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Off the Stage, On the Catwalk: Celebrities at Fashion Shows

It is now a custom for fashion designers and brands to invite celebrities to attend their show. May they be actors, singers or social media stars, sometimes their participation is as much awaited by the press and fans as the fashion show itself. Although it is usual to see them attending the shows, less it is to see them hit the catwalk.

Pamela Anderson on the runway of Vivienne Westwood a/w 2009 fashion show, photo by Etienne Tordoir. Courtesy Catwalkpictures, all rights reserved.

As powerful vehicles for desire, celebrities are frequently used by fashion designer, and fashion itself. Muses or stars in ads and campaigns, some celebrities are so intertwined with the practice of certain designers that it is  sometimes hard to think about them without having in mind the kind of fashion they endorse. It is therefore not surprising that some designers have celebrities to walk their runways, to embody the spirit of their latest collection or their aesthetic.

Rihanna on the runway of Dsquared2 s/s 2008 fashion show, photo by Etienne Tordoir. Courtesy Catwalkpictures, all rights reserved.

In 1996, Tupac Shakur appeared wearing a golden suit on the runway of the Versace, walking by his then girlfriend and followed by two bodyguards. Earlier in 1993, Madonna walked arm in arm with Jean Paul Gaultier at the finale of his fashion show. Another ‘queen of pop’, Rihanna, modelled in 2008 for Dsquared2. Although the use of celebrities in fashion shows may seem rooted in celebrity culture that permeates certain brands, their use has been frequent even in those whose ethics seem more remissive and less mainstream.

Patti Smith on the runway of Ann Demeulemeester men's a/w 2006 fashion show, photo by Etienne Tordoir. Courtesy Catwalkpictures, all rights reserved.

In 1987, in fact, painter Michael Basquiat had been a model for Comme des Garçons men’s collection; Ann Demeulemeester men’s 2006 show saw the participation of Patti Smith, the designer’s muse and friend. More outrageously, in the spirit of the brand, Pamela Anderson hit three times the catwalk of Vivienne Westwood’s a/w 2009 collection.

As unnatural as it may at times look, the presence of celebrities on catwalks may serve as catalyser and their presence on the runway is as powerful as their presence on stage. This is probably why celebrities turn into models: modelling is indeed a kind of performance, something not that far from their own art.

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