Runway Fashion Shows - An Overview

After more than three years as editor for Vancouver Fashion eZine, and attending probably more than 30 runway shows, I have decided to share some personal comments.  Watching a show really is a very subjective experience and whether someone loves or hates the fashions can vary widely.  There are a few things that do make the experience have a higher success rate.  Before I start, the first thing I want to make clear is that a lot more outside sponsorship is needed to really knock one out of the ball park.  All event producers struggle to put on a great show within the limits of a budget.  Rarely does one get to see the kind of event the producer can truly conceive.  It's a real balancing act.  So kudos to all our local event producers who work hard to give us a night to remember.

Location  - Let's face it, to get the right location can be a big ticket item on the budget, but the perfect venue can add so much to a show.  Very small budget shows usually end up in a night club and from there you work your way up to locations that can charge from $5,000 (just a starting figure) on up for just the bare room.   Then you have to add in the cost of lighting, sound, backdrop, runway, etc.  I don't envy the job of the producer as they search for this holy grail.
---Black, black and more black:  black runway, black curtains, black ceiling and black walls.  Many venues are full of black as they are theatres, night clubs or used for other purposes that make this colour really useful.  I find it lacks pizzazz.  You want to walk into the room and feel the energy.  Dark hair disappears against tha black background, so a lot of back lighting has to be used to help the photographers get better pictures of these models - a difficult thing to do without shining lights in the audience's eyes. Unfortunately the second choice to create energy seems to be upping the sound way over the top (read "The Sound Explosion at  I was pleased to see Vancouver Fashion Week this year with a light backdrop and white runway.  It just brought so much more energy into the room.
---Another great plus if the producer has a budget is an elevated runway.  Those not in the front row can see the full look.  Three feet seems to be a nice height.  It's a balance of being able to see from the back row plus not too high in case there are some short outfits on the runway.  Again, dealing with these issues usually means having to find significant financial backing as hanging a second set of light colour curtains, creating a backdrop or putting in an elevated runway is a huge expensive.

Designers - This next section really is directed mostly at student designers putting together their grad collection (although I have seen the odd show from a newer designer that missed the boat on these issues).  The single most important thing I can say is a quote from Tim Gunn, "Finish your garments impeccably!"  This shows more than you know.
---I absolutely hate to see threads that have been missed hanging off garments on the runway.  The lighting assures that every single one stands out. Unfinished raw edges can be a disaster.  If you are using silk cut on the bias, you get that really cool fuzzy effect.  However, the trend lately is to do it with wovens that do not handle this treatment well. The garment can end up looking like you didn't take the time to finish it properly.  It doesn't look like a purposeful part of the design, just a mess.
---Puckered seams are also highlighted by the lighting.  If you can't press the seam to lay perfectly flat, consider taking it out and trying it again.  Shiny satin in particular is unforgiving.  Do not use this fabric if your sewing skills are not up to the job.  Matching the fabrics with your vision and your current construction abilities is crucial.
---Make sure every garment is given the same chance to look amazing on the runway.  Sometimes you see the first garment is finished well, the second not quite as good and the third looking like it was banged out just in time to throw it out there.
---Take a really strong look at the proportions of your garments.  Put them on dress forms side-by-side and stand across the room.  Squint if you need help to just see the outlines.  How does it make the body look?  Does it have pleasing proportions?
---Last, be aware if you have an elevated runway.  Those super short minis can be a disaster to look at from the front row if the the runway is raised.

Models -  Ahhh, another pet peeve of mine.  I have a small amount of experience in this area as my daughter did some freelance work for awhile.  The first thing we did was research what she needed in her model bag - yup you are supposed to have one.  Whether you work for free or are highly paid, there is a commitment implied that you are there to help the designer make their clothes look fabulous.
---Almost every show I see at least one model who did not come prepared.  I have seen way too many white or coloured thongs shining through clothing.  One runway show the model was sporting pink floral ones and I could see them through the beautiful sheer print.  The designer must have been horrified but desperate to have sent her out.
---Other issues (some from designers) - white bra peaking out the armholes of an all black outfit, asking them to bring one pair of heels and having them arrive with a worn, dirty pair, and the list goes on. In general the silicone stick on bras can work well, but a couple times lately I could see them shine like Jello through the fabric - very odd - so they need to be used with discretion.
---Every model should have a few basics in a bag used only for modelling and they do not have to be expensive.  While some lists can be extensive, I would strongly suggest at least a nude strapless bra and underwear (no panty lines - you should check) in a shade that perfectly matches your skin tone (and a second set in black if you can afford it) plus one great pair of runway heels in neutral or black.

When all the pieces come together, it's exciting.  The best runway shows are always a combination of budget, vision, great designs, hard work and committed models.