Coco Chanel, the iconic fashion designer, once remarked, “Fashion is not something that exists in dresses only”. Fashion is in the sky, in the street, fashion has to do with ideas, the way we live, what is happening.” Fashion is stated to be the most influential phenomena in Western culture since the Renaissance. Nothing defines the aesthetic zeitgeist in our era more than fashion, and nothing is more important to the fashion industry than the biannual launch of new collections by fashion designers from around the world at Fashion Weeks.
Many people outside the fashion world don’t possess an understanding of the intricacies of what a Fashion Week is and if there is, indeed, anything more to it than stunning models, glamorous designers and media blitz. The global ready-to-wear apparel industry is worth billions, and new collections launched during Fashion Week not only make or break the careers of aspiring designers, but also define the trends of a global industry for many seasons across everything from clothing to accessories. The most prominent Fashion Weeks are held in the four fashion capitals of the world: New York City, London, Milan and Paris. The four-week circuit kicks off in New York and ends in Paris. Held several months in advance of the season to allow the press and buyers a chance to preview collections for the following season, the Fashion Weeks attract buyers, magazine editors, retailers and celebrities alike.
New York Fashion Week showed more than 80 designer collections over eight days. Considered the single largest media event in New York, a showing of a collection at New York Fashion Week provides designers a global platform to launch their ideas to more than 100,000 industry insiders from around the world. The event is widely broadcast across various media, and the most recent numbers showed 630,000 people plugging in for live streaming alone during September’s Fashion Week. The influence of Fashion Week extends far beyond the confines of the fashion tents in New York—the impeccable synergies between designer and model, model and photographer, and photographer and media build an awe-inspiring frenzy around the event that makes for the most entertaining, glamorous phenomenon in contemporary culture today. “The main reason Fashion Week exists is to give previews of what is to come in the future,” states The New York Times.
For the mainstream consumer, Fashion Week’s reality is that the majority of the collections shown are both unaffordable and inaccessible; however, for a photographer shooting at the event, the experience is akin to finding oneself at the most sumptuous banquet in the world. The ability to shoot in a place with the most beautiful people in the world dressed in stunning, couture clothing that has never been seen in public before is a rare treat for any photographer even remotely associated with the fashion industry.
The history of the fashion show in the U.S. goes back over a century when it was brought in from France and became mainstream by the 1920s. In the 1990s, the concept of the fashion show was formalized and brought under a single venue by the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA), giving birth to its current form. Today, New York Fashion Week has developed into a global spectacle. Since the event isn’t open to the public, there’s a deep sense of mystery surrounding the event for the outsiders, a mystery that’s partially fueled by the larger-than-life image of the models, the designers and the fashion industry. When a photographer works through the chaos of behind-the-scenes activity right before a collection is unveiled, they bring to us intriguing vignettes of that elusive life to which so many of us aspire. Although social media is changing and removing some of the mystery that used to surround the Fashion Weeks, the event has continued to exert critical influence on our cultural landscape.
For the Fall 2013 show, held at Lincoln Center in September, Duggal worked with Getty Images, a long-standing client of ours, to add a dramatic element of glamour to the event—giant pictures of models on runways and portraits installed directly on street-facing windows at the main venue. We were given high-resolution files of photos taken by Getty photographers including Gareth Cattermole, Vittorio Zunino Celotto, Ian Gavan, Frazer Harrison, Caroline McCredie and Pascal Le Segretain, all of whom work at the cusp of fine-art and fashion photography. The images included poignant shots from past shows in black-and-white, and we were tasked with creating a process through which we could install and de-install high-resolution photographic imagery at the venue site.
Working with event sponsors IMG Fashion and Getty Images, we produced seven elegant translucent photomurals from the digital files. After experimenting with several materials, we chose to print on MACtac bubble-free material, which allowed us to install the beautiful photographs directly onto the glass panels at 10 feet high without any concerns about bubbling or loss in resolution. Duggal printed and installed the pieces directly at the show venue, reinforcing with those images a statement of the crucial link between photography and fashion.