Ask Alexandra: Modifying Catwalk Looks

Ask Alexandra is my advice column. Have a question you want to ask me? Fill out the form here.

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The Alexander McQueen dress on the left probably sold in very, very small quantities, or none at all, while the Rodarte dress on the right probably had its train removed before it went to stores to make it more commercial. (Both spring summer 2012.)

Dear Alexandra,

I’ve been seeing a lot of clothes on the runway be modified for shoppers. How do the designers decide what to change and what to keep? Do they change material, price, or just runway out-there-ishness to sell?

Dear Bethany,

Since we have just finished fashion month, I thought it would be a good time to answer your question. Normally, when a brand designs a collection, they design it commercially. So they design the suits, knitwear, shirts, tees, etc… and focus on what they will sell. When show time approaches, the designers (and a stylist) decide which pieces from their collection are worthy for the catwalk. This is usually a small percentage of the commercial collection. The design team also develops pieces that are for the catwalk, and these are called press pieces.

fashion advice column, ask alexandra, press pieces, catwalk, runway, louis vuitton, maison martin margiela

The Louis Vuitton skirt on the left was probably altered so it sits higher on the waist, as customers are unlikely to wear it so low. And the Maison Martin Margiela dress on the left will most likely be worn wihtout the plastic bag. (Both spring summer 2012.)

The press pieces are the crazy runway clothes that look like they can’t really be worn by normal people. But after the show, if some of the pieces were well-received, they will add them to the commercial collection. Maybe they will tone them down to make them more wearable, or sometimes, they will just sell them as is, usually in very limited quantities. Toning them down could include making the garment less revealing and easier to wear. Sometimes commercial pieces are modified for the catwalk, hemlines are lifted and garments are altered so that they look sexier (or crazier, whatever your desired look is.) They often need to change the amount of detailing to make it more affordable, which is quite common practice, as many runway pieces are one-offs that would cost way too much to make.

fashion advice column, ask alexandra, press pieces, catwalk, runway, meadham kirchoff, comme des garcons

The Meadham Kirchoff coat on the left and the Comme des Garcons cage cape on the right probably never made it into a store. (Both spring summer 2012.)

The real collections, which are the ones that end up in store, are often much less exciting than what we see on the catwalk. But the catwalk is not about selling items of clothing, it is about promoting the brand and a look, which will be toned down for the consumer.

  • H.T

    I’m learning so much!

  • Inés Cruz

    I think one of the best examples to these modifications are a lot of red carpet looks…