Elements of Runway — The Invitation
January 19 2023
In fashion, everything evolves. And when history repeats itself, it still undergoes an evolution. So naturally, something as simple as an invitation has also grows past paper RSVPs. For decades, fashion houses and contemporary brands have gone beyond collections to curate guest lists and organize seating charts and momentous after-parties. Yet still, the initial point of intrigue remains the invitation itself.
Intricate handheld shows that foreshadow what's to come are a better way to describe what someone else might call an invite. They're more like collectable objects or golden tickets concerning their rarity. So, for example, when Maison Margiela sent little white keychains tagged with recipients' names, at a glance, it could have been quickly appreciated before joining one's keys. But only a youthful spirit, or those interested in espionage, would have thought to unlock its hidden message. And so pressing the button on the side revealed a projection of the details of their Paris FW 2012 Women's Ready-to-Wear show.
The disguised object was a playful precursor to the masculinizing female silhouette of any 1920s spy film that later roved the runway. Had the receiver been savvy enough, they'd have brought the keychain to communicate morse code across the stage. The only thing that could have made the invitation better is if it were slipped into coat pockets instead of arriving by post.
And while not all summonings must remain hidden, Gucci's SS 2022 Cosmogonie invitation was the star-crossed type of mystery. Creative director Alessandro Michele was contemplating the infinite after reflecting on an essay by Hannah Arendt over philosopher Walter Benjamin. The undeniable connectivity of the past's constant interplay with the present was part of the larger message illustrated from the garments to the adopted star registrations. As if mapping the stars wasn't enough, putting each guest's name to their own gave the multigenerational cues such as sequins, pearls, ruffles and more a new meaning. Throughout history and all trends and ideologies, the stars align.
And while the complexities of the astral plane are always welcome, so are earthly pleasures — such as a fresh loaf of bread. Finding beauty in the carnal is what makes the minimalism of Jacquemus so tantalizing. Who else could offer a freshly baked, soft loaf with a handwritten note and make you blush from within? Playing up the senses to arouse their audience with baked goods is a skillful charm not many have.
It gave the feeling that nothing is better or more desirable than a French loaf. Nothing speaks to each season, and simultaneously the eternal summer quite like bread, quite like Jacquemus. The FW 2019 invitation was a presage to the mise en place planned. An ode to southern France portrayed in old cinema — handkerchief earrings and other textiles you might see being hung to dry after a long, savory lunch.
Coming off the table in true ingenious form, Miuccia Prada and Raf Simons sent a paper stock slim enough to be enveloped but heavy enough to wear for Milan SS 2023. What read as a standard greeting unfolded into a wearable garment — a coat with stitched lapels, sewn tags, paper buttons, and the inimitable Prada logo. The paper itself was made from stone dust, a gentle reminder that sometimes a garment that functions can also be kept as art.
Runway invitations have arrived as everything from classified ads to fresh groceries, smashed iPhones and everything in between. Of course, there's no wrong way to get the word out, but the more clever, the better. And at the rate of this evolution, it's only a matter of time before they arrive as a direct teleportation device to the live show.
Text by Shahrnaz Javid