauren’s classic and elegant collection.
Gucci borrowed the cloisters of Westminster Abbey for its Cruise 2017 collection debut. A site of historical and cultural significance, the venue offered an ideal spot to showcase the brand’s collection, which tested the boundaries between posh and punk.
Texan-born designer Tom Ford affirmed his devotion to the New York City fashion scene for his Spring/Summer 2020 show. Ford mixed extravagance and grunge by putting on a display in New York City’s Bowery subway stop.
Jacquemus’ Spring/Summer 2020 show epitomized youthfulness while paying homage to designer Simon Porte Jacquemus’ Southern French roots. A catwalk made of vibrant pink fabric hugged the rolling hills of a Provence, France lavender field as the colorful, pattern-laden collection unfurled.
Docking at its second port of call, Tokyo, Louis Vuitton’s Men’s Spring/Summer 2021 collection converted the International Cruise Terminal into a brilliant exhibition. Surrounded by towering balloon figures and branded cargo containers, the installment, appropriately dubbed “Message In a Bottle,” unveiled the whimsical world of Zoooom with friends.END
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