Fashion Week’s Most Memorable Shows

With the end of Paris Fashion Week finally upon us we've compiled a list of our favourite shows of all time

Words by Síomha Connolly
March 15th, 2016

As fashion month comes to a close with the last shows in Paris wrapping it up for another season, we take a look back to some of the most memorable shows in fashion week history. These few fashion shows, verging on performance art, are the ones which have stood out in our minds. From a troop of dancers stomping their way down the catwalk to models striding gracefully down the Great Wall of China, these legendary designers have done it all. Here at maven46 we will be eagerly anticipating the next batch of shows in September, but until then have a look through our selection of the most notable shows from fashion weeks gone by.

Alexander McQueen- spring/summer 1999

Always one to put on an unforgettable show, the spring/summer 1999 show was no different for McQueen. He wowed audiences by closing his show with two industrial robots spraying his final model with paint. Model Shalom Harlow’s stunning strapless white dress suddenly became a canvas and was sprayed with yellow and black paint while she twisted and turned gracefully on a revolving platform. The spray painted dress was later used as a centre-piece in the Alexander McQueen Savage Beauty retrospective in the V&A solidifying this show’s status in fashion week history.

Hussein Chalayan- autumn/winter 2000

Wearable furniture? The ultimate function meets fashion item, apparently! Hussein Chalayan, who is renowned for his inventive shows, showed us a new meaning for the term “functional fashion” in his autumn/winter 2000 collection which was said to be influenced by the Nomadic lifestyle. Models emerged on stage wearing simple slip dresses, as they gathered around a set-up of chairs and tables to the left of the stage it was unclear to audiences what was about to take place. The models began removing the covers off the furniture only to step into them and fasten them up as dresses. This scene was only topped when, almost like magic, the final model stepped into the middle of a coffee table and pulled it high up on her waist where it sat as a perfectly rounded dress made of wood. Chalayan’s designs and shows remain some of the most innovative and intricate pieces we’ve seen.

Chanel- autumn/winter 2014-15

As if Chanel clothes, accessories and cosmetics weren’t enough, the brand developed a whole range of food and household items- well, for one day only. For their autumn 2014/2015 ready-to-wear show Karl Lagerfield, as a complete satire of consumerism, created a Chanel supermarket where his models, led by Cara Delevingne, wandered around shopping and placing goods in their Chanel shopping baskets and trolleys. As you can imagine with a show so Instagram worthy, this will definitely go down as one of the most memorable in the history of Chanel shows.

Hussein Chalayan- spring/summer 2016

If only all clothes looked this good in the rain. We couldn’t choose just one Chalayan show, so we had to include another. During his spring/summer 2016 show two models stood still as water poured heavily down on top of them. The audience sat mesmerised as they watched clothes transform before their eyes. White shift jackets seamlessly transitioned into beautiful patterned black and white mini dresses, when the transition was complete the models strutted off un-phased down the catwalk and the show continued.

Fendi- autumn/winter 2007

Fendi’s 2007 autumn/winter show took place on the Great Wall of China, one of the seven wonders of the world, no less. With an estimated cost of $10 million, this is definitely one of the most extravagant shows we’ve seen. Set on such breathtaking surroundings, we’re curious how anyone managed to stay focused on the clothes that were being showed. Lagerfield managed to grab the audience’s attention with a stunning collection that featured a lot of eye-popping red, a colour which signifies “luck” in China. Set at dusk, in one of the most beautiful and historic places in the world, this was one truly mesmerising show.

Sonia Rykiel lingerie line for H&M- 2009

Foregoing models in favour of geese, yes you heard us, GEESE! When Sonia Rykiel unveiled her lingerie collection for H&M in 2009, the show was a fascinating compilation of different elements. With a makeshift oversized horse drawn carriage carrying the season’s hottest models to open the show, and a gaggle of geese led by a Croatian marching band closing it, you can understand why it’s being named as one of our most notable shows. If you don’t believe us, take a look at the video to see for yourself.

Rick Owens- spring/summer 2014

Instead of models, Rick Owens chose a dance troop to show off his SS14 collection. The group of stepping dancers took to the runway to display these clothes in an alternative new way. They stomped their way down an iron staircase to a drumming beat with military style movements. Their perfectly choreographed routine only accentuated the clothing which had sportswear elements to it, allowing the dancers to perform freely. The “grit face” expression that the dancers held for their entire performance was just one of the ways that this whole show challenged the norms of what the fashion world deems beautiful. Owens’ show caused a stir among the fashion crowd and certainly left its mark in our minds as one of the most memorable fashion week shows.

Moncler- autumn/winter 2011

During New York Fashion Week in 2011, Moncler eschewed the traditional catwalk and instead chose to use a flash mob in Grand Central Station to preview its autumn collection. This exhibition took commuters by surprise as hundreds of hired dancers (some professional, others not) swept through the main concourse of Grand Central Station and started to perform a dance routine. We love this one as it broke the boundaries of the exclusivity of fashion week and its shows by bringing this display to the masses.

Chanel- spring/summer 2015

Another of Lagerfield’s ingenious catwalks, he created “Boulevard Chanel” inside the Grand Palais. As if the setting wasn’t showstopping enough, the finale saw the models erupt onto the catwalk holding placards and banners which had slogans such as “History is Her Story” and “He for She”- a reference to Emma Watson’s UN speech on gender equality earlier that year. Lagerfield produced possibly one of the most overtly political fashion shows we’ve seen with his feminist rally finale. It even sent the Twittersphere into overdrive with some commentators calling it a publicity stunt. Lagerfield defended himself by saying “My mother was very much a feminist and I thought it was something right for the moment,”. The show certainly caused a stir, although the feminist approach is nothing new to the world renowned fashion house as Coco Chanel herself often pushed the social boundaries of fashion, most notably by popularising trouser suits for women and by making clothes that were comfortable and practical for women, rather than items that were appealing for the male eye.

To see our coverage of fashion month, check out our articles on New York, London, Milan and Paris.