Set designer to Gareth Pugh and Alexander McQueen further explores the possibilities.

“What I want to present here are a series of suggestions as to how fashion presentations could be; an invitation to dream and speculate,” advises Simon Costin of ‘Impossible Catwalk Shows’, the exhibition that realises – primarily in miniature form – a selection of both imagined and real non-catwalk show scenarios.

Opened last Friday, simultaneous to London Fashion Week (at which presentations of the absolute, stand still, models on rotation sort both promised and have thus far delivered sets of the fun, well thought out variety), the exhibition at the Fashion Space Gallery provides further food for thought, offering a point of view with the supporting credentials.

A respected set designer, Costin has worked closely with Gareth Pugh for the last eight years, prior to that lending his expertise to Alexander McQueen; his portfolio boasts stints with the photographer Tim Walker, while clients extend to the presumably lighter hearted Jaeger, Boots No 7 and underwear brand, Intimissimi.



A one room show and tell set up, the basis of the exhibition is a series of enchanting model sets, however, like ‘Isabella Blow: Fashion Galore!’ before it, it’s a McQueen video that most absorbs your attention, or so Clash found.

Projected onto a single wall, a behind the scenes clip sees stylist Katy England trial Alexander McQueen’s SS98 ‘Untitled’ show, for which Simon created the wet catwalk. Here England is seen first in a white shirt being ‘rained on’, later high heel clad and striding along the wet Perspex.

It’s a moment in time that, with the sad passing of Lee McQueen four years ago, coupled with an industry today demanding access to every area of the process, excels as both informative and nostalgic.

Elsewhere the moodboard for Pugh’s recent SS15 show covers a large area, a combination of inspirational images, key words and technical notes. Like the McQueen video, it acts in contrast with the idea of an ‘impossible catwalk’, proposing a dialogue to physically realise the rest: the forest, the dome, the street, the nuclear plant and the sanatorium.

Featuring Barbie sized dresses and Sylvanian Families style steel baths, it’s the latter impossibility that most strikes an instant aesthetic cord. The idea that an audience would gather in a place whose prior customers were the sick, and for it to be filled with great metal tubs, intrigues the brain on numerous levels.



With the exception of the forest idea – in which the audience would be given binoculars to search for models in a forest – the main premise across the exhibition is to forgo models, to dismiss the human body. This of course, is perhaps a set designer’s prerogative, given his or her job is to empower the clothes (and typically the people wearing them), and emphasise their attributes. 

With that in mind, Simon Costin’s ‘Impossible Catwalk Shows’ sets out exactly as the artist intended, inspiring thought beyond the norm of how clothes are presented in the first instance. It’s a trick employed by a handful shops already – Dover Street Market, Opening Ceremony’s new London branch – but as an alternative to a straight line catwalk? Perhaps one day, when the time is right, for now it's exciting to simply imagine the possibilities.

Until 13th December. 

Words: Zoe Whitfield


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