For people outside of the fashion industry or for those just getting into it, it may seem like all fashion shows are the same. While they all follow the same basic concept of models walking a runway showcasing a designer or brand’s upcoming season, there are actually several different categories that shows fall into.
When selecting looks to send down the runway, designers think about the purpose of the show and the different seasons to guide their creative efforts. Fashion shows are categorized by clothing type, season, and format of the show.
The fashion seasons are split into two categories- Spring/Summer (SS) and Fall/Winter (FW). They then follow the season by the year, so you’ll often see shows and clothing collections described as SS21 or FW22. The shows often also happen in the opposite season of the one the show is in to give a preview of the styles coming up the next season, so even though the show may actually be taking place in March (Spring), the designers may be showcasing their FW season and have winter clothing shown on the runway. More and more designers are getting away from this traditional format and are showing clothing that correlates to the season they’re currently in, but some still follow the tradition of showing clothing a season ahead.
See below for the main types of fashion shows and how the differ from each other.
Ready-to-wear shows feature more practical, daily-wear looks that the mainstream population might want to buy. The items are typically available for purchase shortly after the show and are produced in large quantities, where some other shows the garments may not be available for many months and have very limited availability. Many middle-class name brand retailers draw inspiration from the ready-to-wear looks of high-end designers to base their upcoming collections on.
If you’ve ever seen models strutting the runway in outrageous ensembles that are not at all realistic for everyday wear, it is most likely a couture fashion show. Couture looks are not mainstream fashion and often completely impractical in terms of wearability, but they show the designer’s signature style or creative inspirations in an exaggerated, artistic way. The pieces are often one-of-a-kind and very expensive to create and purchase. Some designers are known for their couture looks, and some don’t do couture at all.
In the fashion show world, there is usually more focus on women’s fashion than men’s, and when shows feature looks for both genders there is usually many more women’s looks. To bring more men’s fashion to light, there are shows solely dedicated to menswear. These looks are usually mainstream ready-to-wear fashion and not couture. Occasionally, there may even be a couple women wearing men’s clothing on the runway during a menswear show.
Unlike the other categories which usually see two seasonal shows each per year (SS & FW), designers generally have just one resort show annually. Originally characterized by bright tropical patterns and flowing garments targeted at affluent summer vacationers, resort shows have had a recent revival that expanded their reach. Many designers are now beginning to include coats and winter wear for people heading off to ski resorts in the winter months.
Fall is considered a huge fashion season because it gives a little preview of what’s to be expected in the upcoming year, and it’s a time right before the holidays when people tend to be doing a lot of shopping. They’re held in late summer and are often a mishmash of menswear and ready-to-wear looks. They’re trend-setting shows, designed to create excitement and set the stylistic direction for fall fashion.
Bridal Fashion Show
Like the name suggests, a bridal show showcases the latest style trends in the bridal realm. Often a mix of bridal gowns, bridesmaid dresses, flower girl dresses, and men’s suits and tuxedos. There is also a Bridal Fashion Week held two times a year to show the predicted bridal gown trends for the upcoming seasons.
An informal fashion show occurs when the fashion items are showcased in a rather informal environment, such as a department store or event. In types of shows, models put on the garments and stand in a designated location or mingle around the patrons instead of walking a traditional runway. They will often have several outfit changes thought the duration of the event, and the clothing is usually something that’s currently available for purchase. Sometimes the clothing will be a costume or geared to fit the theme of the event.
A trunk show is usually a 1-2 day event typically held at a boutique or retail store in which the designer or their brand representative makes a personal appearance to showcase their latest collection and take orders for pieces in that collection. Generally, there are models showcasing the designs in an informal fashion (see above), or there is a very small runway show held to showcase the looks.
Charity Fashion Show
As the name implies, a charity fashion show is organized for charitable purposes or to bring awareness and support to a humanitarian crisis. In such shows, brands and vendors can sell their products and vow to give a certain percentage of their sale to charity purposes.
Fashion Week is one of the most anticipated events in the fashion industry. Both upcoming and established top designers and brands will display their upcoming collections in various events and shows that will be organized during the fashion week. The most popular fashion weeks are held in New York, Milan, Paris, and London.
Fashion week events are held twice a year, one in the spring and one in the fall. The timing of the shows is to target the period when seasons change to introduce new fashion trends for the upcoming season. The spring fashion weeks are usually focused on showcasing fashion trends for autumn and winter, and the fall shows are typically dedicated to spring and summer collections.