It’s all about art, publicity and prestige
You’ve probably heard the saying that “fashion is art.” And that is no more a truism than at a fashion show.
Fashion shows are not events that designers use to showcase what you’ll be able to buy in stores the very next day.
(N.B. However, as the nature and purpose of Fashion Week continues to evolve, there has been more talk of taking runway collections straight to market and even being able to “shop the runway“.)
Instead, a fashion show is a chance for a designer to show off a particular aesthetic, a particular mood, a particular feel or point of view. As a result, fashion shows can tend to be more conceptual and focused on a higher level idea.
A lot of the designs you see during runway shows are really a form of wearable art that’s focused on beauty (for beauty’s sake), innovation and not so much functionality. The designs that do make it into stores are often toned-down versions of what you see on the runway.
If fashion shows sometimes have a reputation for being shocking, that’s because of one of their other main purposes: publicity.
Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson walk in Maison Valentino. It’s not just generating buzz for Zoolander 2, but it’s also getting millions and millions of eyes on Valentino.
Moschino stages a McDonald’s-themed runway show, which makes pretty much the entire world cringe. But on the flip side, everyone was talking about it. The show started a conversation. There’s no such thing as bad press.
Finally, there’s the matter of prestige. Not all designers can afford to put on a runway show. So for the larger houses – and small ones as well – a show is a way to attempt to make a big statement; one that hopefully will make an impression and get people talking.