Are Fashion Shows Burning Out?

At a Toronto World Mastercard Fashion Week party, a fellow blogger and I were in discussion about the shows we had seen, what we were loving, and what we had been wearing…as one does. I had been sporting pieces from Som Kong’s latest collection, and the blogger I was talking to asked, “Why isn’t he doing any shows this season?”

It’s a simple enough question but a loaded one. In the fashion industry runway presentations have become synonymous with how well your brand is doing and have been viewed as the main way to preview a designer’s new collection. Luckily I just had this very conversation with the designer in question.

“He’s taking a break from fashion shows. He wants to create more immersive and interactive showcases where he can interact with his customers,” I replied.



And he isn’t the first. Numerous designers are taking a step back from runway to focus on alternative ways of showcasing the collections that they pour their blood, sweat, and tears into.

I’ve spoken with several other Toronto designers in the past few months leading up to fashion season in Toronto who are searching out alternative and more creative ways of showing their pieces than the typical runway. And it’s not just our local talent that is shifting away from a practice that has been steadily increasing in staleness, stagnating under a burden of theatrics and spectacle. On the international fashion stage, Tom Ford eschewed a runway show proper in lieu of a high-energy disco music video starring Lady Gaga and a slew of dancing models launched at Paris Fashion Week.



The pomp and spectacle of runway shows has reached a fever pitch with presentations taking preposterous form – think Rick Owens and his “wearable” models. Publicity stunts take the spotlight in shows and everyone is scrambling to add an element that will make their show go viral and help their brand get air-time in the over-saturated online sphere. On top of this ever-increasingly ridiculous standard for shows, the rise and prevalence of technology is taking its toll on designers.


Models wearing models at Rick Owen's SS16 show in Paris
Models wearing models at Rick Owen’s SS16 show in Paris


Periscope is live-streaming runway shows, cell phones are tweeting and ‘gramming images instantly, and the internet is filled with photos of the collection before the show has even finished which opens designers up to the perils of counterfeit knock-offs and “inspired” pieces on the fast-fashion circuit. Before a collection has even been released it is often already redundant.

Technology is also hurting shows in the realm of buyers and stylists. When once buyers would be meeting with the designer and snapping up coveted pieces from the collection immediately after the show, now they are waiting to see where the trends that change so quickly will land in the coming months.

Even the sheer amount of shows and collections that are now happening around the globe are such that industry heavy-hitters can’t keep up. What was once only two seasons of shows has turned into a year-long circuit that drains and exhausts us all.


tired meme


With all of that, is it any wonder that the new crop of designers are looking at fashion shows as an out-moded and antiquated practice?

One of the biggest movements that I sense for the future after speaking to designers, is a shift to more intimate and interactive installations that offer more creative presentations and a stronger connection with the audience.

As Som Kong put it…


“I love the idea of being able to do art installations because I feel there is more of a dialogue. You can actually share your story. You can actually talk to the customer. You can actually TOUCH the product.”


Perhaps we have outgrown the fashion show era and need to begin looking forward at what the future might hold.