“I’m a model, you know what I mean, and I do my little turn on the catwalk…” Forget everything you knew about conventional runways and think big. Designers have long understood that a fashion presentation is not all about the clothes. It is, above all, a show, the fusion between creativity and art. In a world where trends change at the speed of light, fashion can become hard to decipher. That’s when the décor and storyline behind the catwalk come in to cast light on the whimsical creations on the stage, turning the runway into theatrical performances in itself.
Haute couture is a synonym for visionary and eccentric creations, sophisticated fabrics and meticulous craftsmanship. Nowadays, runways are more crowded than ever, as fashion designers compete in extravagant collections. Eccentricity is the word of the day, and high-end fashion goes hand in hand with out-of-the-box catwalks.
Fashion is not the only one changing. Runways do, too. Traditional presentations are simply not worth while anymore. Why not change the entire décor and put on an over-the-top conceptual show. From Chanel to Alexander McQueen, Fendi, and the world’s wackiest designers, come along with me on a journey through the world’s craziest luxury catwalks.
10. The Longest Catwalk
During Copenhagen Fashion Week in 2010, a one mile long catwalk entered the Guinness Book of Records as the longest catwalk in Europe. It occupied most of Stroget Street, a pedestrian street in the city center, one of Denmark’s most popular high-end fashion streets. The show kicked off in style with Danish supermodel Helena Christensen walking down the long bright pink runway. Almost 500 Scandinavian brands dressed up the 250 models on the catwalk. Perhaps the most exhausting runway ever, I wonder if anybody thought about asking the models if they were fine with the idea of walking 3,000 feet in high stilettos.
9. Science Lab Turned Catwalk
A fashion presentation of epic proportions, Kenzo’s fall 2012 collection was moved outside the comfort zone of the traditional runway, proving once more that their designs do not follow any rules. The successful duo Humberto Leon and Carol Lim of Kenzo presented their designs in a university lab building, as the models strolled through neon-lit corridors and escalators, science labs, and classrooms, making their way to the actual catwalk. The theatrical zigzagging held at Universite Pierre et Marie Curie showcased wild prints, 80’s style outfits, and 90’s schoolgirl skirts with a touch of modernism in a truly innovative setting.
8. Catwalk in Venice at Sunset
It’s really no surprise that Karl Lagerfeld is universally renowned for his eccentric fashion presentations. His crazy ideas gave birth to the world’s most shocking catwalks. The Chanel cruise 2010 collection was presented in Venice at sunset. Models strolled down a boardwalk on the beach of the Grand Hotel Excelsior Lido Resort, while the audience lounged back on deck chairs. The show began at sunset, and Karl made everyone wait for two hours because he wanted to capture the ideal moment. A truly poetic setting for a truly whimsical designer, the romantic backdrop complemented the sailor and marine inspired pieces which blended in perfectly with the summer vibe and sandy location.
7. Sand Dunes Catwalk
A scene from Lawrence of Arabia? Not exactly. Pierre Cardin’s Spring/Summer 2008 collection was presented in the Dunhuang Desert in China, and was inspired by Marco Polo. The giant sand dunes of Whistling Sand Mountain became the dramatic background of a luxury show with a fantasy story behind. That’s right, the show comes with its own storyline: a traveler arrives in an unknown land in the faraway east, just like Marco Polo during his legendary travels. The exotic setting couldn’t have complemented the 200 dresses any better. Models appeared from behind a dune and walked along a silky trail as the sun was setting and casting a magnificent violet glow over the catwalk. The presentation ended with a model in a wedding gown riding a camel.
6. Hamster Spinning Wheels Catwalk
Henrik Vibskov may not be the world’s most recognizable designer, but on the fashion scene, he is known as one of the wackiest, and is mainly famous for his quirky shows. He presented his fall 2009 collection during Copenhagen Fashion Week on an out-of-the-ordinary catwalk. Instead of walking down the traditional podium, models had to work out in high-heels and all on black-and-white striped, life-size spinning hamster wheels. A few models even fell off the spinning wheel catwalks at times when they couldn’t keep up with the pace. The extraordinary presentation showcased Amish inspired outfits with avant-garde designs with a strong use of color, both men’s and women’s clothing.
5. Runway in a Supermarket
During this year’s Paris Fashion week, Chanel designer Karl Lagerfeld presented his Autumn/Winter 2014/2015 collection on the aisles of a supermarket. Sophisticated and rich women do have to go shopping very once in a while, right? Then why not host a fashion presentation in a supermarket? Kendall Jenner, the youngest member of the Kardashian clan, together with Cara Delevingne, Karl Lagerfeld’s muse, and Stella Tennant ruled the show. Princess Sirivannavari of Thailand shopped for breakfast cereals, Keira Knightley lingered around the cheese department, and Rihanna stopped at the biscuits and cookies aisle. Eccentric fashion designed Karl Lagerfeld turned the Grand Palais in Paris into a giant supermarket, dressing his models in haute couture and handing them extravagant shopping baskets to go around the aisles. Who said women can’t be chic when doing the groceries?
4. Iceberg on the Catwalk
During Paris Fashion Week in 2010, Chanel presented their Autumn/Winter 2010/2011 collection in a strange décor that is not likely to repeat itself. One of the most spectacular fashion shows ever, the Grand Palais in Paris was transformed into a winter wonderland. The room was chilled to 25 degrees Fahrenheit, and a 265 ton iceberg imported from Sweden was set on the catwalk. Models presented innovative knits and designs as they strolled down the catwalk through the melting ice, wearing Yeti boots and plenty of faux fur, like some skinny Eskimos. What better way for those fur clothes to steal the spotlight than on a gigantic white background, melting away as the models advanced along the iceberg?
3. The Most Terrifying Catwalk
Alexander McQueen’s spring 2000 collection presentation was held on a runway unlike anything you’ve ever seen. The catwalk was turned into a terrifying metal bed of spikes and nails, and the models where lifted above the stage and the mesmerized audience, floating swiftly in the gloomy décor dressed in body-hugging jerseys and sheer knits, reminding of a vaudeville show, or a circus act of some sort. Naomi Campbell herself declared that late fashion maverick Alexander McQueen’s fashion shows are anything but ordinary. They may be terrifying at times, but they are definitely entertaining and an experience you won’t forget. At least the models didn’t have to walk around in those high heels, which is definitely much more terrifying than the backdrop of this presentation.
2. The Darkest Catwalk
It’s the notorious Paris Fashion Week that’s often known as wild and shocking, but every once in a while other locations prove just as wacky. During the 2012 New York Fashion Week, the public sat in front of the darkest catwalk in the history of fashion. Thom Browne’s Fall 2012 presentation looks as if it was held inside Dracula’s basement. The story… dead women. They died for fashion. Flickering candles, haunting music, and ten coffins arranged in a row. Models lying in coffins, dressed in gray wool suits, while others walking around as if in mourning, all formed a macabre scene. Ask anybody and they will tell you that fashion and coffins do not belong together. Well, Thom Browne pulled it off, putting a whole new meaning on the phrase “to die for fashion’s sake.”
1. Catwalk on the Great Wall of China
When it comes to extreme locations, the Fendi fashion house certainly holds the upper hand. No less than 88 models strolled down like genuine soldiers down the world’s biggest and most famous fortress. You guessed it, Fendi’s Spring/Summer 2008 collection was presented on the Great Wall of China, which was transformed for one night only into a 1,500 miles long catwalk. Dressed in bright and semi-opaque dresses, the models showcased elegant outfits with classic cuts, delighting the public, reading femininity allover. The presentation ended with a gorgeous black night gown, inspired by traditional Chinese outfits, as the audience was being entertained by an acrobatic performance. The dramatic backdrop was the idea of none other than iconic designer Karl Lagerfeld’s. It took one whole year to put all the pieces together, and cost a staggering $10 million to stage in 2007. Silvia Fendi herself declared that they achieved the impossible and were living the dream. What next? Perhaps a runway on the moon?