Catwalk fashion comprises high-end collections, released in regular (usually biannual) ‘seasons’ by designers participating in the commercial fashion industry. These collections typically have a fashion-forward or avant garde bent, and are designed for performative showcasing with a view to selling the upcoming season’s wares to stores.
Catwalk ‘looks’ (aka outfits, including accessories, styling and even make-up) are often outlandish, theatrical, shocking, highly conceptual, unconventional or all of the above. This leads many casual bystanders to conclude that catwalk fashion is gratuitously impractical and pointless, existing only to drip-feed new trends into the mainstream and keep the industry afloat.
While there may be a grain of truth in this, it’s catwalk fashion’s departure from existing conventions of dress that leads many others to consider it an art form in its own right. At its worst, catwalk fashion can indeed be derivative, cynical and self-indulgent, but at its best, it can have a high degree of artistic merit and conduct fascinating feats of meta-criticism that could not be achieved in any other medium.
Looks seen in high-end fashion magazine editorials can also be considered catwalk fashion. In many cases, ‘red carpet’ looks worn by celebrities are lifted directly from recent catwalk collections and serve as an extension of the catwalk exhibition, although usually with modifications specific to the wearer.
For examples, see the Fashion Shows section of the Vogue website.