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Chris Moore on photographing the buzz of a fashion show for sixty years

A changing industry and changing times. Photographer Chris Moore, a pioneer of runway photography, discussed the ups and downs of six decades spent in front of a camera

The changes of fashion shows through the years 

During the pandemic the fashion industry has had to rethink its fashion shows. Since the mid-twentieth century, fashion shows imagery has been conveyed to the mass through photographs and the changes in the reporting of these events have reflected technological and social ones, as has happened this year, when, for the first time, fashion shows were held without a public. Chris Moore, a pioneer in runway photography, recalls moments that were turning points in the Fashion Show history and expresses his thoughts about digital shows. Moore began his career in the Fifties and has since then witnessed «changes in the editorial media and photographic technologies». When he was still an assistant photographer, he had to develop photographic glass plates in the darkroom. Years later he could work with black and white celluloid film, then color film and now he has been working in digital format for twenty years. «The journey is astonishing, having once had to carry so many heavy pieces of equipment to do my job, and now, if I had to, I could come away from events with good pictures using nothing more than my iPhone».

Lampoon talks to Chris Moore

In the Fifties and Sixties high fashion «was just like other creative industries, secretive and protective of their designs». In Paris, the Chambre Syndicale de la Couture imposed restrictions to avoid the copy of displayed garments: no image could leave the collection’s presentation, be them photographs, illustrations, or sketches made by journalists alongside their notes. «I would wait outside for my writer to come out of the venue, we would only later be allowed to select clothes for photography, sometimes the next day». They would select one or two garments for the editorial and had to personally pay the model fee to the mannequin of the fashion house. «There was never enough light in the venue and so I would take the shoot into the street outside the showroom». The photos would then be published weeks or months later. In the mid-twentieth century, the advertising potential of the press was seen as a threat to copyright and creativity, not an aid.

Christy backstage Chanel, 1992, photography Chris Moore

The influence of ready-to-wear on runways 

Things changed with the advent of ready-to-wear: part of the breakthrough of brands that produced that kind of fashion was linked to marketing and advertising. Another generation of designers and businesses emerged that understood the press power to attract customers. «Pierre Cardin, Emmanuel Ungaro and André Courrèges were receptive to press attention and I was able to go inside their salons to photograph from 1967 onwards. They were modern designers, and photography and the press media were part of the modern direction». Another change brought on by ready-to-wear was the raising of the runway: from that moment ‘presentations’ became ‘fashion shows’. Photographers were welcomed and invited to participate at these events, increasing in numbers and placed at the catwalk’s sides. Compared to the previous decade, Moore’s working approach took a shift. «I had to work in the moment, live within the event, losing the ability to control the model and the environment, which I had been used to doing when working in the ateliers in the Sixties». If before he could use medium format cameras, with twelve shots per roll of film, now he had to switch to 35mm format cameras, « moving around the catwalk to collect material in both color and black and white, for different press deadlines».The turmoil that young designers had generated in Paris attracted creatives from abroad. Between them, there was Kenzo Takada, who «must be credited for changing not only the format but also the tone of fashion shows». He presented his collections using «energetic happy models running down high winding catwalks in front of gig audiences». It was a revolution since that was happening when couture showrooms were still staging shows «that sometimes felt like a funeral tea, by comparison». After Kenzo, fashion shows «were never the same again»

The Supermodel Era 

The Eighties were the decade of excess on the runway, with «showmen, as Thierry Mugler and Montana, delivering their shows in a theatrical style and sending out armies of models at any one time», followed by Jean Paul Gaultier in the presentation’s style. Their theatricality demanded to be immortalized, and the number of photographers to accommodate at the venues increased, provoking the complaints of journalists sitting in the front row, who could not see the clothes. In the end «it was decided that the photographers should all work at the head of the catwalk, and we have largely been contained there, on the photographers’ podium, ever since» points out Moore. The standard became a «white, long, elevated catwalk», with photographers at one end capturing in-front images of each garment. To be considered innovators in the way of presenting, designers had to question the established rules. For his autumn/winter 1994 collection, John Galliano «took his show into a decaying mansion, where the models walked in and out of a series of rooms following their descent from a huge staircase». For photographers it «was unexpected and uncomfortable to work like that, we had the wrong equipment for the smaller spaces of this type of venue. But it was exciting and rewarding and the writers loved it». Documenting events live meant that Moore had no control over the situation or the models: he «had to move around the catwalk to find the best place to work, no more ‘can you walk this way again please?’», which was the working approach in the Sixties. His relationship with models changed again during the Supermodel Era. With a hit moment in the 1991 Versace’s show – in which Campbell, Evangelista, Crawford, and Turlington paraded together on the catwalk – supermodels were a phenomenon liked by the mass and paparazzi. Newspapers talked about their stories and «the backstage scene became a new interesting area to work in», inviting photographers to show «a more informal setting for the clothes they were modelling».

Nina Ricci, FW86 side of catwalk, 1986

Chris Moore and Catwalking.com 

Fashion shows had grown into the platform for marketing preferred by the industry, whilst the brands which decided to adopt it had multiplied. «The show schedules were spread out over many more hours and days until the scene was not possible to cover alone and I employed other photographers to work with me to cover as much as possible», says Moore about that time. The commitment required by the increased number of shows to follow, and of collaborators to employ, was eased by the advancements in camera and film technologies. At the end of the millennium, the World Wide Web was born. «It had an impact, and with it also came opportunities to develop my own way of working and doing business». Prior to that moment, «British newspapers would wait until the entire shows weeks were over before publishing a report on, say, Milan Fashion Week ». The Internet boosted the press system speed, causing a rush to the first images available. «Print media could no longer wait and they would fill the page with pictures from large picture agencies such as Reuters and The Associated Press, if I could not deliver». In 1999 catwalking.com was founded «out of necessity to compete with faster deadlines in the print media». Moore was helped by his business partner Maxine Millar, who had experience with visual computer technology, and was able to design and manage the project.

Chris Moore and the advent of digital catwalks

During the first two decades of the twenty-first century, digitalization has invaded the fashion world, opening doors to experimenting ways of holding shows with the public in attendance or spread in the world, or a hybrid format of the two. In 2020 the Covid 19 pandemic turned fashion shows into digital shows, accessible through just a computer or cellphone. Fashion shows’ exposure has been growing since the advent of ready-to-wear: «back then the challenge was how to expand a live audience to effect maximum brand exposure», after the pandemic «the challenge is how to maintain that exposure with no live audience at all». The way to achieve this exposure is through digital communication, but it is a tool that brands can have access to without distinction. Before, innovation for brands stayed in the means adopted to spread ideas. After the Covid, it stays «in acquiring the best production, marketing and visual creative people to work with for these alternative digital events». Catwalking.com hasn’t posted any collection in the last months, since its purpose «has been to publish photographic work documenting live events». «Some people tell me that the digital format, developed because of Covid, will mean even larger audiences can be reached with video over the internet. To me, with few exceptions, the digital diet this last months has been unsatisfying» says the photographer, expressing his disappointment about the system situation after a year of uncertainties. Moore states that the problem lies in the absence of physical attendance at the events. Since the beginning of Moore’s career, the designers that revealed themselves to be innovators – Takada, Quant, Galliano, McQueen, Chalayan – knew how to play with the presence of the public attending their shows. A journalist that has experienced a fashion show will speak about it keeping in mind the atmosphere at the event. The same goes for a catwalks’ photographer: in presence, he can capture details that institutional, pre-established images would not show. «It’s the buzz carried away by an audience that will reach the wider world» and the digital shows held in 2020/2021 were « events with far less buzz. I can only hope that the digital presentation is a necessary but temporary phase».

Chris Moore photographer

Chris Moore was born in 1934 in Newcastle Upon Tyne, within a working-class family, which moved near to London in 1938. After some years of apprenticing, including a period as assistant at Vogue Studios, he pursued a freelance career as photographer. In 1964 he set up his first company in Soho and in 1967 he reported for the first time the Haute Couture Collections in Paris. In the 1980s he moved his studio to the core of London City’s press area. In 1999 Catwalking.com was launched, the UK’s first online site dedicated to catwalk.Chris Moore has received two honorary doctorates, from London College of Fashion (2012) and Northumbria University (2014). He was also honored with The Special Recognition Award at the British Fashion Awards (2014) and with an MBE in recognition of his services to business and fashion (2020). During the 2010s many exhibitions hosted his lifetime works and in 2017 Catwalking: Photographs by Chris Moore was published, in collaboration with journalist Alexander Fury.

The writer does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article.

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check and buy on Prototipo Store
item collections in limited edition
crafted according to our editorial search

Hemp / made in Italy
Lampoon is working to restore
Hemp production in Italy
as hemp is the one and only
natural vegetal fiber sourceable in the country
for more info, please email us at [email protected]

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