Runway or run away?

Runway shows have become more of a presentation of modern art and nepotism than a depiction of fashion

During their Couture Spring Summer 2023 show at Paris Fashion Week, Viktor & Rolf closed their runway show by shaking things up – or, more accurately, turning them upside down. 

At first, the team presented various pastel gowns, a standard affair for haute couture. After a few looks, models began to emerge with dresses that were worn nearly every way except the right one. The gowns were positioned horizontally and one was even shifted 180 degrees, fully covering the model’s face. This show was an amazing depiction of art in the fashion world, but the gowns were not at all practical. 

Although sometimes unconventional, runway shows introduce many innovations to the fashion realm. At Paris Fashion Week 2022, Coperni presented a live demonstration of a spray-on dress modeled by Bella Hadid (a nepo baby model). 

The model stood on the runway almost completely naked while two men sprayed what looked to be white paint over her body. A woman came out to cut a slit, folded down the top to make it off the shoulder, and Hadid began to walk. 

The dress moved with the model – it looked like the fabric was a part of her. This never-before-seen presentation broke many barriers and vastly impacted the fashion industry on social media gaining many views on the innovation. Yet, the spray-on dress is not readily available to the public; this makes the innovation feel like a false promise and just a depiction of art. 

Along with the introduction of modern art, the concept of allowing ‘nepo babies’ to enter the runway also arrived at fashion shows. This works to essentially make runway shows more of a social media event with art and influencers.

A nepo baby is a slang term for a product of nepotism, the child of someone famous who gains professional success because of their connections. Examples would include Bella and Gigi Hadid who, while they may be career models, have extremely successful parents. Despite the Hadid parents’ success, Bella Hadid remembers being raised “humbly.” 

“I think I got my first pair of Louboutins when I graduated highschool,” Hadid stated in an interview. Later, she would call her own statement “pathetic.”  

Another prominent example of a nepo baby on the runway is Lila Moss, Kate Moss’s daughter. Kate Moss is a British model with a very long and successful career and her daughter, Lila Moss, also became a model. Some have claimed the pathway to becoming a model was easier for her due to her mother’s success. This has caused a huge storm of controversy in the fashion world and sparked debates among viewers. 

According to Vanity Fair, Kendall Jenner was quoted by Love magazine saying “Since the beginning, we’ve been super selective about what shows I would do. I was never one of those girls who would do like 30 shows a season or whatever the f— those girls do.” Supermodels like Irina Djuranovic and Daria Strokous were infuriated by Jenner’s behavior and responded by commenting that the number of shows (per season) for a career model is more like 70. After the backlash, Jenner’s publicist released a statement saying that Jenner had made a mistake and did not mean to invalidate the hard work of career models.

Whether you love them or hate them, credit must be given to Victoria’s Secret. Victoria’s Secret has made their shows more of a live experience or show for their audience. Rather than having the models provide entertainment, headlining musicians perform to keep the audience engaged. The list of performers includes names like Shawn Mendes, Lady Gaga and Taylor Swift. Victoria’s Secret also doesn’t present too many crazy outfits that are inaccessible to the everyday consumer. The brand’s available products and entertainment factor builds a show that is an experience to watch and a productive way to show off new collections.

It’s definitely in the designer’s best interest to commit to some eye-catching looks that will get the crowds talking and gain them some press, but we should draw the line somewhere. The art of modeling is fading as it has become more about wearing an art piece rather than showing off the best way to wear a collection that is available to buyers.