Constructed Fashion

1. Intro
“Viewed from a distance, the set sort of looked like a nightmare about wandering around a grocery store in the Uncanny Valley looking for the checkout counter while a silent audience watches you, and then you go to pull your wallet out of your Chanel bag but it’s empty, so you try to reach into your pockets but they’re sewn shut, and you turn to Karl Lagerfeld like, “Help me out, man” and he’s a neighbor whose name escapes you.” Review at The Gawker about Chanel´s fashion show, March, 4th, 2014.
Mr. Lagerfeld took us to do some grocery shopping: his latest fashion show turned the Grand Palais in Paris into a gigantic hypermarket with products stamped with Chanel´s logo: Chanel vegetables, Chanel fruits, and Chanel cleaning products. Throughout the presentation, models performed a rehearsed shopping experience, parading with carts and pretending to be minding their own business. A startling contrast of Haute Couture in a context obviously related to a more “low class” reality.
The show was being transmitted live through Chanel´s website, while tablets, cameras and smart phones were seen rising above the audience as portable gazing machines documenting the event. At the end of the show, a voice over announced that guests were invited to take home some vegetables and fruits. People flew over all the items on display (according to, the doormats were the hit ), proving that the power of a brand can turn a simple onion into a luxury product: veCHetable deluxe. This pseudo vandalism immediately generated more than 15.000 #chanelshoppingcenter on Twitter showing videos of people tearing the set apart, attempting to take home part of the experience. The show became instantly two performances at a time, the first being the showing of the collection itself and the second one being the post-show performative social experiment that still continues to exist through comments, hash tags, and low res pictures ( Fig. 1 ).
As the design of the collections seems to be drowning in an ever changing cloud of trends (the 2014 March Fashion Trend Report published by shows a wooping 464 trends so far!), fashion shows seem to regain protagonism as an effective and challenging territory for creating new (non)fashionable images, not only because of the spectacularity of its constructed spaces but also for the way in which the techno-materiality of the digital is brought into play.
This paper directs its gaze towards this phenomena by first analyzing how the fashion shows are structured around a group of elements ( or variables ). Later, it introduces Alexander McQueen´s 1999 autumn/winter Givenchy fashion show as focal point, interpreting how he appropriates the constructed space of the catwalk through technology and performance, producing new modes of representation and corrupting the old ones.
Considering the current evidences where the architectural project has been replaced by the collaboration among disciplines1, this paper attempts to situate the contemporary space of the fashion show as a possible space of mediation between fashion and architecture, promoting a debate that goes beyond the already exhausted discussion about formal intersections, and presenting the fashion shows as a field for experimentation to be introduced in the realm of architectural practice.