The fashion week circuit, though certainly not dead, has suffered from an identity crisis in recent years. Covid-19 hiccups aside, the advent of social media has made it increasingly more difficult to elicit shock and awe in a crowd with digital marketing, CGI and AI now competing for their attention, too.
Still, fashion is the type of business that gets by with a little help from friends. And in the case of fashion week this has meant, historically, designers and creative directors pulling out the big guns (celebrity pals) to support their work by a runway walk endorsement.
At first it was the odd A-lister deployed here and there. In 1995 a-then 26-year-old Chloë Sevigny turned heads when she opened Miu Miu’s spring summer 96 showcase. Grace Jones strutted the catwalk in a hooded floor-length gown for Alaia’s spring summer 86 haute couture showing. And the Oscar-winning actor Gary Oldman lead a cast of fellow performers including Garrett Hedlund, Jamie Bell, Tim Roth, Willem Dafoe and Adrien Brody for Prada’s autumn winter 13 collection (Miuccia is partial to big name models).
Now, however, it appears that the celebrity runway cameo is as ubiquitous as the career models who saunter beside them. The actors Nicole Kidman, Jeff Goldbum, Uma Therman, Sir Ian McKellen, Elle Fanning and Demi Moore have all trod the fashion week boards, as have musicians Miley Cyrus, A$AP Rocky and Ethel Cain, to name just a few.
New York Fashion Week is only a few days in, and already we’ve seen a slew of performers pop up to showcase new collections. The singer-songwriter Weyes Blood opened for Proenza Schouler, Sia lent her vocals to Christian Siriano’s 15th anniversary event, and Prabal Gurung’s collection launch featured appearances from influencers Richie Shazam and Tina Leung.
There are some who argue against the increase in stunt casting, convinced that these larger-than-life personalities detract from the point of the shows – the craftsmanship, design perspective and creativity of the participating designers or brands.
But at a time when the cultural and environmental relevance of fashion week is under scrutiny – the event’s lustre appearing to dull season after season – a little star power can go a long way in capturing and holding global attention. We’ve long been enamoured with the names occupying front row seats – with the deluge of star of fame-famous models we get a mid-show surprise, too.