Modern fashion has a rich history spanning a century. But no decade shaped today’s landscape more than the ‘90s. During this time, fashion evolved from a regional industry dressing high society to a global phenomenon. The internet bypassed industry gatekeepers to offer unprecedented access to fashion history and designers’ collections old and new. Retailers democratized fashion by stocking European and American brands – fashion became pop culture. This list captures the 5 most important – and influential – shows of the ‘90s; a decade where the marriage of art and commerce grew stronger and the world woke up to fashion.
Versace Fall '91
This show is legendary for cementing the status of four supermodels - Naomi Campbell, Christy Turlington, Linda Evangelista, and Cindy Crawford - as icons. The women embodied Gianni Versace’s bold vision of unapologetic sensual confidence – and quickly set the fashion agenda for the decade to come.
Helmut Lang Fall '98
The original modern minimalist, Helmut Lang was the most imitated designer of his time and his influence still looms large – after all, he invented designer jeans. But his Fall ’98 show reflected his truly forward-thinking approach to an outdated fashion system. Ever prophetic, Lang showed his collection on the internet to reach an audience beyond the industry’s gatekeepers of buyers and editors. Few designers today are as prescient.
Chalayan Spring '98
At his Spring ’98 show, conceptual London-based designer Hussein Chalayan featured wooden furniture that transformed into clothing and models swathed in chadors – a modest garment worn by Muslim women – while nude underneath. A subversive, iconic statement, then and now.
Alexander McQueen Spring '00
This show’s finale ranks among the most important and memorable in fashion history. Nineties supermodel Shalom Harlow stood spinning on a wooden platform while two robots, spray painted her dress, a strapless number fastened at the bust with a leather belt. McQueen, a provocateur and genius, used this show as a vessel for his art and ideas.
Jean Paul Gaultier Spring '94
Always avant-garde, Gaultier’s Spring ’94 show predicted the current cultural moment better than any other. Criss-crossing cultures and styles and eschewing gender norms, Gaultier was a master of mixing and mashing references and ideas.
The influence of these shows on the past two decades is clear. Beyond defining trends, these designers helped establish a new visual culture that still resonates today. Gucci, Prada and Comme des Garcons exhibited different ideals of beauty and femininity. Alexander McQueen and Chalayan made bold political statements – an almost inescapable reality today. Chanel, Balenciaga and Versace offered contrasting perspectives of glamour and refinement, while Jean Paul Gaultier and Helmut Lang gave master classes in minimalism and maximalism, respectively. All told, these shows are a snapshot into a decade brimming with creativity, beauty, and subversion that went on to define modern fashion.
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