London - The runway was once the epitome of fashion showcasing. It was on the catwalk where trends were born, where brands, designers and their stylists used the platform as its definitive communication tool to present next season's collections.
The formula for catwalk presentations has't changed much since they first debuted in the early twentieth century: the clothing is illuminated on the runway by lighting; there is an order in which each model walks out wearing a specific look: images are made available after the show so the press - and now also the public - can deconstruct each outfit and place it in the wider context of the season.
There are new ways to communicate fashion outside of the runway
But there has been a seismic shift in fashion, amongst which the possibility for brands to showcase their collections outside of the runway medium. Where presentations were once frowned upon and perhaps taken less seriously then the catwalk, brands and designers are embracing other ways to communicate their designs to the press and public, from salon presentations, parties, and digital films to look books, showrooms and retail events. Even the seasons are changing with brands deciding to merge their men's and women's presentations into one show.
At London Collections Men last week there were 32 catwalk shows, 25 presentations, 55 designers in the Designer Showrooms, 5 digital presentations and 21 brands hosting events. What can be deduced from the schedule is that the catwalk is no longer the reigning queen of presenting fashion, in fact they make up just over half of all that was on show. Luxury brands including Tommy Hilfiger and Neil Barrett opted for private events and dinners, Sterling Suits decided to launch their collection in partnership with a menswear magazine, NEWGEN recipient Bobby Abley opted for a pop-up presentation, and John Smedley unveiled its latest collection in sync with its new store opening on Jermyn Street.
Compare this to last season there were 60 designers featured in the Designer Showrooms at London Collections Men. Of these were 29 brands in the Ready-to-Wear showroom, 12 brands in the Multi-Label Showroom, 16 brands in the Accessories Showroom in addition to an installation by NEWGEN MEN.
Presentations allow for more intimate settings
The increase of presentations allows designers to display their collection in a more intimate setting as well as engaging with the audience. It is a way to showcase in an up close and personal atmosphere that can be curated to any aesthetic. It is often a less costly option then a catwalk show, yet still has the same reach via social media and press.
Jan Miller, a strategic consultant from the Centre for Fashion Enterprise told Not Just a Label: "The take up of presentations has been accelerating recently because the digital environment has allowed it. Before 2000, catwalks shows were mainly a trade event. Presentations are digital and screen friendly. They allow for a creative 3D experience, and we're seeing them become much more of an art form where the audience can get closer to the collection and press images are high quality."
Presentations can also allow designers to focus on creativity and not be limited by a 10ft wide runway. There are less creative limitations outside of the catwalk, and with tough competition there is a constant pressure for brands to impress both on and off the catwalk.
Images: Evans Plus Models, Bridal Catwalk flickr.com, Designer Showrooms Londoncollections.co.uk