Fashion is theatrical by nature, and designers have always embraced the evolution of technology – gimmicks, shock factor, and innovation are no strangers to the runway, but Social Media has without a doubt brought forward a formidable platform for brands to not only showcase their designs but also bring press and discussion about a collection.
The democratization of fashion has given us all the power to be our own tastemakers – and in a social media world, we get to witness viral fashion moments as they happen (or very close to it).
The Spray on Dress (SS23)
Spring 2023 at Coperni was a show that will not soon be forgotten, Gen-Z’s favorite muse Bella Hadid closed the show, emerging in only nude underwear, stepping onto the platform as two men sprayed her with a white substance that formed into a slip dress with the help of Charlotte Silberstein (Head of Design). Other garments in the show were also made from the same spray-on fabric substance, but the final look and Bella Hadid’s performance were decidedly the most discussed viral fashion moment from 2022.
The Robot Dogs (FW23)
While some anticipated that Coperni might fail to live up to its previously viral collection, they definitely did not disappoint during Fall 2023 – bright yellow robot dogs (courtesy of Boston Robotics) interacted with models during the show, holding bags and taking jackets, even snatching garments off of models bodies. The collection referenced Jean de la Fontaine’s ‘The Wolf and The Lamb’ in a context relevant to our times, where humans and robots walk among each other, leaving the question of whether humans represent the wolf or the lamb in this retelling unanswered.
Japanese designer Kunihiko Morinaga has been experimenting with light-dependent fabrics for years and even collaborated with Fendi to make photochromic wear for the Italian house for FW20. This year at FW23, his collection for Anrealage went almost instantly viral – as videos circulated on fashion blogs, people were mesmerized by the quickly changing looks. In a sustainably conscious age where multi-wear fashion and versatility are key consumer interests, seeing monochrome white looks come out in simple silhouettes is satisfying – but watching them change into colourful creations before your eyes, is pure magic.
Founded in 2018 by Simon and Nanna Wick, Copenhagen fashion week is notorious for delivering looks that are both contemporary and sustainable, and Di(vision) is no exception – most of their collections are created from pre-existing materials. This season for Fall 2023 they brought us what will certainly be considered one of the most viral runway moments of 2023. Playing off the idea of stumbling out of a party, guests were seated at tables with spilled wine and half-eaten plates, and to close the show Simon Wick’s partner, Sarah Dahl stood up from her seat tapped her glass with a fork, and walked the runway – taking the tablecloth (which was also the back of her skirt train) with her.
Beate Karlsson is no stranger to making a viral moment, the brain behind many an instagramable runway show – her gimmicks lean on an anti-glamour approach to runway culture. In a world where we expect the unexpected, she manages to take her concepts to the next level and capture our attention.
Models Falling Down (SS23)
‘Filthy Rich’ at SS23 was a parody of the status of fashion, models fell down on the runway one by one, dressed in gaudy embellished garbs and big furry boots. The unexpected performance art captured the attention of online accounts and fashion week coverage. Entertaining as it was to watch models fall, the purpose of the performance was to de-glamourize wealth and status in fashion and satirizee the pomp and circumstance of the contemporary runway.
Clothing Falling Apart (FW23)
The following season at FW23, Karlsson built on her viral parody of the runway where she had models deliberately fall down – this year poking fun at fashion houses themselves. Clothing fell apart on the runway, heels broke, tops fell off and ensembles were completely deconstructed before our very eyes. When the show closed, the entire set fell down, revealing the backstage staff to the audience. Karlsson explored the idea of falling apart, showcasing convertible clothing and her nuanced perspective on fashion, her eat-the-rich attitude to luxury that is incorporated into design and performance distinguishes her position in fashion and has us hungry for more.
As usual, Heliot Emil models at FW23 were the picture of function and fashion – clothing was multi-functional, models were faceless and one anonymous stuntman walked the runway on fire (literally). The terrifying and intriguing notion of our future considering climate change and technology is a hot topic in fashion as of late, inspiring many designers like Emil to comment on social structures through their collections.
Italian label Sunnei presented an Instagram-worthy show for Spring 2023 in Milan, casting identical twins to walk the show – models were seated in the crowd, each of them standing up wearing their own clothing, they maneuvered around other audience members in order to make their way to the runway, then disappeared behind a rotating door where their twin emerged, wearing the SS23 collection. Titled “Sunneification” the show honoured the transformative power of fashion and the art of runway theatrics.
Back in 2000, before Vogue Runway and Instagram live, Conde Nast launched Style.Com – an online platform for fashion content including collection reviews, trend reports, and runway media, making fashion news readily available to the masses, and disrupting the existing system of fashion commentary.
The access that we have through the birth of social media is extremely similar to this shift, democratizing a previously exclusive industry and giving power to the consumer/spectator. Online presence is a tool that can drive sales and create a cult following for a brand – consequently, the viral moment is chased by both heritage houses and emerging designers, and it’s really anyone’s game.
With more brands throwing out the traditional rulebook of a runway presentation, every aspect of a show is meticulously thought out – invitations, setting, and guest lists are all customized to make a statement for the current vision of the brand’s collection. Since the spectacle of a viral moment is often driven by the medium by which it is delivered, technology plays a bigger role than ever in the production aspect of shows – supporting advanced runway theatrics as well as garment construction.
In an oversaturated media climate, the viral fashion moment is often criticized as a shallow headline grab, deemed a Gen-Z variety of a short-lived 15-seconds-of-fame and scrutinized heavily by publications and fashion commentators – is it possible we are losing our libido for viral fashion theatrics? Or are we simply overwhelmed by the new structure of media circulation in fashion?
Sydney Goldhawk is a Freelance Stylist currently living in Toronto.
With a love for all things vintage and runway, her perspective draws heavily from her fascination with the synchronicity she observes between modern aesthetics and references to the past.