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November 18, 2017
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Opening Ceremony's S/S 2014 runway show. Source: vogue.com.

On the New York Fashion Week calendar alone, more than 350 brands planned to present their Spring/Summer 2014 collections, according to Racked. Attending every show is nearly impossible, but occasionally, certain presentations succeed in capturing the diverging attention of the fashion industry elite and enthusiasts.

Opening Ceremony's S/S 2014 runway show. Source: vogue.com.
Opening Ceremony's S/S 2014 runway show.
Source: vogue.com.

Among hundreds of established and up-and-coming designers who showed at New York Fashion Week this season, two presentations stood out in particular: Opening Ceremony and Thom Browne. Even though the brands are aesthetically different, both made a case for showmanship and spectacle during fashion week.

For the first time since inception of the Opening Ceremony in-house brand, founders Carol Lim and Humberto Leon (also creative directors of KENZO) put on a runway show for their Spring/Summer 2014 collection at the SuperPier on the Hudson River.

Luxury cars expertly veered into the venue calling to mind the popular Fast & Furious films. Once the cars were parked, male and female models marched out to indie tracks showing off the collection down the runway. Judging by responses to the show from editors like Lucky magazine's Eva Chen and critics like The New York Times' Eric Wilson, the Opening Ceremony show certainly stood out, which was exactly what Leon and Lim intended. Lim told Eric Wilson: "We didn't want to make a statement. We wanted to make an exclamation point."

Thom Browne Spring/Summer 2014 collection look. Source: tomandlorenzo.com.
Thom Browne Spring/Summer 2014
collection look.
Source: tomandlorenzo.com.

When a brand like Opening Ceremony, which can best be characterised as high-street, ready-to-wear, shows their collection in a spectacular way, it has the potential to become a true "fashion moment", as Eric Wilson of The New York Times described. The reference to the Fast & Furious films and street racing culture added visual and auditory elements that only enhanced the perception of the clothes and the Opening Ceremony brand.

Thom Browne exhibited a visually striking show somewhat reminiscent of the late Alexander McQueen - gothic, haunting and unsettling. Guests were subjected to a seemingly intentional 50-minute delay in a venue dressed up as a mental asylum with white padded walls, headless papier-mâché cadavers hanging from the ceiling and light bulbs flickering, while eerie music played in the background.

When the show finally began, models with smeared blood-red coloured lips moved in a dazed, constricted manner while wearing Browne's mostly all-white collection. As Robin Givhan offered in her New York Magazine review, "Browne's intricate, high-minded gestures served as an invigorating reminder that fashion has the potential to tell stories and raise fundamental questions about how we live our lives."

It can be argued that a spectacle might not necessarily translate into good business. Alexander McQueen was known for putting on some of the most memorable presentations. Who can forget the hologram of Kate Moss in his Willows of Culloden Fall/Winter 2006 collection? Or his Spring/Summer 2005 collection, Only a Game, positioning his models like chess pieces?

According to Jess Cartner-Morley of The Guardian, "No one who went to an Alexander McQueen catwalk show could ever again have believed that fashion is merely superficial." However, despite this, the McQueen brand was £32 million in debt at the time of the designer's death.

Between a crammed schedule, endless parties and attention directed towards celebrities and street style "stars", is it any wonder that one can't remember the clothes in the first place?

McQueen created fashion as art - something beautiful to look at, but definitely not commercial. Designers and brands that are able to find a fine balance between showmanship and wear-ability are the ones who see the biggest profits.

Christopher Bailey's turn as creative director of Burberry and his completely British aesthetic and vision made the company a multi-billion dollar business. Burberry runway shows are venerable productions because of the collections' scale, the celebrities in attendance, and their incredible digital marketing platform to showcase their runway presentations.

Fashion, though, is essentially about the clothes. As Marc Jacobs remarked about his "part Victorian/part dystopian surf" Spring/Summer 2014 collection: "All that matters is do you want it or don't you? Does it pull at your heart like fashion is supposed to?"

Despite very different aesthetics, Opening Ceremony and Thom Browne were akin in offering something memorable amid a week saturated with standard runway shows and presentations. Between a crammed schedule, endless parties and attention directed towards celebrities and street style "stars", is it any wonder that one can't remember the clothes in the first place?

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