Production Designer and Art Director Michael Howells is renowned for being a part of some of the most elaborate shows in fashion. From John Galliano's epic productions at Christian Dior, to Alexander McQueen's seasonal extravaganzas, his role in the realisation of fantastical ideas has earnt him an industry-wide reputation. He recently spoke to Alexander Fury, the Fashion Editor of The Independent, as part of a panel at Central Saint Martin's 5th Annual Film Festival to discuss the changing nature of fashion as film meets design in catwalk shows. We look at what they had to say about some of the greatest fashion show sets, from John Galliano's S/S98 Dior Couture presentation to Chanel's A/W14 supermarket extravaganza and the paper artistry at their Spring Couture show.
Michael Howells on Dior Couture S/S98...
"For the Dior Couture show, we planned the entire environment so that, when you arrived, it was all about the five senses. The whole Opera House smelt of oranges. And the girls and boys that we had in the show were given characters; we explained to them who they were and what they were doing there. There was one girl who just couldn’t get the walk right until John told her, 'just imagine you’ve won bingo' and then she suddenly lit up.
"There was one girl who just couldn’t get the walk right until John told her, 'just imagine you’ve won bingo' and then she suddenly lit up"
Those little scenarios the night before were the only rehearsal we’d do, because John wanted a sort of freshness to it. But we would work out where photographers would be, and where cameras would be, and the girls would be told where those big moments were.”
Alexander Fury on the sets of Chanel...
“In the same way that those Galliano shows were articulated for photographers, now there’s the idea of making things for social media. Everyone’s a photographer, so the show has to work from every angle; that’s the ethos of those big Chanel shows. And the other thing that Chanel do – which is the reason why you weren’t allowed to steal from the Chanel supermarket, which I desperately tried to do anyway – is that the pieces from the shows are put in the windows of the shops. And they are sending the paper flowers from the Spring Haute Couture shows to Dubai, to Korea, to Japan and New York to reconstruct the sets for clients who were too busy to go to the show. They get to have an experience of that set and that spectacle.”