Paris,Kim,Kate:Why designers went big on stunts at Milan Fashion Week

To survive in show businessYou Gotta Get a Gimmick,according to the late composer Stephen Sondheim,but following Milan Fashion Week,one is barely enough for luxury labels.

Along with the seasonal search for available nineties supermodels that sawKate Moss model leather for Bottega Veneta,perversely designed to resemble a flannel shirt and jeans,and former French First Lady Carla Bruni race Naomi Campbell down the Tod’s runway in tonal coats,designers competed for attention with stunt casting and concepts.

Kim Kardashian for Dolce&Gabbana,Kate Moss for Bottega Veneta and Paris Hilton for Versace at Milan Fashion Week.

Kim Kardashian for Dolce& Gabbana,Kate Moss for Bottega Veneta and Paris Hilton for Versace at Milan Fashion Week.AP,Getty

At Versace,creative director Donatella Versace helped the audience clock her collection’s Y2K references,with hipster jeans and colourful cargo pants,by sending Paris Hilton into the familiar flashbulb light wearing a pink metal mesh mini-dress.

Dolce&Gabbana went further by having Hilton’s reality television star successor Kim Kardashian select 85 pieces from their archive,spanning 1987 to 2007,to inspire reinterpretations,and join designers Stefano Gabbana and Domenico Dolce for their bows.

Australian models Audrey and Rozaleigh Aimann make their debut on the Gucci runway in creative director Alessandro Michele’s ‘Twinsburg’ show at Milan Fashion Week.

Australian models Audrey and Rozaleigh Aimann make their debut on the Gucci runway in creative director Alessandro Michele’s ‘Twinsburg’ show at Milan Fashion Week.Supplied

The procession of bustiers,animal print and bugle-beaded briefs felt like a sequel tothe heavily publicised Italian wedding of Kim’s sister Kourtney to musician Travis Barker at Dolce&Gabbana’s Portofino estate,rather than a runway show.

The scramble for headlines became crowded when two labels presented twin themed-shows,with Gucci’s 68 sets of twins,including Australians Audrey and Rozaleigh Aimann,outnumbering cult-favourite Sunnei’s 27 matching models.

Capturing the spectacle,reminiscent of a Noah’s Ark-themed fancy dress ball,left little room to describe Gucci’s creative director Alessandro Michele’s impressive mash-up of old Hollywood and Italian disco glamour.

Leading Australian runway show producer Geraldine Frater-Wyeth,who has worked with Toni Maticevski,Dion Lee and Romance Was Born,says fashion stunts are about driving a brand’s message home,with a high heel pressed firmly against the accelerator.

“Stunts can help tell a story in a very short time to invited guests,” Frater-Wyeth says. “It’s even better if those stunts translate to the digital world too.”

“Runway shows should reflect the brand,” Frater-Wyeth says. “You have the opportunity to really tell a story of where the collection’s inspiration came from and create an all-immersive runway,through lighting,set,music,special performers or stunts.”

Models deliberately falling on the runway helped sustainable Italian luxury label Avavav’s mesh bodysuits,dollar sign embroidery and upholstered bodices gain attention.

“I wanted to do a parody of a fashion show to go with the pathetic theme of this collection,and of fashion’s extreme superficiality at a time when so many fake richness[sic] but risk to fall down hard,” creative director Beate Karlsson posted to social media.

It’s an approach that won’t work for all labels.

“At times a simple salon show can work perfectly to showcase a collection and a gimmick would be quite jarring,” Frater-Wyeth says.

Front-row regulars at Australian fashion shows have seen their fair share of stunts,with rats on the runway for streetwear brand Ksubi’s debut (as Tsubi) in 2001,Kristy Hinze wielding a python in a diamond-encrusted bikini for Tigerlily that year and veteran supermodels Yasmin Le Bon for Little Joe (2011),Jerry Hall for Charlie Brown (2008) and Linda Evangelista for Alex Perry (1997).

For respected runway producer Cat Rose,the days of bringing in big names to lift the profile of Australian names are far beyond the horizon of coming seasons.

“It’s a budget issue,” Rose says. “These models command big fees and are in demand. The good news is that it allows local talent to rise,take their place and then take on the world.”

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Damien Woolnough is the Style Editor of The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age

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