Must Read: THE FASHION SET The Art of the Fashion Show

THE FASHION SET brings focus to the all important creative process behind the modern runway show. For a single event, teams of specialist producers, set designers and craftspeople can spend up to six months crafting a mise en scène for a display that disappears forever after only twelve astonishing minutes.

Fashion shows were once viewed only as a selling mechanism, with basic ‘trade show’ visual design principles, but over time they became as much a part of the spectacle and branding as the clothes themselves. Seasonal runway shows are widely known to be a lavish and privileged expense for design houses. For each collection, they are engineered (and expected) to lure audiences to the place where the designer found inspiration – whether it be a time in history, a place, a dream (or nightmare). THE FASHION SET author Federico Poletti explains in the book that each show is like a miniature world, creating for the audience an alchemy or emotional attachment ‘that makes us dream about dressing ourselves in those clothes.’ Each show is designed to captivate the audience with wonderment, inspiration and creativity.

Henril Vibskov, AW 2015, Ready-to-wear, Copenhagen. Credit - Alastair Philip Wiper.
Henrik Vibskov, ‘The Messy Massage Class’ AW 2015, Ready-to-Wear, Copenhagen (Credit: Alastair Philip Wiper)
In the Foreword, acclaimed fashion commentator and contributor Colin McDowell names Paris as the place where some of his favourite runway moments have happened, when clothes and surroundings worked together so closely that it felt like he was watching a film or opera. He wrote,

‘I am pleased that we have this book as a reference and record of an element of fashion that it would seem will be very limited in the future, as costs escalate and profits drop.’


Diane Pernet also recounts some of her most memorable experiences, including the Dries Van Noten 50th runway show celebration, where over 500 guests were transported to a foggy location outside of Paris and ushered through an industrial airline hanger into a space where an extraordinarily long table was set for every guest, each with a dedicated waiter, all serving simultaneously. After dinner, the table itself became the runway.

Prada SS 2012, Menswear, Milan. Credit - Agostino Osio, Courtesy of OMA
Prada, S/S 2012, Menswear, Milan (Credit: Agostino Osio, Courtesy of OMA)

When he set about curating the book, author Federico Poletti wanted to shine a light on some of the unseen people who make runway shows actualise. The fashion show producers and set designers share the responsibility of making sure that a creative director’s vision comes across clearly.

‘The best shows are a highly concentrated collision of theatre, emotion, explosiveness and, often, good old-fashioned spectacle.’

– Federico Poletti


Featured thoughout THE FASHION SET are extravagant set designs from Chanel, Dior, Alexander McQueen, Dries Van Noten, Anya Hindmarch and many others, mainly from the past decade. If you have the creative eye, it’s fascinating to study each of the sets and contemplate the sheer effort that goes in to each one. There’s a great mix of mens and womenswear sets from future minimalist with silver, white and mirrored surfaces (Mary Katrantzou, Louis Vuitton), to ornate glitz (think Proenza Schouler), fresh flowers and foliage (ala Raf Simons at Dior), classic architecture, old worlde and industrial (but of course, Alexander McQueen).

Schiaparelli SS 2015, Couture, Paris.  Credit - Schiaparelli
Schiaparelli, S/S 2015, Couture, Paris (Credit: Schiaparelli)
DSqaured2 SS 2014, Menswear, Milan. Credit - DSquared2
DSquared2, S/S 2014, Menswear, Milan (Credit: DSqaured2)
FENDI, SS 2008, Ready-to-wear, Juyongguan. Credit - Vincent Lappartient
FENDI, S/S 2008, Ready-to-Wear, Juyongguan (Credit: Vincent Lappartient)

‘In essence, a fashion show is not so different from a theatrical performance, the only difference being that a fashion show does not usually last more than twelve minutes.’

– Federico Poletti
Celine, AW 2008, Ready-to-Wear, Paris. Credit - Vincent Lappartient
Céline, A/W 2008, Ready-to-Wear, Paris (Credit: Vincent Lappartient)

The Garb Wire favourites included in the book are: CHANEL SS2016 CoutureDior 2016 CruiseMIU MIU AW2013 Ready to Wear and Viktor & Rolf AW2015 Couture.

THE FASHION SET THE ART OF THE RUNWAY SHOW is available now. See below for links.


The Fashion Set cover

Need to Know:

mise en scène

ˌmiːz ɒ̃ ˈsɛn,French miz ɑ̃ sɛn/ 
French, literally ‘putting on stage’.
  1. the arrangement of scenery and stage properties in a play.
    • the setting or surroundings of an event.

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