In 2018, it was customary for fashion houses to show 30 to 40 looks — or outfits — per show. Now that number has doubled, with Chanel showing 71 looks and Valentino reaching new heights with 89 looks in their most recent spring collections.
Couture fashion is a storied tradition, with haute couture being a guarded practice in Paris. Couture is made to order, often with expensive fabrics and must be shown with at least 35 looks on the runway. Couture is not meant to make models walk in the wrong size.
Valentino has been a repeat offender, forcing their models to fall in its poorly sized heels. Strangely enough, new brand AVAVAV featured their collection on a host of falling models a week before the infamous Valentino show. Gimmicks are nothing remotely new to fashion, but what marks the difference between a gimmick and a real-life issue?
For one, Valentino released a statement regarding the show, blaming the falls on a mix of professional and amateur models. Some speculated that the shoes were just too small rather than pinning it on the model, until Karl Lagerfeld’s muse and supermodel Kristen McMenamy threw off her ill-fitting shoes while on Valentino’s runway.
AVAVAV has since shown another collection where models were purposefully breaking heels and having their garments ripped off, an action that the creative director notes is a way for them to deconstruct the seriousness of fashion. Could it also be a critique of Valentino’s runway mishaps?
When fashion houses aren’t making their models wear the wrong shoe size, they might be too focused on the gimmick to create good fashion. Balenciaga faced its fair share of backlash on the release of their bondage Build-a-Bears, seemingly sexualizing children. Valentino made a monochrome pink show that haunted red carpets following its release. Louis Vuitton made a second collection with artist Yayoi Kusama, garnering hype from its realistic Kusama robot.
Fashion can take on a cooler yet equally depressing tone with one action: deriving fashion from previous runways. Model Bella Hadid had a dress sprayed onto her in September, both an incredible scientific feat and a reference to Alexander McQueen’s spray-painted dress worn by Shalom Harlow. Both models have strikingly similar looks and were the “it” girls of their times. Both runway shows were heavily choreographed and researched, relying on scientific innovations to aid in creating their art. As soon as the dress dried on Hadid, the public couldn’t stop relating it to Harlow’s arguably most iconic runway performance.
There are still incredible fashion shows at couture weeks, but it is hard to find true originality in a sea of copycat looks. Creating hundreds of original pieces for a growing catalog of couture looks tiring. Fashion needs to focus on quality, not quantity. What happened to the 35-look runways?