Elements of Runway- The Location
February 16 2023
Generally speaking, the experience of a product begins with the box in which it's housed; in terms of Runway, that box should be perceived as its location. Part one of 'Elements of Runway' dissected the stage, entailing different accounts of masterful set design. However, since the globe has opted to move as if living in a post-pandemic world, let's scale back to ground zero and look at Runway's various locations, some of which need no decor.
Following the details of an intricate invitation, imagine reading the particulars of the said show. The location is no convenient or overlooked element. On the contrary, it is the first step in creating the whimsy of a memorable presentation. It provides the foundation, sometimes contrast, and, most notably, atmosphere.
Positioning fashion as a portal to intersectionality has credulous backings; everything from social commentary to geopolitics and something as integral as booking a venue can be the catapult of a global shift. For example, in 2006, Chinese consumers made up only 2% of the luxury market. It was one year before they hosted the 2008 Summer Olympics, and fashion houses seldom thought there was an audience worth entertaining because their relations with the then-ascending world power still needed to be improved. But one October night in 2007, under the co-direction of Karl Lagerfeld and Silvia Venturini Fendi, Fendi put on a show that was "the first fashion show visible from the moon," as quoted by LVMH Chairman and CEO Bernard Arnault.
Declared an act of solidarity and unification between East and West, a 'Silk Road' connecting China to Italy materialized in a 1,500-mile-long catwalk on the Great Wall of China. In 2007 there was no precedent nor procedure for obtaining permits to host something of this scale at one of the world's most marveled historical landmarks. But Fendi did the unthinkable and was the first luxury house to engage a market now set to make up 40% of luxury consumers by 2030 (according to a 2022 Bain & Co report). This also served as a trial run to the Olympic games and how China would cope with giving swarms of media free passes to roam the country unsupervised.
But that was the onset of the 2000s; since then, much has evolved. Not scaling back but switching the gears to an appreciation of zeitgeisty creative genius, one has to mention Demna Gvasalia repeatedly. As if leaving a cookie trail between his ideas and endeavours, one must lack all senses not to know when it's Demna's turn.
During VETEMENTS Paris Men's SS20 Fashion Week, Paris's largest McDonald's in Champs Élysées had more visitors than their usual daily quota, thanks to Demna. People gathered, possibly confused, under the golden arches while not-so-subtle jabs at capitalism and corporate conglomerates unloaded with the trucks of models stationed outside. And all the hard work that went into the collection to bring these social awarenesses to life was matched in an effortless instant by the world's most recognizable fast food chain. Sometimes when discussing high-low, a concept that, in truth, has many interpretations— we tend to veer for the jarringly overt displays as opposed to nuance; Demna consistently brings this concept in both forms. As a result, his commentary is received both in his collections and the hosted venues. Together they create an aggregated message.
Whether it's VETEMENTS at McDonald's on Champs Élysées to Balenciaga Resort 2023 at the New York Stock Exchange— it's pretty clear that for Demna, these ironically organic homes to capitalistic cartels serve as low-production, high-impact backdrops to his works.
It's, of course, to everyone's benefit to mention Martin Margiela's SS 1990 show in a bleak playground in the 20e arrondissement of Paris at any given moment. Why? Because it was radical. It disrupted the fashion industry ecosystem that was polished and changed the way designers presented for all time to come. Before Fendi, VETEMENTS, Balenciaga, Jacquemus, or anyone that comes to mind, this presentation was the actual catapult of the importance of runway locations. Not to say it was blazé before, but the catwalk mostly comes from simple origins. Designers used to only focus on the garments, not the stage. But on this remarkable Fall evening in 1989, Martin was the first to create a conceptual correlation between the garments and the venue, creating a symbiotic storytelling thread- the coveted creativity born from 'desolate' beauty. To make the impact more astonishing— this world-bending presentation came just after his debut show for SS 1989.
That's the beauty of a location— it's a physical manifestation to bring the audience's mental eye level with the creative plane of the collections. Regardless of the intended show— does the house match its (presented in) home? This element of envisioning collections that play off its walls is the creativity's epitome of experiencing creation's 'bigger picture'.
Text by Shahrnaz Javid