A fashion show is a strange thing: on the one hand it can predict what we’ll wear in time to come, but on the other it’s got the potential to be a spectacle so over the top it invites parody rather than widespread praise (see Zoolander). Maybe you’re glued to them. Or maybe you’d rather watch paint dry. But what’s unignorable is that when they’re done right, they’ll have you rapt. In homage to some of the most influential runway outings, we’re running down nine of our all-time favourites from recent years.
J.W. Anderson AW 2010/11
A five-time British Fashion Award winner, Anderson is one of London menswear’s heavyweights, but it was his AW10 show, The Saint and the Assassin, that first shot him up the ranks. Marrying grunge and punk hallmarks like patched denim, plaid and studs to a narrative inspired by his native Northern Ireland, this collection – Anderson’s fourth men’s outing – bedded the designer’s subversive approach to menswear. Many of its key pieces – neoprene backpacks, metal hardware-embellished boots, boxy workwear jackets – went on to impact other designers, while the show’s emphasis on detail – the intricate heart-shaped brooches and buckles and the slave collars – was unprecedented in menswear.
Raf Simons AW 2001/02
It’s difficult to pick a single Raf Simons collection given the cultish fandom around everything the Belgian-born designer does. But ‘Riot Riot Riot’, Raf’s autumn/winter 2001 collection partly inspired by the disappearance of Manic Street Preachers’ Richey Edwards, was an undisputed game-changer. Staged in a disused factory in Paris, the show simmered with angsty oversized military jackets, heads concealed by layered scarves and hoods, and punk-indebted patches that have since spawned legions of imitators. This wasn’t the first time Simons took his cue from music – AW 1998/99 was dedicated to German electronic outfit Kraftwerk – but with this show, he went for the jugular with images of missing guitarist Edwards emblazoned on the collection’s most iconic pieces, including two oversized camo bomber jackets that are now so grail even the likes of Kanye and Rihanna count themselves lucky when wearing them. (On loan, of course.)
Lanvin SS 2008
He might not be a household name, but Lanvin’s Lucas Ossendrijver is the driving force behind several of the trends dominating the industry today. Why? Because with his fourth collection for Lanvin (designed in partnership with former creative director Alber Elbaz), Ossendrijver proved himself the early bird in taking laid-back tailoring and luxury trainers to market. This show – chock full of suits cut in looser fits and sportier fabrics, as well as technical jackets styled with tailoring – set the tone for men’s style for seasons to come, from sports luxe to high-low. Neither the clothes nor the styling have aged a minute, with the paper-thin blazers, luxuriously light parkas and statement suede high-tops (now brand signatures), all retaining their appeal despite the almost 10-year gap.
Comme Des Garçons Homme Plus AW 2007/08
Whether she’s inventing the pop-up shop as we know it or designing fragrances to smell like lettuce juice or the dust on light bulbs (yes, really), you can’t say Comme des Garçon’s Rei Kawakubo doesn’t push boundaries. Case in point: the designer’s autumn/winter 2007 collection, made up of a series of four vignettes – each one different but all united by an overarching theme of Anglomania – inspired by (and starring) artists Duggie Fields, Sebastian Horsley and Andrew Logan, as well as one-time owner of landmark west London boutique World, Michael Costiff. Cue enormous top hats, multicoloured printed pyjamas, enormous mirrored brooches, platform boots and teddy boy-style suits, all in one show. And the men who inspired the clothes modelling them too.
Givenchy AW 2011/12
AKA the Rottweiler season. Ubiquitous nowadays, Riccardo Tisci’s snarling dog prints were, at the time they were initially unleashed, a revolutionary move from the revered house of Givenchy, whose men’s offering had for the most part previously consisted of flashy suiting designed by Ozwald Boateng. Convention-bucking pieces such as thigh-high creeper boots, baseball caps with cat ears and giant ‘geek chic’ glasses ushered in a new era for the Parisian house, giving it an all-new appeal for the younger, emerging luxury consumer, while Tisci’s varsity jackets, shorts-over-leggings and graphic sweatshirts paved the way for the world of luxury streetwear we live in (see Vetements), and challenged what a couture house could be.
Dior Homme AW 2002/03
When tasked with rejuvenating Dior’s flagging menswear business, Hedi Slimane’s first move wasn’t to tap the trappings of the immediately preceding Dior Monsieur line, but to turn to the womenswear archives instead. Slimane distilled the essence of Dior – the iconic Bar blazer (a slim, figure-enhancing suit jacket) – into a razor sharp and super-slim rock-inspired silhouette that caused a seismic shift in menswear and would go on to help shift millions of pairs of skinny jeans around the world.
Helmut Lang SS 1998
Jumping ship from fashion to art in the 2000s, Helmut Lang’s departure from his eponymous label has only led to the growth of his mythical status. And shows like Lang’s spring/summer 1998 ‘virtual’ offering (i.e. unveiled on the internet, at a time when it really wasn’t a thing to do so) prove it’s a status well-earned. Lang’s famous padded ‘bulletproof’ vests sat alongside distressed denim and clean-lined jackets, while sporty tailoring in a palette of white and pastel hues prophesied what we’ll (still) be wearing this summer. It’s a collection we’d hazard a guess has cropped up on more than a couple of 2015/2016 moodboards.
Prada AW 2012/13
Less industry-facing trade show, more multi-sensory performance, Miuccia Prada’s shows are – from the invitations to the set design – seen as key indicators of fashion’s flux each season. For autumn/winter 2012, Mrs Prada deemed it time to ‘parody male power’, sending a line-up of silver screen stars including Gary Oldman and Willem Dafoe down the runway in clothes that looked formal, but were designed to poke fun. Smart pieces were actually cut from denim while what looked like lavishly ornate baroque patterning on shirts was, upon closer inspection, in fact made up of American football helmets. This is what luxury fashion looks like when it turns (admittedly mildly) politically subversive.
Thom Browne AW 2008/09
There’s only one designer in the world who could make a fashion show in a big top work, and that’s Thom Browne. For the revealing of his autumn/winter 2008 collection, ankle-baring Browne invited guests into a Tim Burton-esque circus, tying his models up in straitjacket belting and feather suits and parading them around on stilts. If it sounds ridiculous, that’s because it was. Kind of. More immersive theatre than runway show, Browne’s AW08 outing marked a shift from the straight-and-narrow conventional format to the big-budget conceptual productions that had previously been the preserve of womenswear. No, you probably won’t ever line up for a Siamese twin suit, but the tumult Browne drummed up with these pieces plays no small part in creating the demand for his more sober tailoring.
Incensed that we left out that mid-1990s Undercover collection you love? Or are we about to regret not picking that Raf Simons show with the light-up sneakers? Share your favourite shows below.