Designing events is a complex job in general. Designing fashion shows is another level!

Last year, we helped with the production of a fashion show at the brand new £34 million venue, The Spark. The coordination was made all the more difficult as the venue was still being built during the planning stages. After some major delays, we were eventually able to access the building just 5 working days before the show. So, to sum this challenge up- the project team were planning a show for over 600 guests, 30 models and 14 collections without having stepped inside the building! 

As you can see from the photos, we had a superb time on the night; the atmosphere was electric, the collections were breathtaking, the dress rehearsal ran to time and only a handful of models pulled out on the night (a contingency you should always allow for.)

The venue itself had polished concrete flooring which would make for a perfect softly-lit catwalk with no staging but for this event a constructed T-shape runway was required. The classic catwalk acted as blank canvas and let the colourful collections speak for themselves. 

It's important to note that runways can become beings of their own nature these days. We're big fans of concrete floor catwalks with creative lighting, grass installations and the use of themed props to mirror the collections- all providing a modern alternative to traditional, raised catwalks. You can read more about Dolce & Gabbana's use of props at their shows in our Modern Mexicana blog post here

We've always had a personal dream to deconstruct the catwalk norm all together by positioning live models in multiple rooms, encouraging attendees to leave the rows of seating behind and go find the fashion themselves. This would work really well in a large warehouse or stately home scenario with room-upon-room of strutting models acting out tableaus to showcase the fashion. If you're a client who'd like to give this a go, let us know!

Here's our breakdown of key elements when planning fashion shows: 



-Meet with the Designer or their Design Team to realise their creative vision. Your production needs to complement their work, not detract from it
-Are the collections linked?
-Can you take inspiration from an overarching theme, texture or fabric perhaps?
-Is there a story to tell? Romance, rebellion, whimsical etc.
-Would prop and venue styling complement or distract from the collections and ambience?
-Do you need a runway? See our comments above about alternatives- you can totally strip your budget by not using a catwalk at all
-Does the seating plan allow for a good view for all guests?
-Have you considered how you will manage VIPs?

Elements of Performance

-Start with a 'wow' collection and end with a 'wow' collection. Give the audience something to remember
-Model hire will be a large chunk of your budget but will be worth it. Professional agencies will deliver professionals and their experience will shine through
-Will you have live or pre-prepared music? What tech would the musicians require? Do you need a music licence?
-Is a narrator required or will you use dramatic lighting to announce when the show will start?
-How do the clothes need to move? Rigid and slow or rhytmic?


-Will you be offering refreshments? Remember these are high-end affairs and guests will expect something
-Do you need an alcohol licence?
-Have you tried and tested the catering provider's work?
-Goody bags and giveaways are essential at shows! Do you have enough for everyone? Remember, people will often snatch multiple giveaways at fashion shows!
-Who's going to meet and greet guests on arrival? Will they be themed and identifiable? 


-When will you run your dress rehearsal?
-How long will your event production company need to erect and dismantle your catwalk?
-When do you gain access to your venue?
-Does your chosen date capitilise on industry milestones or clash with other key city events?
-Create a strict schedule for your sound, lighting and visual engineers
-Be quick! Remember, most shows only run for 18-30 minutes max


-Do you need spotlighting or are you going for ambience?
-Do you have a reliable mic system to communicate back stage, front of house and with your tech guys?
-Will you be using the element of surprise with pyrotechnics?
-Do you have a reliable event production team on board?

Health & Safety

-Your risk assessment will need to be pretty robust. Are your staff trained for evacuations?
-Make sure models have access to water and food- they will be working hard under hot, tough lighting
-Hairspray will be everywhere- have you checked the ventilation of the venue?

Contingency Plan

-What's your backup venue?
-Do you have models on standby? Can you shift the rota so they walk twice/three times to cover drop-outs?
-What's your audience holding process should the collection/designers.models be held up on the day?
-Do you have a safe and fast evacuation plan?


-Get people talking about the show- plan a comms strategy and cover all bases
-Will you be banning or embracing tweets and live social media feeds during the show?
-A press release will help anchor the shows and attract industry press
-Are media in attendance? Avoid audience disruption to guests by planning a media and film crew pen but make sure they have excellent views too
-Can you persuade fashion Graduates and students to be involved? They are often the best young advocates and their voices travel far and wide...

Do you need help with planning a show or would like help from an experienced Event Director? Contact us to find out more. 

A Webster