A few days ago, during Milan Fashion week, one of my friends asked me to explain the point of runway fashion. It can be a pretty straightforward concept, but I promise there is much more to it underneath the surface.
Is there anybody that actually wears that in public?
To understand fashion, there are some things we need to get first.
There are two kinds of runway fashion, Haute Couture and the “regular” collections that have transitioned to what we now know as “Ready To Wear”, which means that you can buy the clothes right after the show ends.
Wether you’re into fashion or not, you have probably heard about this before. Year after year, fashionistas, designers, celebrities and influencers gather in the most breathtaking cities of the world to celebrate fashion. Only the top designers get a spot in the official schedule to showcase their collections, even though now and then there’s room for rising newcomers.
The Fashion Week cycle always starts in New York, followed by London, Milan and then it ends in Paris.
Haute Couture is a term created in France that literally translates as “high fashion”. Haute Couture items are characterized by being hand made with the finest fabrics, materials and sewn to perfection by the most skilled people. It is a custom-made piece that can take months to be fully finished. Yes, Haute Couture is very expensive, but it is also the best quality piece you will ever find.
Please note that Couture Week is not held in the same week as the Ready To Wear collections, there is a specific week dedicated to Haute Couture Houses, and it is almost always in Paris. Some of my favorites include: Atelier Versace, Elie Saab, Chanel, Valentino, Victor&Rolf, Christian Dior, among others.
Are these even considered clothes?
What you’re seeing here is the Comme des Garçons Fall 2017 Ready To Wear Collection and no, you will not see anybody wearing these pieces (maybe in an editorial shoot in a magazine). This collection is an exhibition and will actually be in the New York Metropolitan Museum in May. Sometimes designers want us to see more than just clothes, it’s like a work of art, they us to try to figure it out by ourselves, like when you stare at a painting wandering what the author wanted to transmit. Just like this unusual collection, there are many more, so don’t freak out the next time you see something like this, it’s art. You can find more information on this collection here.
About the Runway Shows
The purpose of runway shows is to showcase the collections to influencers, potential customers and of course the media. In the fashion industry it’s very important to get the clothes in publications like Vogue, aka, the fashion bible, which is represented by Anna Wintour (in the US), or as some may know her, the most influential person in the fashion industry. That is why you will spot Anna in the most important shows during Fashion Week.
Now this is when things get very interesting. The fashion industry has one of the biggest markets in the world. Why? Well everybody needs clothes. Let’s be honest here, the percentage of the worldwide population that can afford a Valentino dress or a Balenciaga bag it’s ridiculously small, they could’t care less about Haute Couture or the latest trend that Olivia Palermo is setting. However there are some stores that “adapt” or take inspiration from the big fashion houses, and suddenly you start seeing something that looks a lot like Karl Lagerfeld’s last collection for Chanel in Zara for $130. That is a lot more affordable that the actual price of any Chanel piece, like Zara, most stores base their products on what we see every season on the runway, even on some couture pieces. Fast fashion stores not only make the clothes more affordable, but they also make it a lot more commercial and wearable.
After fast fashion stores, there’s department stores, like JC Penny, Target, and even Walmart, which actually sell lots of much more affordable clothes. How do you think they pick the colors and the patterns? If your answer is from the top designers, you’re right. Everything goes back to the beginning, it’s a cycle.
You Think This Has Nothing To Do With You
I love this clip from the movie The Devil Wears Prada, because in just one scene, it explains how we all are involved with fashion, even though some don’t want to.
And that, my friends, is why the fashion industry is so powerful.
If You Want To Know More
There’s definitely movies to watch and books to read if you’re interested in knowing more about the fashion industry.
The September Issue (you can find this one on Netflix)
The Devil Wears Prada
Grace, a memoir – Grace Coddington
GirlBoss – Sophia Amoruso
It – Alexa Chung