Moments before he sent 88 models sashaying down the Great Wall of China for a Fendi extravaganza capped off with giant double-F logos projected onto neighboring mountains, Karl Lagerfeld declared: "Fashion is a kind of show business, too."
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And how. Production values have soared to such an extent that fashion spectacles this year incorporated everything from acrobatics and antique merry-go-rounds to actual jet airplanes. Designers from Marc Jacobs to Dries Van Noten, Viktor & Rolf to Stella McCartney are ramping up their shows.
Runways are getting longer (110 yards at Christian Dior for the July couture), show locations more exotic (the remote dunes of the Gobi Desert for Pierre Cardin) and parties more over-the-top (a glitzy Rome weekend packed with anniversary events for Valentino, anyone?).
Lagerfeld himself was at the forefront of the trend, staging a Chanel cruise show at a private airport in Los Angeles — complete with two customized "Chanel Line" Challenger 601 aircraft — and constructing what might well have been the world's biggest bow (20 feet tall and 50 feet wide) as the backdrop for Chanel's spring 2008 collection under the soaring 11-story dome of the Grand Palais (just in case you missed the bows decorating some shoes, clothes and hairdos).
Demi Moore, Victoria Beckham and Lindsay Lohan were among the glitterati who gathered to see jet-set looks step out of customized planes, complete with an arrival announcement: "Please be careful when opening the overhead compartments: Some quilted bags may fall."
Also in L.A., Giorgio Armani amped up the star wattage, collecting a crowd to rival the Oscars at his Armani Privé show. Sandwiched front and center at the February show were Helen Mirren, Cate Blanchett, Clive Owen, George Clooney, Penélope Cruz, Leonardo DiCaprio, Beyoncé and Martin Scorsese. Across the way were Katie Holmes, Josh Hartnett, Natalie Portman, Adrien Brody and Mark Wahlberg. "I'm presenting to people who are not there to be critics," said Armani. "It's more a spectacle and one of emotion as well."