From the gleaming runways of Paris to London’s electrifying catwalks, the world has witnessed some of the best fashion shows renowned for setting indelible marks on the industry over the past three decades.
From Versace’s 90s iconic fashion show to Coperni’s 2023 famous fashion performance, these are the 30 most renowned fashion displays since the emergence of the internet.
A confluence of vision, craft, and storytelling, each of these 30 fashion shows depicts tales of sartorial excellence and unique stylistic moments.
Time to explore (in descending chronological order) the 30 most popular fashion presentations ever and rediscover the iconic moments that define fashion.
1. VERSACE A/W 1991
by Gianni Versace
If there ever was a fashion show that had the power to break the internet before the internet existed, this is it.
For Versace’s autumn/winter 1991 show, Gianni Versace sent Naomi Campbell, Christy Turlington, Linda Evangelista, and Cindy Crawford arm-in-arm down the runway.
Arguably the best fashion models of all time were lip-syncing to George Michael’s “Freedom! ’90”, in an iconic 90s fashion moment that catapulted the models into the realms of superstardom (“We don’t wake up for less than $10,000 a day,” Evangelista later told Vogue).
The models looked powerful as they walked down the runway in leather suits, ranging from pastel mini-coat dresses to black bondage straps with lace and gold jewelry.
Gianni’s concepts – once relegated to dungeons and bedrooms – became the center stage for socialites and fashion connoisseurs to wear in public.
The Italian designer’s pieces were for women interested in dressing with boldness, unafraid to shock onlookers with their sexuality.
2. CHANEL S/S 1994
by Karl Lagerfeld
Chanel’s SS 1994 show was the moment that catapulted the French house of haute couture into the 21st century.
In Chanel’s 1994 event, Karl Lagerfeld delivered the perfect balance of pop culture and the house’s prestigious couture creations.
A state of logo suspenders, chained belts, itsy-bitsy bikini sets, and even some roller skates.
3. THIERRY MUGLER A/W 1995
by Thiery Mugler
To celebrate the brand’s 20th anniversary, Thierry Mugler hosted the brand’s fashion show as a spectacle of music and lights at Paris’s landmark Cirque d’Hiver.
Starring Pat Cleveland dressed as the Madonna and descending from the ceiling, Jerry Hall, Carmen Dell’Orefice, Veruschka von Lehndorff, and Patty Hearst – who did a striptease; the fashion show was praised by critics worldwide.
The show ended with James Brown performing on the catwalk as sparkling confetti rained on the designer, models, and attendees.
4. ALEXANDER MCQUEEN A/W 1998
by Alexander McQueen
McQueen’s 1998 fashion show is still regarded as one of the most iconic fashion events ever and ‘the gateway’ to a new era of runways, catwalks, and fashion parades.
The British designer’s choice of ‘fire and blood’ introduced the crowd to a theatrical masterpiece that combined digital and physical.
McQueen’s 1998 A/W ready-to-wear show signaled the transition from physical to digital fashion events via digital filming technologies.
5. YVES SAINT LAURENT A/W 1998
by Yves Saint Laurent
The internet has created a new era of fashion shows, live broadcasts, and cinematic creations filled with visual–emotional experiences.
Yves Saint Laurent’s 1998 World Cup Final fashion show bestowed Stade de France with fifteen minutes of fashion magic in one of the earliest events signaling what was coming.
The show comprised over 300 models backed up by a team of 200 technicians, 130 dressers, and 70 makeup artists – performing for the 80,000 spectators in the stadium.
However, YSL’s 1998 fashion show made history by broadcasting live to an audience of one billion television viewers worldwide, known as ‘A Fashion Show Watched By Billions.’
6. DIOR S/S 1998
by John Galliano
No other haute couture Maison could allow John Galliano to express his love of theatricality as much as Dior.
For his spring/summer 1998 show, Galliano took attendees on an operatic flight of fancy, staging the show on the grand staircase of Paris’s historic Palais Garnier opera house.
Galliano was at the height of his dramatic powers, featuring an orchestra, tango dancers, and dozens of extras dressed as figures from the world’s greatest operas.
7. ALEXANDER MCQUEEN S/S 1999
by Alexander McQueen
Alexander McQueen moved many to tears with his extraordinary London shows such as Bellmer La Poupee, Joan, and The Overlook.
However, No. 13 was “the only fashion show that made me cry,” said McQueen.
Staged, as all the collections of that period were, at Gatliff Warehouse, a disaffected bus depot in Victoria, this unique fashion event featured intricately carved prosthetics and spray-painting robots.
The robots came to life when Shalom Harlow emerged in a strapless Broderie Anglaise dress cinched across the bust with a leather belt.
As she spun around on a circular platform, the robots sprayed her in a carefully choreographed dance.
It wasn’t a fashion show but a performance of robots making art sensually, almost fetishistically.
8. HUSSEIN CHALAYAN A/W 2000
by Hussein Chalayan
Hussein Chalayan’s interest in the relationship between the human body and science has led to some of the most inventive runway shows ever staged.
Fittingly, most of Chalayan’s fashion shows take place at Sadler’s Wells’s legendary London dance venue.
For his autumn/winter 2000 fashion show, models transformed chairs into dresses and coffee tables into hooped skirts.
The event went beyond fashion, becoming a breathtaking physical theatre in its own right, with models unzipping the slipcovers off the chairs and wearing them as shift dresses.
9. ALEXANDER MCQUEEN S/S 2001
by Alexander McQueen
Alexander McQueen’s Spring Summer 2001 collection places the audience facing a reflective glass of a square box in the middle of the arena.
When the show commenced, fluorescent lights turned on inside the cube where models sauntered aimlessly and jarringly like they were suffering from psychosis.
During the show, the spectators and critics realized that the glass was a one-way mirror – the models couldn’t see the audience, but the audience could see them.
The attendees watched as models swaggered around in the clothes, acting like ordinary people preparing to perform.
10. ALEXANDER MCQUEEN S/S 2004
by Alexander McQueen
Alexander McQueen’s S/S 2004 fashion show was based on Sydney Pollack’s 1969 classic work titled ‘They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?’
The story depicts young dancers growing up in poverty, and McQueen enlisted professional dancers to deliver an evocation of dancing to death.
McQueen’s show culminated with Karen Elson in a ragged dress carried, as if lifeless, across the stage, all choreographed by contemporary dance maestro Michael Clark.
With its echoes of burnout within the fashion industry, McQueen’s 2004 fashion show carries a poignant significance to the date, given McQueen’s suicide six years later.
11. FENDI A/W 2007
by Karl Lagerfeld
YSL’s mega fashion show approach was employed by Lagerfeld almost a decade later, in 2007, for the house of Fendi.
The show took almost a year to assemble, and the installation cost was over $10m.
The German designer took over the 2,000-year-old, iconic Great Wall of China and turned it into the longest runway ever created.
Visible from space, the breathtaking show of strobe lights and gigantic Fendi logos projected onto the mountains, accompanied by a rare audience of 500 VIPs, was an absolute hit.
12. PIERRE CARDIN S/S 2008
by Pierre Cardin and Sergio Altieri
Pierre Cardin’s fashion show for S/S 2008, also named the ‘Silk Road,’ was a unique runway moment worthy of history books.
Organized in October 2007 on the whistling sand mountains of Dunhuang and the dunes of the Mingsha Shan mountain desert, Cardin’s catwalk recalled Marco Polo’s travels to China over seven centuries ago.
Set up on the iconic Silk Road, the trade route connecting textiles merchants from Europe with Asia, Cardin’s models paraded over two hundred mesmerizing silk creations in front of over 200,000 selected guests.
From fashion designers to journalists and critics, the industry hailed Cardin’s fashion show as a crucial moment in fashion history.
13. LOUIS VUITTON S/S 2008
by Marc Jacobs and Richard Prince
Marc Jacobs for Louis Vuitton’s Spring/Summer 2008 collection comprised 12 models in sheer nurse uniforms and letters spelling out the brand’s name on their nurse’s caps.
The inspiration came from the Richard Prince nurse paintings, one of which became the cover of Sonic Youth’s 2004 album, Sonic Nurse.
Each nurse carried a monogram LV bag with Prince’s Jokes series painted on the side and black surgical masks with the iconic LV monogram print.
14. MAISON MARGIELA S/S 2009
by Martin Margiela
Notoriously elusive designer Martin Margiela celebrated two decades at the helm of his namesake label by showcasing his greatest hits on the runway.
Some essential pieces celebrated at the 2009 Margiela show were the synthetic wigs of autumn/winter 1995 styled as power shoulders on bodysuits and a reworked version of the autumn/winter 2005 circle leather jacket that still sends die-hard fashion fans into a frenzy.
Maison Margiela’s SS 2009 fashion show ended with an equally famous giant white birthday cake worth checking if you don’t know what I am talking about.
15. ALEXANDER MCQUEEN S/S 2010
by Alexander McQueen
McQueen’s ready-to-wear collection for the spring-summer of 2010 – nicknamed Plato’s Atlantis – was the British designer’s final show before his untimely death.
Described as otherworldly, the show was a commentary on global warming and evolution.
McQueen imagined what would happen if ice caps melted, sea levels rose, and humans evolved to survive.
Evolution was shown in the futuristic hair and makeup choices: models donned horn-like braids or teased masses and no eyebrows.
The digitally printed dresses and robot arms holding cameras projecting the show on screens set our years in the future.
But the real showstoppers were the “Armadillo” boot, 30cm high and carved from wood.
The shoes were often seen on Lady Gaga, who tweeted a link to the show because she was debuting her single, causing the site to crash from the traffic of her millions of followers.
16. DIOR S/S 2012
by Raf Simons
One of the first Dior Couture collections without John Galliano and with the media expecting Raf Simon’s creations, Dior’s S/S 2012 fashion show produced by Bill Gaytten received mixed reviews.
With the motto “anything goes” with models wearing clown makeup and hair sticking straight up, Galliano was the king of extravagant runways.
Thus, when Bill Gaytten sent models on the catwalk with minimal outfits and fresh-faced makeup, the fashion critics described it as ‘underwhelming.’
However, a closer look at the collection shows it’s not just about pretty clothes but what goes into making Dior’s haute couture.
There were references to Dior’s iconic bar jacket, this time with contrast stitching and a half-pleated skirt, almost like they ran out of time while making it.
The whole show honored the making of the brand, taking place in the building where the French Maison became the name we know as Dior.
17. CHANEL S/S 2012
by Karl Lagerfeld
Lagerfeld was renowned for taking the fashion showgoers to Chanel-branded supermarkets, protest marches, and on-stage rocket launching pads.
Equally, Lagerfeld’s 2012 show was a unique under-the-sea fantasia that concluded with Florence Welch emerging, Venus-like, from a clamshell in a pearly white couture gown to sing her track, ‘What the Water Gave Me.’
18. JEAN PAUL GAULTIER S/S 2014
by Jean Paul Gaultier
Always highly animated, Gaultier’s fashion shows are nothing short of a party.
Gaultier’s S/S 2014 fashion show started with three judges sitting at a table and models standing behind holding audition number cards.
One by one, the models stepped out in front of the table, making dance moves, and walked down the runway, leaving the judges to hold up cards with reactions.
Some models between segments got to perform choreographed dances; Coco Rocha took on the “You’re The One That I Want” dance from Grease, and Karlie Kloss showed off her voguing skills to “Let’s Have A Kiki.”
All models danced down the runway in one big parade of high fashion and joy for the closing moment.
19. CHANEL A/W 2014
by Karl Lagerfeld
For Chanel’s Fall 2014 collection, Lagerfeld created an entire supermarket in the Grand Palais.
Guests wandered the aisles before taking their seats, looking at over a hundred thousand items labeled with references to the fashion house.
Models carried Chanel bags in shopping baskets that were given the Chanel treatment of gold chain and leather; some packs were wrapped in plastic-like fresh meat.
Because there’s nothing like including a $4,000+ milk carton-shaped purse in a collection meant to comment on consumerism.
20. RICK OWENS S/S 2014
by Rick Owens
Regarding Rick Owens’s fashion shows, nobody knows what to expect.
Whether blasting out plumes of colored smoke to obscure the runway or strapping models to other models’ backs, the designer’s unique concepts have become his calling card.
Owens enlisted a step team for the spring/summer 2014 Paris show, a blend of military drill and cheerleading from Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs).
There, Owens introduced corners of the performing arts that have been historically overlooked to an entirely new audience, trying to shift outdated cultural stereotypes.
21. VIKTOR & ROLF A/W 2015
by Viktor Horsting and Rolf Snoeren
Viktor & Rolf’s A/W 2015 couture catwalk show shows how art and fashion form a common ground.
The fashion event started with a model wearing a blue smock wrapped in what resembled an entire canvas, frame, and all.
The real magic started when the designers came on stage, removed a similar canvas-Esque skirt from the second model, and hung it on the wall.
The canvases became increasingly complex, the final one being a triptych which, when hung, had the painting spilling over three frames.
22. KANYE WEST 2016
by Kanye West and Vanessa Beecroft
Without showcasing clothes for a particular season, Kanye West’s 2016 fashion show at Madison Square Garden was a world apart.
In collaboration with Vanessa Beecroft, an Italian contemporary artist, Kanye’s show was constructed around the relationship between fashion and music.
Inspired by the styles of the 80s, Kanye’s show was orchestrated as a contemporary reinterpretation of those times and a touch of Paris Fashion Week, visited by Kanye the year before.
Naomi Campbell’s appearance on the runway was the culminating point of a fashion and music show supremely choreographed by the American celebrity.
23. CHANEL A/W 2017
by Karl Lagerfeld
Chanel’s Fall 2017 ready-to-wear fashion show reinvented the concept of runway modeling.
Lagerfeld turned the Grand Palais into a space station, hosting a Chanel-branded spaceship that eventually took off.
Packed with sensory experiences and supported by a whopping $1.46 billion spent on advertising campaigns that year, Chanel’s 2017 fashion show was an open letter of what was coming.
Backstage, the team dressed the models in mostly grey clothing and black and white chiffon evening gowns.
True to Chanel form, the designer included layers of pearl accents, representing intergalactic particles and a homage to the French fashion house.
Hailed as one of the most extravagant fashion shows ever, the event was topped by iconic fashion designers, including Gabriela Hearst, Michael Kors, and Marc Jacobs.
24. VERSACE S/S 2018
by Donatella Versace
Versace’s Spring/Summer 2018 fashion show was Donatella’s tribute to her late brother Gianni.
The Italian designer included references to her brother’s collections from the 90s, scattered throughout the show, from the logos and prints to model choices and the soundtrack.
The soundtrack was a voiceover of Donatella speaking about Gianni, and the logo was the original Versace logo from the 80s fashion.
The designer also showcased dresses with Vogue Magazine and Marilyn Monroe prints from the Spring 1991 collection, the baroque Versace medusa prints from Spring 1992, and butterfly-printed cocktail dresses from the Spring 1995 collection.
The most iconic moment came from the finale: Gianni’s favorite models, Carla Bruni, Claudia Schiffer, Naomi Campbell, Cindy Crawford, and Helena Christensen, walked down the runway in gold chainmail dresses.
25. MOSCHINO RESORT 2019
by Jeremy Scott
The relationship between fashion and performance can serve as pure camp entertainment — and nobody understands camp’s unbridled joy and frippery more than designer Jeremy Scott.
For the Italian house’s 2019 resort collection, Scott staged a circus-themed pageant fashion show in the heart of Los Angeles.
Embracing the role of a ringleader in all its razzle-dazzle tackiness, the finale saw circus performers (along with RuPaul’s Drag Race star and burlesque performer Violet Chachki) finish with a show-stopping aerial acrobatics routine.
26. DIOR S/S2019
by Maria Grazia Chiuri
Maria Grazia Chiuri’s unapologetically feminist vision has seen her celebrate influential female artists and performers from across the globe, from Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie to Mexican rodeo horseriders.
For Dior’s spring/summer 2019 show, Chiuri turned her gaze to the Israeli choreographer Sharon Eyal, founder of the Batsheva Dance Company.
The designer’s regular muses — Ruth Bell, Adesuwa, and Selena Forrest, weaved across a broad, petal-strewn set as dancers shimmied in tribute to the legendary American dancer Martha Graham.
The event was a refreshingly feminine take on a fashion catwalk spectacle’s often aggressive, alpha-male energy.
27. PYER MOSS S/S 2020
by Kerby Jean-Raymond
Since co-founding the Tabernacle Drip Choir in 2015, Kerby Jean-Raymond used runway shows for Pyer Moss to showcase the ensemble’s extraordinary talent in gospel, hip-hop, and blues.
As the band’s numbers have changed, Jean-Raymond’s return to New York Fashion Week had to be done with a bang after a season off.
This time, there were 90 members riffing on the history of black music, from Donny Hathaway to Cardi B.
Most notable, however, was his tribute to Sister Rosetta Tharpe, the black female gospel singer famous during the 1930s and 1940s, often overlooked in her contributions to rock’n’roll.
Jean-Raymond might have been looking to the past, but he made history this year by celebrating black music and its relationship to style.
28. MOSCHINO S/S 2021
by Jeremy Scott
And here we are at the world’s first-ever virtual fashion show.
For the brand’s 2021 fashion show, Jeremy Scott, Moschino’s creative director, decided to take inspiration from the couture collections of Théâtre de la Mode in 1945.
The idea originated from Robert Ricci, who realized that many French fashion houses were on the verge of closing due to a lack of funds, scarcity of materials, and clients’ inability to travel.
Nearly 60 couture houses donated materials to be made into miniature versions of the designs on offer.
The miniature dresses were fitted on just over 2 feet tall mannequins.
The exhibition featured 237 looks, opening at The Louvre in Paris and raising millions of francs for war relief.
The exhibit eventually went on to tour the world and is currently part of the Maryhill Museum of Art’s collection.
Similarly, Jeremy Scott made 40 looks for miniature marionettes reminiscent of some of his favorite models.
The mini models were sent down a runway lined with mini puppet replicas of some of fashion’s most notorious front-row guests, including Anna Wintour and Hamish Bowles.
Surprisingly, Scott wasn’t the only designer to pull inspiration from this concept.
Dior created a short film where mythical creatures were presented with miniature versions of dresses featured in their Fall 2020 Couture collection.
29. CHANEL A/W 2022
by Virginie Viard
Held at the Grand Palais Éphémère – wholly done up in tweed – earthy light brown for the seats, black with shots of pop colors on the walls, and pale green for the runway – Chanel’s 2022 fashion show represented Scotland’s river Tweed.
The region was ground well-trod by Gabrielle Chanel; company lore has it that on her countryside walks, she gathered flowers and greenery as references for the colors she wanted from the fabric makers there.
The fashion show packed unique multi-pocket hunting jackets and coats incorporating downy-looking fleece and Duke of Westminster-like jackets inspired by his lodge in Lochmore and the Eaton Hall country house terrace.
Viard completed the show with a getaway spirit of colorful thick-ribbed tights, rubber Wellies, and thigh-high waders stamped with the famous interlocking double Cs.
30. COPERNI S/S 2023
by Sebastien Meyer and Arnaud Vaillant
Presented in the textile room of the Musée des Arts et Métiers in Paris at the end of September 2023, Coperni’s SS collection took the world by storm.
For its Spring-Summer 2023 runway show, Coperni delivered a spectacular 15-minute-long performance with model Bella Hadid.
This season, Coperni’s creations dived into the nineties with asymmetrical designs intersecting sober and elegant tailoring pieces with long slip dresses and light asymmetrical skirts.
But, the show’s finale was a unique performance as Bella Hadid emerged on the catwalk wearing nothing more than a thong and covering her chest with her hand.
When she reached the middle of the catwalk, a team led by Dr. Manel Torres, the inventor of the spray-on fabric, was waiting for her.
Reminiscing Alexander McQueen’s Spring-Summer 1999 show, where model Shalom Harlow was sprayed with black and yellow paint on her perfect chiffon dress, Coperni performed a poetic and innovative feat of his own.
In less than ten minutes, Coperni’s guests created (sprayed) a dress right on Bella’s body in front of a stunned audience by spraying her with a white liquid made of cotton fibers and synthetic materials.
The American model finally walked on the runway with this famous virginal dress that has gone down in fashion history.
In the vast tapestry of the fashion world, certain moments stand out, echoing through time with their innovation, emotion, and sheer artistry.
From 1991 to 2023, these 30 iconic fashion shows showcased more than garments and accessories but narrated designers’ visions through upcoming styles and trends.
As we reflect on these notable events, it’s evident that fashion, at its core, is more than clothing and accessories but a testament to human creativity.
Here’s to the designers, models, and everyone behind the scenes who made these famous fashion shows legendary, reminding us of the transformative power of style.
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Now it’s your turn…
Which one of these fashion shows do you see as most iconic, and why?
Which popular fashion shows do you think we’ve missed and should include in our next article update?
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After years of managing hundreds of fashion brands from London's office of a global retailer, Mandy has ventured into freelancing. Connected with several fashion retailers and media platforms in the US, Australia, and the UK, Mandy uses her expertise to consult for emerging fashion brands create top-notch content as an editorial strategist for several online publications.