Exhibition Spaces: The New Fashion Week Runway?

The Importance of fashion shows: can exhibition spaces replace the runway?

This season, several designers took a new approach to New York Fashion Week with the introduction of exhibits instead of traditional runway shows. Zac Posen, Rag & Bone, and Sally LaPointe used large scale imagery to display their designs in showrooms where visitors could peruse and gaze each collection at their own pace, rather than that rushed dash to get a front row seat.

For his 15th anniversary at New York Fashion Week, Zac Posen created an exhibition that took place in his former showroom, with photographs taken by Vanina Sorrenti, featuring the models wearing Posen’s elegant creations in locations tied to the designer’s past.


    These locations included Posen’s childhood home, his first office, his parents’ loft and his father’s art studio, giving onlookers a glimpse into his personal past. Speaking to WWD, Posen said he wanted to create “an environment that lends authenticity, quality, and complete vision” and “imagery that exudes mood.” Creating images gives the designer more control over the environment in which the designs are seen and the sense that is given off when one looks at the literal big picture. Models also posed in front of the images so attendees could take a closer look at the details of each design, preventing the in-person authenticity of a runway show from being sacrificed.      


Rag & Bone celebrated the 15th anniversary of their brand with a photography exhibition and a party. The photos featured a few models and many friends wearing Rag & Bone’s new collection. The company’s first employee, Keri Russell, and Matthew Rhys could all be seen in photographs shot by Glen Luchford and Frank Lebon for the gallery. Aforementioned friends then attended the brand’s party wearing the outfits worn in the photos, allowing everyone to see the clothing up close and personal. CEO Marcus Wainwright explained to Vogue that he felt that there is “too much separation between reality and runway” and decided to create something more relatable for an everyday person. He also expressed how the gallery-style presentation let each piece be admired individually, rather than have a few standout looks. After this experience, Wainwright questions if he will ever do another runway show again.

Standing apart from Zac Posen and Rag & Bone, Sally LaPointe teamed up with videographer Alvaro Colom to create sixteen larger than life, high definition GIFs. In these GIFs, models moved about showing the motion of LaPointe’s designs on 8-foot high digital monitors. A combination of lighting and music with the videos created the designer’s desired “voyeuristic allure” for the collection. In the back of the room, mannequins donned the featured outfits, inviting guests to touch and feel each piece, as well as get a closer look at the well-made garments and each design’s construction. Mannequins mixed with monitors created a blended installation that targeted the modern generation and piqued the interest of the fashion industry.  

Digital Monitors presenting our FALL 2017 Installation yesterday 2.14.17 // #fw17 #sallylapointe A post shared by Sally LaPointe (@sally_lapointe) on

One common word was used to describe these three shows: intimate. These exhibitions allowed guests to take a close look at each individual piece in the collections, while also allowing them to touch and feel the designers’ creations. This fosters a closer relationship and desire for each piece that is often missing from catwalk shows. Exhibitions also strip the unattainable feeling of the runway away and replacing it with a more tangible reality.

Marc Jacobs
While these designers shifted away from glamorous runway productions to a more museum-like approach, the final day of New York Fashion Week saw Marc Jacobs push the boundaries again with his runway show (sans music, no phones on the front row, and a pared back catwalk aesthetic). His goal? To bring back the magic of a live experience, where you experience the full magic of the runway, no screens, no pictures, no social media.
These contrasting ways of presenting raises an important question about the future of the runway.


Follow Cassandra on Twitter here

What do you think? Join the debate below:

Know what’s next. Become a WGSN member today to benefit from our daily trend intelligence, retail analytics, consumer insights and bespoke consultancy services.