Deconstructing the Inaccessibility of the Fashion Week Runway

At the end of every annual New York Fashion Week, us idle viewers are inevitably bombarded with a social media feed full of outlandish and unconventional interpretations of what we know fashion to be. And so, when we end up with confused eyes staring at a model contorted in twisted neon clothing, we can be left thinking that there may be something we’re just not getting.

With Fashion Week moments found more often in meme culture than in a genuinely appreciative public opinion, how is it that these shows should in any way dictate what we, as mere smart-casual dressers at best, should be taking inspiration from?

First of all, it’s important to acknowledge huge differences between the spectacular nature of a fashion show against a brand’s more refined place within the consumer market. The runway provides a literal platform for influential designers to take big swings in hopes of hitting something that has never been seen, yet was always unknowingly yearned for (not an easy task in any field of design). It might be a good example of the old saying, ‘even a broken clock is right two times a day’: with the case of a runway, it’s showing enough unlikely successes until that perfectly garish combo triggers a new step forward within the industry

In short, the take away from seeing pieces worn on the runway should not be that the designers have an intention to bring those exact garments into the general public’s wardrobe. Instead, these presentations allow for design to be switched into a creatively unbound, unapologetic mode of fashion exploration, through the lens of an ever changing set of design values and themes.

You may have seen footage of Bella Hadid modelling for Coperni’s already iconic spray-on fabric dress; the Parisian label being the brainchild of Sébastien Meyer and Arnaud Vaillant’s partnership. The viral moment is a perfect example of an orchestrated display for ‘straight to TikTok’ marketing success, whilst remaining artistically remarkable.

The fashion industry, not unlike that of Hollywood, thrives off the same hungry readership of the media and press – with a shift to younger consumers getting their gossip through endless social media feeds, which feel similarly designed in a way that encourages consumption of brain tinglingly strange content and loud opinions. In light of this, it becomes easier to understand the outrageously loud, colourful side of the industry that is presented to eager critics.

That is by no means to say that there is no artistic integrity behind the phenomenon of Fashion Weeks. As previously mentioned, a runway’s ability to showcase design and future-thinking ingenuity on a level that ignores conventional mass manufacturing restrictions is what we and the industry need in order to thrive and evolve. These are just a few ways of observing the basics of such a complexly woven industry, though, the point once again being that we’re perfectly welcome to love, hate, interpret and debate however we please: in fact, it seems to be greatly encouraged.

Image credits: ‘Fashion Forward Dubai’ by Duane Mendes via Unsplash, licensed under CC BY 2.0.