1969: Francoise Hardy at the YSL Show in Paris
The 25-year-old actress and music queen of the ye-ye girls – those Parisian pop naifs – was the first star to sit front row at a runway show. Her appearance at the couture presentation in Paris made all the dailies, thus ushering in the era of the bold-faced prized seat-placement spectacle.
1973: Baker vs. Minnelli at Versailles
The famous Battle of Versailles pitted five American designers – Bill Blass, Stephen Burrows, Halston, Oscar de la Renta and Anne Klein – against five French couturiers: Yves Saint Laurent, Christian Dior, Hubert de Givenchy, Pierre Cardin and Emanuel Ungaro. The French trotted out Josephine Baker to do a snazzy number, while the Americans were accompanied by Liza Minnelli singing “Bonjour Paris.” Heureusement, the Americans triumphed.
1985: Grace Jones Struts
Actress-model- musician Grace Jones owned the year 1985. She starred in A View to a Kill, had a hit song with “Slave to the Rhythm” and posed in Playboy with her boyfriend, Dolph Lundgren. But she also encapsulated iconic ’80s fashion and music when she walked in the Paris fashion show of her friend, the great French-Tunisian designer, Azzedine Alaia.
1991: Chaos at Kors
In the New York loft where Michael Kors was showing, The Jacksons’ 1978 hit “Shake Your Body (Down to the Ground)” shook the building so hard the ceiling collapsed (there were no major injuries). “It was the shot from Sarajevo that started the war,” recalls former head of Council of Fashion Designers of America Fern Mallis, who resolved to centralize fashion week under the tents at Bryant Park.
1992: Madonna Topless for Gaultier
Though technically outside the confines of the official fashion weekdom, Madonna’s topless trot down a runway in Los Angeles during Jean Paul Gaultier’s amfAR fashion show ranks among the most memorable events in the history of fashion, music or breasts.
1992: Jacobs Channels Nirvana
Back before Marc Jacobs was the very muscular ruler of a massive empire of everything from perfume to couture, he was a skinny designer at Perry Ellis with a penchant for Kurt Cobain. The year after Nevermind, Jacobs presented a widely lauded grunge collection (cashmere thermals, lots of plaid, layers) at New York Fashion Week. Though the radical approach cost him his job at Perry Ellis, the show’s sampling of music-inspired street wear proved to be prescient.
1998: Diddy Designs
Sean Combs, aka Puff Daddy, was the first to prove an entertainer could helm a fashion line. In 1998, he launched Sean John sportswear, showing at New York Fashion Week. In 2004, he won the prestigious Perry Ellis Menswear Designer of the Year Award, clearing the way for other musician-designers.
2006: Posh Spice Closes Cavalli
In 2006, Victoria Beckham had not yet fully realized her own fashion ambitions – an eponymous label would launch in 2008. But when Posh Spice closed out Roberto Cavalli’s men’s show in a white silk gown and gold stilettos, she put the world on notice that she meant business.
2014: Rihanna Storms Paris
Kanye West is there, Katy Perry is there, and Rita Ora is there. But the only person anyone is talking about at Paris Fashion Week is Rihanna. Balmain, Lanvin, Dior. Gaultier, Givenchy, Stella McCartney — the only place she isn’t is Balenciaga (she got caught in traffic). How could one musician suck out all the oxygen in Paris? Easy: Credit her voluminous and incessant Instagramming.
2014: Kiss Rock John Varvatos
Kiss might not be for everyone, but the 40-year-old band’s surprise appearance on the Milan runway for John Varvatos caused a sensation. Was it the best moment in fashion history? No, but it was probably the loudest.
-Joshua David Stein